Actor and comedian Pat Shortt has lavished praise on new TV3 drama Smalltown and said he was drawn to the project by how it tackles important topics like emigration, loneliness and loss.

Smalltown, which aired on Thursday night, was directed by Gerard Barrett, who also made the critically acclaimed film Glassland which starred Toni Collette as an alcoholic Irish mother. 

The new TV3 drama focuses on a young man, played by Charlie Kelly, who is forced to leave his home in rural Ireland to pursue a life in London. When he returns years later, a lot has changed and he's confronted with a number of challenges by his family and father, who's played by Shortt.

"It was great to work with Gerard Barrett and I was very excited about getting involved with him. The story and the way Gerard tells a story is fantastic; he's an amazing director and an amazing writer," Shortt told RTÉ Entertainment.

"The first time I read the script, he just had a brilliant way of saying things and the topics are very strong as well; he tackles emigration, cancer and loneliness and how people are coping with things, and all around rural Ireland, which is very important. He does it so well."

Charlie Kelly has said he was very excited when he heard that Shortt would be playing his on-screen Dad.

"Smalltown is about a family from rural Ireland that are in crisis, they deal with a son emigrating and the mother of the family - Pat's wife, played by Pauline O'Driscoll - her illness. It's a family really coping with that," Kelly told RTÉ Entertainment.

"It was fantastic, it was brilliant, it was great. I was so excited when I heard Pat would be playing my dad in it, just to get to act [with him], I learned a lot... I got very lucky to be able to act with him," he said.