When I met Nick Lee in the old world surroundings of Buswells Hotel in Dublin it was a couple of weeks before The Fall was about to air on RTÉ, and the Monaghan actor was a bundle of excitement about his new project, in which he performs alongside TV star Gillian Anderson of The X-Files fame.
Over lots of coffee and a healthy dose of food, 31-year-old Lee, who has starred in Jack Taylor, RAW, Single-Handed – The Stolen Child, The Clinic, Omagh, Bachelors Walk and Frongoch – University of Revolution, told me a about his new project.
“The Fall is about a serial killer called Paul Spector, played by a young man called Jamie Dornan,” said Lee. “Who stalks and kills women in modern-day Belfast.
“Gillian Anderson is the detective superintendent sent in to track him down and capture him.”
Lee plays a hack in the crime drama, a hack that wants to uncover some nasty truths about the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
“I play a crime journalist called Ned Callan, basically he’s on the nose of the story. There’s a lot of things going down in the PSNI that he wants to uncover and expose,” said Lee.
“He finds out that Gillian Anderson’s character Stella Gibson has been brought in by the PSNI and wants to know why and what’s happening?
“He feels that in the light of recent murders the PSNI have failed the public and that they’re bringing in Stella Gibson as sort of a desperate act on their part and he wants to give her a good Belfast welcome. He’s like a terrier on her heels and sort of follows her around.”
The undoubted start of the show is The X-Files star Anderson, and Lee was wholehearted in his praise for the seasoned Hollywood star telling me that working with her was “amazing”.
He said: “I knew her from The X-Files; my brother and sister would have been hugely into The X-Files when I was growing up. I would have seen it sporadically.
“But when Gillian Anderson walks into a room you know it.
“You see why she’s a star. She’s luminous. She has this compelling energy when you see her and you want to hear what she has to say.
“Part of that could be this sort of unknowable character that she’s playing, but it’s really the fact that she has innate star quality.”
Lee started off his acting career at the Gaiety School of Acting and the Dublin and Monaghan Youth Theatres, before going on to tread the boards in a multitude of productions including Juno and the Paycock, The Dead School and Three Sisters, to name but a few.
And the actor had some very honest words of advice for young thespians wishing to make a career on stage or screen.
“I think go and be a doctor or something else,” joked Lee, as he burst out laughing. “Do you parents a favour!
“No, I think the most important thing is to go to see plays and films, and read all the time.
“I like to say there is no such thing as an unemployed actor, when you can go and read and see and participate in that community of dramatists and TV-makers and filmmakers, and decide what you want to do.
“Go and watch everything. Decide what you think is good and pursue that. There is a theatre in probably every town in the country. Go and see theatre, go and see Irish actors. And there’s that aspect, the drama aspect.
“But I went straight from school into drama school, and a lot of people do degrees before they act. And I kind of wish I had done a degree.
“Because I think you can be consumed by acting and chase after it all the time, which is what I did.
“At the end of the day you kind of go, ‘What are you left with?’
“Whereas if you have other experiences, if I’m a director and you’re going to meet ten actors and all the actors can talk to me about is acting, but there is one who has a hobby of sowing or fly-fishing, I think I’m going to be much more interested in that side of them.
“I think the least interesting thing about actors is that they’re actors. And I think actors who can talk about other things are much more interesting to directors.”
Genuine words from a decent skin.
The first episode of The Fall aired last Sunday at 9.30pm and is available to view on the RTÉ Player.