Mrs Brown's Boys star Fiona O'Carroll feels 'blessed' to work with her family

 The actress says she feels very lucky to be able to spend so much time with her family, and even brings her kids on tour with her, saying they were practically raised side stage

Fiona O’Carroll has told how she feels “blessed” to be able to work with her family on Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

The actress, who is currently starring as Gretchen in the nationwide tour of Copper Face Jacks: The Musical, opened up to Chic about working with her family — and why people adore Agnes Brown and the rest of the telly family so much.

She told Star's Chic magazine: “It’s a very rare thing in this industry, to be able to work with not just one family member but so many.

“Like that, I was so lucky that I was able to have a career and have a family at the same time. My kids were able to come on tour with me, I was able to bring them to work — they were basically reared side stage.

“It is a bit of a juggle, especially when it comes to school and stuff; when they’re school age and you kind of have to work around that. But my dad being him, he was able to choose dates that kind of fit in with school holidays.

“To be able to do that, that’s incredible. You wouldn’t get that in any part of the industry — who takes their kids to work? No one. It allowed me the opportunity to be a mother and also have a career. I’ll be forever grateful and thankful to have that opportunity — to do something that I love, work with people that I love and be there with my family.”

The annual specials have become a staple of the Christmas telly season — and Fiona opened up about what she reckons it is about the show that people love so much.

She said, “It’s become like a little thing, isn’t it? Like, ‘it’s not Christmas without Mrs. Brown’s’ sort of thing — it’s strange, we never foresaw that happening. We never thought that things would go the way that they did. But thankfully, luckily, we’ve done quite well and the longevity of the show is phenomenal.

“We have this massive sort of cult following who absolutely adore the show. What’s wonderful about our show — and even with Coppers, as well — it has that tonic vibe. We get an awful lot of letters and stories of people who have been going through a difficult time in their lives.

“It’s a wonderful thing to know that when people come to the theatre, they can lose themselves even for a couple of hours and forget their hardships and just laugh. It’s a breath of fresh air and it is a tonic. It’s uplifting.

“I think that one definite similarity between Coppers and Mrs. Brown’s is that you do come away from the show feeling really good — I think that’s just a beautiful thing, to be able to do that and give that to people.”

Fiona added that being able to be on stage in front of a live audience again — both with Copper Face Jacks: The Musical and the recent Mrs. Brown’s Boys arena tour — has been “amazing”.

She continued, “After the lockdowns, I hadn’t worked on stage in over two-and-a-half years. And you do kind of worry — I know there was one period where we were kind of going, ‘is this ever going to come back — will we ever get a full audience again? When will this end?’.

“Our industry took a huge knock. A lot of people were out of work, a lot of performers and musicians. It was really, really tough.

“To be able to get out and grace the stage again, and to hear that laughter — I think comedy’s just so important now, after everything we’ve been through. I think it’s important for us to get out there now, to have a laugh and live again.

“That’s what’s great about this show. I think it’s very much a tonic, and I think that it’s the kind of tonic that we all need right now.”

Fiona O'Carroll

The actress opened up about how she got involved with Copper Face Jacks: The Musical — and how she was “over the moon” when she got the call to say that she would be playing Gretchen.

She recalled, “A friend of mine, who is also a manager and agent, had heard they were casting for Coppers and suggested that I would be good for the part. I basically went, had a meeting and worked out if I was free on the dates — and the timing was absolutely perfect.

“They sent me off the script and I did some self tapes, then sent them over.

“I waited and got word then that I’d gotten the part. I was absolutely delighted and over the moon, the timing of it couldn’t have been better. We had literally finished with the Mrs. Brown’s Tour on the Sunday, we had a matinee and then I flew home that night. Then, it was straight into rehearsals on the Monday morning.

“We had a week for rehearsals and we opened up in Limerick on July 26.”

Fiona added that while it’s been a “busy few weeks”, it has been “amazing” — as she praised the talented cast and crew of the musical.

She continued, “There’s five new members of the cast, which has been great. To be honest, the cast and crew are phenomenal. They’re so amazing, what a talented bunch.

