"If you don’t know your lines and if you can’t hit your mark, you’d better take the good job in the post office," Fionnula Flanagan warned Dave Fanning on The Ryan Tubridy Show.
After more than 40 years in showbiz, some basic principles never change. They spoke about Fionnula’s remarkable career including being lost when it came to the script of Lost and getting on swimmingly with Nicole Kidman about her strong Irish roots ("Ireland will always be home") and about the love of her life, Garrett O’Connor, who used his own experiences with addiction to fuel a stellar career helping others beat theirs.
"First of all, he drank very heavily when I met him… He had a choice to make, either it was going to kill him or he would get sober and he got sober and he stayed sober for the rest of his life and then he also decided at that time that he wanted to devote his life to helping other people get sober and helping families who were suffering from addiction or alcoholism, and that’s what he did."
Garret became a leading psychiatrist in the field and was headhunted from his own private practice to the Betty Ford Clinic. He passed away in 2015.
Always a lover of the theatre (her mother would pay the shilling and 6 pence to bring young Fionnula to The Gate), Fionnula spoke about breaking into Hollywood at a time when the film industry was thriving, but not for all parties.
"It was a fantastic time but not necessarily for imports like me. At the time, the American cultural scene on screen was a very closed shop. They made American movies about American people and there was no opportunity to change that. What changed it for me was I did westerns."
Fionnula told Dave that because people from all over the world would have been arriving in the American West 100 years ago, it was deemed acceptable to have non-Americans playing roles. "People could see, oh wow, there are people from other countries who can actually act, who can tell stories," she explained. She used the TV exposure as a springboard - again, something that wasn’t done at the time as TV and movie actors were very separate entities.
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Never one to let a little something like convention or precedent stop her, Fionnula carved out a diverse and exceptional career on screens big and small and on stages all over the world. She is currently looking forward to starring in The Ferryman in New York with director Sam Mendes which has enjoyed phenomenal success in London’s West End.
With so many wonderful projects to choose from, what is Fionnuala’s proudest professional moment?
"The one I’m really most proud of is Some Mother’s Son, because it was about something that’s really a watershed in our history that I think we’re still having fallout in the north from that event, from the hunger strike."
Listen to more from The Ryan Tubridy Show with Dave Fanning here.