Only two episodes into the second series of Love/Hate and already there is a buzz surrounding the return of RTÉ’s hit crime drama. Taragh Loughrey-Grant went behind the scenes to see how the ground-breaking show comes together.
8am: The Wire
The cast and crew working on today’s scenes are either at the unit base at Belvedere College Rugby Club on Distillery Road or already on location at John Joe’s (Aidan Gillen) apartment. When I arrive, the base is already a hive of activity, but cast and crew are comfortable in their routine, already halfway through the 53-day shoot. This is the hub of the production, where information, updates and scripts change hands.
Among the litter of trailers and makeshift offices, arguably the most important of vehicles is the permanently stocked catering truck, so where better place to grab a coffee and talk to Aoibhinn McGinnity (Trish) about what series two has in store for her character. I ask Aoibhinn about Stuart Carolan’s ability to write gripping plots for his female characters as well as the male ones: “It’s exciting, because it’s not actually me so the more dramatic the better, it’s the way we all think as actors, ‘Oh that’s disgusting . . . that’s brilliant!’”
9am: Hill 16 Blues
Two minutes up the road and we’re on the balcony of John Joe’s penthouse apartment, soaking up his panoramic view of the Rugby Club grounds on the right, the city centre to the left and straight ahead to Clonliffe Road, where Aidan Murphy, before an Equity clash changed him to Gillen, was born in 1968. He tells me that his mum still lives in his childhood home so he’s very familiar with this area. It’s also where he began his acting career at the age of 16 in Gardiner Street's Dublin Youth Theatre, playing Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now however, the Game of Thrones’ actor is concentrating on his role as drug baron John Boy who, despite grieving for his brother, Hughie, who was killed in the first series, has become even more dangerous. He has upped his drug intake and his newfound paranoia has him installing gates at the entrance to his penthouse, along with increased security and CCTV cameras. The ambience that all of this security creates is unsettling, to say the least, but Gillen is loving it all and is positive about the series: “I really believe in it and I think Stuart [Carolan] is a great writer. It’s good that we’re doing it here and it’s a production for Irish television because that’s something I want to be part of.”
10am: The Sopranos
Director David Caffrey, fresh from his success on Raw, confidently wrangles a crew of 25, who have been setting up the scene in John Joe’s. This morning’s shoot will involve him talking business with his two henchmen, Nidge and Tommy, while snorting a line of coke, as the new woman in John Joe’s life, Debbie (Susan Loughnane) makes tea. Not exactly your traditional domestic set-up but much like The Sopranos, this gritty drama has attracted a dedicated following because of its realistic portrayal of violence and drugs culture, albeit on an Irish scale. We wait around with the cast, while the crew are busy preparing for this 30-second scene, which takes at least three hours to set up before the actors even arrive on set. It’s a testament to the professionalism of producer Suzanne McAuley and the production crew that everything runs smoothly. No detail is left to chance, from the site maps to the daily planner, publicity plans and production briefs; everything is set out meticulously in advance. Any on-set changes are recorded immediately in the on-site admin office, so no time is wasted, which helps the production adhere to budget. However, what does strike me in the wait during the set-up of each new scene is just how many cigarettes are smoked and coffees drunk.
11am: Gun Lovin’ Criminals
The actors are in situ; the cameras are preparing to roll. Killian Scott (Tommy) describes the diligent yet relaxed atmosphere on set: “The atmosphere is even better than last year because there’s a certain sense of confidence and momentum about it. It did seem to go down well the last time, so that’s great.”
As filming time arrives, the crew know instinctively to be quiet, seconds before ‘Action’ is shouted out.
12 noon: Scarface
During a take, Aidan asks whether he was holding the €50 note in his left or right hand and without blinking the continuity supervisor confirms that it was his left hand. It is this attention to detail that has surely helped the show gain the acclaim it has. I notice the number of times the lads have had to snort their ‘cocaine’ and producer Steve Matthews, who has been accompanying us on set all morning, explains that they use a glucose mixture which he assures me is completely harmless and high-free: “It’s a sugary glucose of some description . . . they’re actors, they’re pretending, they’re not from this world. This is a show about the drug world and it’s very important to show that accurately, so they’ve got to research it.” They have and it looks pretty realistic.
1pm: CSI (Crumb Scene Investigation)
It’s a wrap for lunch and everyone heads back to base unit en masse to indulge in the on-site catering facilities. Like TV and film catering units the world over, they deliver tasty, wholesome fuel to the hard-working hungry hoards. They need it because as David says: “There are a lot of night shoots so you have to do split days, you’re up at 7am and not home until midnight. It’s pretty gruelling.”
Stuart Carolan emphasises the importance of wardrobe in a drama like Love/Hate. Before I left, I spoke to Aisling Wallace of the wardrobe department, who talked me through the costume choices for each of the characters. Whether it’s John Boy (Gillen) or Nidge’s (Vaughan Lawlor) designer wear or the girls’ (Debbie, Linda and Trish) flash outfits, the attention to detail is amazing. The bulletproof vests are real – just a small reflection of how seriously this drama is taking its depiction of Dublin’s crime world.
Watch Love/Hate, Sunday, RTÉ One, 9.30pm