“The show is a guaranteed laugh. The script is amazing — Paul Howard has just got funny bones, and the one liners are fast and furious. It’s such a funny show and it’s just got such great, high energy. Everyone is up, off their seats, buzzing at the end.

“The soundtrack, the music — and the cast are so talented.”

Fiona described Gretchen as “a feminist”, “sassy” and a “character with a bit of attitude”.

She continued, “The storyline itself is a typical kind of love story, and Gretchen comes in as a catalyst to turn things on its head a little bit.

“I love playing her. She comes in midway through and just kind of stirs things up. It’s fun being the person (to stir things up).”

The popular musical began the nationwide tour on July 26 at UCH Limerick, before moving to Dublin earlier this week. Their run at the 3Olympia Theatre will continue until August 20, before playing the Cork Opera House from August 23 until August 28.

And Fiona shared what it is about Copper Face Jacks: The Musical that continues to strike a chord with audiences.

She explained, “It’s relatable, I think, to a lot of people. It’s not PC and it’s very much your stereotypical characters taken to the max. But it’s really funny that way — and it’s kind of a bit of nostalgia, as well.

“It’s important to be able to laugh at ourselves, and the show kind of does that in a great way.”

Fiona also opened up about the nerves that she was feeling ahead of the opening night of the musical — and why she reckons nerves are a good thing for a performance.

“Oh god, yeah (there were nerves) — I mean, I’m nervous now about going on tonight. When I get nervous, I pace and so I’ll be that crazy person talking to herself backstage literally doing laps. Literally, you’re sweating.

“But nerves are good. I’d be nervous if I wasn’t nervous.

“They bring a certain energy and focus to your performance, when you’re nervous — and that’s what you need. When you start becoming complacent and you’re not nervous, that’s when you start to make mistakes. So you never want that.

“When you do get to that point, then you know it is time to leave and move on because you shouldn’t be there if you become that way. Even with Mrs. Brown’s, we still get nervous.

“But it’s that nervous excitement, as well. It’s important — you have to have that as an actor.”

Fiona told how there was one particular moment from her school days that led her to realise being a performer was “what I wanted to do for the rest of my life”.

She recalled, “I suppose the moment for me was when I was in school. My school was very much into performing, being individuals — and there was an importance on self-expression, imagination and the performing arts.

“We were trying to raise money to build a new school because our school was actually in a pre-fab. We were doing these singles. We had this choir and we would go to the studio and record tapes and things like that, and sell them to the parents or whoever, just to raise money for the school.

“One particular year, I was the lead on the song The Christmas Wrapper. I think it got to like, number six, in the Irish charts. We travelled all over the country to perform and we raised an awful lot of money. Two things happened: I knew then that I wanted to perform and that it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life; and now I get to drive past my school and feel proud of the fact that I had a helping hand.”

The Dubliner also opened up about some of her favourite moments from her career so far.

She said, “There’s been so many highlights — and there’s been so many with Mrs. Brown’s. The arenas have just been amazing. I could say it’s the O2 in London, or the 3Arena in Dublin — we just never thought we’d get to the point of doing arenas.

“Obviously, doing the very first TV series, that was really exciting. I think we all cried when we first walked out onto the set, it was just like, ‘oh my god!’,

“My kids got to perform in Mrs. Brown’s. That was wonderful — it’s not my career, but it was wonderful for me to be able to be there and watch them and experience that with them. That was amazing.

“I got the opportunity to work with Sheridan Smith and Reece Shearsmith when I did The Widower drama for ITV — and that was a huge thing for me, because it was something completely different at the time, which I enjoyed doing.

“Even career-wise, I think that because of my career and my dad and the profile that’s attached to it, I’ve been afforded wonderful opportunities to do a lot of charity work.

“They’d be massive highlights for me, because without that, I wouldn’t have had the exposure and be able to create the amount of awareness that I did for certain charities that I’ve done stuff for. That’s something that’s really important to me. They’d be massive highlights, too, because I feel like I’ve done something good with my career.”
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