As 'Single-Handed' returns to our screens for a six-part series, lead actor Owen McDonnell talks to Linda McGee about playing Garda Jack Driscoll, filming in Connemara and why he would make a "rubbish cop".

Linda McGee: You're back for a six-episode run this year Owen, does that mean that we'll be getting to delve a bit deeper and see more of what makes Garda Jack tick?
Owen McDonnell:
Yeah, I think so. For me it was a great luxury to have six episodes, to kind of have a through-line. I think you get more detail and probably more in depth than just seeing snippets, like we had in the past, having to tie everything up neatly after just two hours, so yeah Jack's own storyline is allowed to develop at a more interesting and natural pace... not a different woman every episode!

LM: There's a new storyline with a mystery cousin that seems likely to unearth a few family secrets. What can you tell us about that?
OM:
Yeah, well basically, it happens very early in the first episode when Jack is confronted with this guy from Manchester, who he bumped into at the side of the road. They had a break-down and he thought nothing of it and then the guy comes into the Garda station with his girlfriend and he says 'I think we might be related' and it turns out that he's there looking for his father. We know his father went to school near there and subsequently it turns out that Jack has an uncle and a cousin that he never knew he had. And considering he's just lost his father, and his father and himself didn't see eye to eye, the fact that there might be a comparative person of that generation in his life that he hasn't had access to is very exciting for him but this being 'Single-Handed' it doesn't necessarily work out as well as it could do.

LM: We've been told to expect a violent death, an arson attack and a mysterious car crash in the series. That's a lot of drama for Garda Jack. Will that be the case for most of the series?
OM:
Yeah, the way it's structured is that each two hours deal with a major event, which is whatever drama Jack has to solve that particular time. But then there is a through-line running through all six. So yeah, while it's a very active place he's living in, I think people make allowances for that. It's not real-life in Connemara but anything that does happen can happen or could happen.

LM: Yeah, because quite a lot happens in what seems like a quiet rural setting. There's no shortage of action to keep him occupied...
OM:
Yeah, it's not dissimilar to 'Midsomer' or Morse's Oxford or whatever. A day in the life of a rural Garda Sergeant probably would make an interesting hour-long documentary, but maybe not a six-part drama.

LM: I fear it's going to become one of those places that people avoid visiting if Garda Jack is around, you know like how you'd be getting worried if Jessica Fletcher checked into the same B&B as you...
OM:
Yeah, yeah! Or Miss Marple or Garda Jack Driscoll... yeah, as I said, we do take allowances and take liberties in a way by saying all this stuff happened. But, you know, all the issues that we deal with – young offenders, crooked property developers, prostitution in a rural area – they all could happen. It's just that they all happen to Jack!

LM: For you as an actor, is he a great character to be able to revisit? There are exciting scripts, lots of great guest-stars and it seems like there's always lots to work with.
OM:
Aw yeah, I know. It's a treat for me. You mentioned the rest of the cast – the quality of people that you have in it, you know from Stephen Rea to Conor Mullen and some of the newer people that people might not be as familiar with like Dermod Noyse. To work with them is just a real pleasure for me and I learn a lot from just being on camera with them and doing scenes with them. They've such a wealth of experience. And yeah, the scripts are great and it's in a fantastic location. There's nothing not to like about it, to be honest! I'm very, very lucky and I do realise that.

LM: You mentioned the gorgeous location there, is it a pleasant change to be able to film the outdoor scenes in such a great setting, as opposed to always being on constructed sets?
OM:
Absolutely. It's part of the world that I knew. I grew up in Galway City so, you know, it was always just out the road. I've got to know it so well because often the most beautiful places are the most remote and out of the way, so you got to go to all these places, and because we were there filming for 12 weeks this time you got to feel like you were part of the community. People were very good to us and very accepting of us. So yeah, it was fantastic.

LM: What's interesting, and has been all along, is that you get to see a little bit more of Jack with every episode. As well as whatever mystery he is solving, there is a strong focus on developing him as a character. Did that always appeal to you?
OM:
Yeah, I've always said that. I think one of the selling-points of the series is that, yes it's a police drama but it's a police drama centred around a person, who just happens to be a cop. You get an insight into his life and I think, and I hope, that people will be able to imagine it... because he's not a super-sleuth. He doesn't do everything brilliantly well. He doesn't do the Miss Marple and have everybody around in a room at the end and relay how he's amazingly solved the crime. He makes mistakes and, certainly in these episodes, he allows his personal feelings to colour his judgement, a lot! And I would hope that people are able to maybe put themselves in his situation and go 'How would I react in that situation?' or 'Would I make the same mistakes?' or 'Would I be able to see the wood for the trees?'. So yeah, I think maybe that's what is interesting and that's why people like it because it's not just a 'whodunnit'. You get an insight into a life and an insight into what it must be like working in a job like that, where you have all those pressures and you're part of a community, but not part of a community and all that.

LM: Having got that insight yourself, is it a job that you think you could have done in a different life?
OM:
Eh no! It's too hard, I think. Me personally, I'd probably be a rubbish cop!

Watch 'Single-Handed' Sundays at 9.30pm on RTÉ One.

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