Brendan O'Carroll back on screen for Mrs Brown’s Boys Halloween special, Mammy’s Boo Who


Actor Brendan O’Carroll (above) plays Irish mammy Agnes Brown in the television comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys.


In 1992, Brendan O’Carroll started playing the role of Mrs Brown quite by chance.

He recalls that he had been commissioned by a radio station in Dublin to write a daily play about the iconic Irish housewife and had employed, “This wonderful actress to play her. But on the day we were recording, she had a kidney infection, so she couldn’t make it.

“So I said, ‘I’ll do her lines and then when we get her in, we can overdub’. To make it as authentic as I could for the guys when we were recording, I did what I regarded as Mrs Brown’s voice.”

O’Carroll instantly nailed the voice and the character, and the actress was no longer required.
Mrs Brown soon transferred with great success to stage and screen.

At that point, the next challenge was pinning down the look of Mrs Brown. O’Carroll recollects chatting to the make-up artist beforehand.

“I said to him, ‘I want you to make me up as Mrs Brown, but with no mirror because when you’re finished, if I turn around, look in the mirror and don’t see Mrs Brown, I don’t want to do it’.

“So he did the makeup and said, ‘There’s something missing. A mole.’ He made a mole, stuck it on and said, ‘OK, I’m done’. I turned around, looked at what he’d done and went, ‘Oh my God, it’s her’.”

Thirty years later, Mrs Brown is a globally popular figure, loved from New Zealand to Newfoundland.

O’Carroll, who hails from the Finglas area of Dublin, is now leading the cast in a typically uproarious Mrs Brown’s Boys Halloween special, Mammy’s Boo Who, which was broadcast live in the UK last year.

Mrs Brown is not always pleasant to the other characters but, despite that, she generates a huge amount of warmth in viewers.

O’Carroll articulates why that is.

“There is something about her that is safe, that is nostalgic and reminds you of that granny that you used to know or that aunty that you used to know – the aunty who would always have a biscuit for you whenever you went down to the house.

“Or when you went to a family wedding, she was always the one who was up on the table waving her knickers in the air whilst she was dancing.

“She is the aunty that all of the kids adored. Mrs Brown has that about her. There is that familiarity about her and I think that helps.”

O’Carroll, whose real-life family members play the supporting roles in the sitcom, goes on to outline who the character of Mrs Brown is based on.

“When I went on book tours in America, they would always be asking me, ‘Is Mrs Brown based upon your mother?’ and I would always say, ‘No’.

“The reason why I said no is that my mother was a very sharp woman. She was the first woman to be elected to the Irish Parliament.

Brendan O’Carroll (centre) in a scene from the Halloween special, Mrs Brown’s Boys: Mammy’s Boo Who.


“Then I started to realise that my mother had 11 kids, and although she was a Member of Parliament, she was very much a working-class mother.

“I suddenly started to realise, ‘You know what, Agnes Brown most probably is my mother, but without the education that my mother had’.

“My mother was very lucky in the fact that she started her life as a nun, and because of that she managed to get herself an education, right up though university, paid for by the church.

“After that she renounced her vows and went on to have 11 kids. I think that she was right to give up the life of a nun when she was shouting out to us kids like a machine gun.”

O’Carroll proceeds to reflect on how fortunate he has been that Mrs Brown has struck such a worldwide chord.

“If life was treating me any better, then it really would be embarrassing. I really am honestly and truthfully enjoying life to the full.

“I wake up every morning ... I was going to say that I wake up every morning and pinch myself. But, in fact, I wake up every morning and I pinch the wife and ask, ‘Is this for real?’   ”

The 67-year-old actor closes by assessing how long he can keep playing the character for. “Well, luckily enough, Mrs Agnes Brown is an old woman.

“So I think that I will grow into the role.”

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