He's been on our screens as original Carrigstown bad boy Paul Brennan since September 18, 1989, and as Fair City turns 30, Tony Tormey tells us about his three decades playing a player.  

It's weird being with something 30 years - I'm not even married 30 years!
It feels like it's gone like that [clicks fingers]. It only seems like yesterday - from the first time we came in to do the auditions to all of a sudden I'm doing these stories and then all of a sudden it's 30 years. It's not that I'm getting dementia or anything like that, but people have to remind me, 'Do you remember that story? God, yeah! I remember that!' You've done so many you forget. 

My first scene was walking down the road in Drumcondra.
Going to see Bernie Kelly, who was Charlie Kelly's [played by the late Tom Jordan] daughter. Ger Ryan, who played Bernie, is a fantastic actress and we got on great. But I was kind of fearful of her because she had done so much of theatre and TV as well. I had to try and kiss her and I was kissing her like that [repeated pecks]. I remember one of the floor managers saying to me, 'Did you ever see John Wayne? Did you ever see Cary Grant or John Wayne kiss a woman like that?! For f**** sake, you're not Woody Woodpecker!' 

I was absolutely terrified because I'd never worked on camera before. 
I hadn't even done a short film. I'd done a lot of plays and I was getting all this advice from people. My big thing was - and I look at my son now and he's the same as well - 'What happens if this happens? Where will I be?' It was absolutely terrifying. I spent a lot of time in the toilet!

I didn't think the show would last.
The first episode was an hour long and nothing really happened, apart from Tom Jordan throwing beer in my face. I wish I could get a penny for every time they show it on Reeling in the Years! I remember sitting in the dressing room and saying to a couple of people, 'Do you think this is going to last?' But then we had another season and then it was taken off - it was gone. I got a call from my agent and they said, 'Listen, that's gone'. So I went, 'Ok, fair play' and you just moved on. And then I think six weeks later I got a phone call: 'Do you remember Fair City? Yeah... It's back on again'. We only filmed from June until August so it didn't make that much of a difference at that time. Little did I know it's like the Mafia - you think you're gone and then they drag you back in!'

I think the penny really dropped for me that I was going to last on the show during the stuff with Paul and Helen.
That was when it really hit with the public. I was working with Kira Carroll, who played Helen, and I realised: 'This is kind of taking off now'. With the Paul and Helen story I realised, 'I can do something here'.
It was the first time I had, without trying, that connection with someone. There was just something that happened onscreen between Kira and I, that spark. It was the first time I'd ever experienced that. She knew what I was thinking, I knew what she was thinking.

I learned the most from looking at myself being bad.
We would watch ourselves in the studio on playback - they don't have time to do it anymore - so by the time I got to do the one that went out you'd say to yourself 'I'm not going to do that s*** again!' 

Kira Carroll as Helen and Tony Tormey as Paul in a Fair City episode from 1994

I understand Paul deeper now.
He was never me, really. He was always much more gauche than I am. I'm really shy, and they say the shy man's revenge is acting. I understand Paul's need to make money because I've seen guys who I went to school with - and I suppose ourselves as well - where you want a better standard of living for your family. I wouldn't go to the lengths that he would go to, but I understand it. I understand him. People say, 'Oh you're an awful git!' and even the lads inside [on the show] say, 'How can you play that? You can't do that!' And I say, 'Yeah? Why not?!'

I don't see Paul as a villain.
Never a villain. He's done bad things. He's done awful things. He's irresponsible when it comes to other people's welfare, but there's a good guy in there. That's the interesting thing: everyone can play the white and the black, but it's the grey that I love to play.

I've always liked the idea of Paul and Carol getting together!
It would be atomic! They'd be fighting but then have great sex and then they'd be fine for a while and then they'd be fighting again! Bela got away from him as well, though. He always wanted Bela!

I also thought it would have been a good idea for Paul to take over McCoy's
I thought there would have been great opportunities there, between women, between family, letting kids grow up in a pub... But if Paul went like EastEnders' 'Dirty Den' then he'd have to find his Angie again! It'd probably be the worst run pub in Dublin!

The best description I ever heard of Paul was when I was on tour with a play.
This woman came up to me and said, 'You've been in my house since it started off. My husband died six months ago and he always loved to hate you! We'd always have a chat about you afterwards and why Paul had to do that. And when he was sick we talked about you a lot. So you've been in our house a long time. And you're my best friend since he died'. That got me there [points to heart]. I gave her a hug and she walked away and that was it.

You very rarely get nice stuff said to you in Dublin!
It's not nasty; they're just not going to give you the head! But even my mother, when I go over to her now after this interview and say, 'I did an interview', she'll say, 'Did an interview for what? Are you going to get a job?!'

The diversity of the audience amazes me.
Recently I'm getting a lot of young guys coming up to me - in their 20s - young girls as well. Usually it was middle-aged men and the 'blue rinse brigade' and middle-aged women, but now it's a different dynamic. I was out with my missus the other day and this girl came up to me. She was only about 19 and she said, 'Would you mind getting a photograph?' I said, 'Sure. Is it for your ma or your granny?' And she said, 'No! It's for me!' 

There's so much advice I would give myself now if I was starting out.
[Laughs] Stop trying to look like James Dean! Don't let people put black eyeliner in your hair to stop you going bald! But the main piece of advice that was given to me - and I still say it to kids in here - is always learn off the camera. Because the day you stop learning is the day you might as well walk out that door.

Another 30 years?
Wouldn't I be lucky! I know a lot of actors - because you get to know a lot of people doing shows and whatever - and I'm the only one who's working constantly for 30 years. I'm very, very lucky.

Tony Tormey brings Paul to life on Fair City on Sundays and Tuesdays to Thursdays

For more on the soaps, click here.

Catch up on Fair City on the RTÉ Player.