‘I’ve relished it’: The Derry Girls talk about their platform for change

Stars of the hit show told The Big Issue what causes they’re willing to fight for in this week’s magazine as Nicola Coughlan heads to Westminster to protest Northern Ireland’s abortion laws

In 2018, TV super smash Derry Girls stopped viewers in their tracks. It showed the joyful mundanity of life that continued even during the Troubles, while telling a timeless tale of friendship between girls. The cast spoke to The Big Issue ahead of the Derry Girls series 2 premiere, and made it clear that their time between filming was certainly not wasted.

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, who plays Michelle Mallon, told The Big Issue she has “relished” being able to use her voice to raise awareness for issues of social justice. “It is one of the perks of the job,” she said. “I am working with an abortion rights charity and on women’s sexual health rights. Abortion is still illegal in Northern Ireland and that is something we feel quite passionate about.”

Co-star Nicola Coughlan, who appears as Clare Devlin, agreed. The group were really involved with the Repeal the Eight campaign, she said, which was “an important time for Irish women – and it is still a situation in Northern Ireland”. She also felt a responsibility to champion LGBTQ charities after playing a gay character.

Louisa Harland, Orla McCool in the show, backed her up. “It is still illegal in the North to get married if you are gay. It is legal in the UK which they are part of, and it is legal in the Republic, as is abortion now. So we feel strongly about the North being recognised.

She added: “Nicola’s character Clare wouldn’t be able to get married today. That is ridiculous.”

And mental health is close to the hearts of O’Donnell and Dylan Llewellyn (who plays James Maguire). “Dealing with suicide in young people is quite close to home for me,” Llewellyn explained, adding that he wants to encourage people to address it and be made to feel comfortable expressing themselves.

O’Donnell said: “Mental health is a big issue in Derry and Northern Ireland, especially men’s mental health and suicide awareness.

“I grew up in a town where things like that and substance abuse were quite bad and still are. So I am always happy to help out if I can by using my face from acting, lending my voice. It has affected me personally and probably everyone I know in Derry.” [ . . . ]

Full Story at THE BIG ISSUE: ‘I’ve relished it’: The Derry Girls talk about their platform for change

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Derry Girls series two premiere leaves audience ‘buzzing’

Derry Girls Premiere PartyThe stars of the hit Channel 4 show hit the red carpet in Derry for the global premiere

There could only be one location for the global premiere of Derry Girls.

The stars of the hit Channel 4 series were back in Derry last night for the screening of the first two episodes of the forthcoming second series.

The verdict? “Dead on.”

The show – which follows the lives of five teenagers in Derry in the 1990s – is Channel 4’s most successful comedy since 2004.

Fans waited outside the Omniplex Cinema to catch a glimpse of stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Nicola Coughlan and Louisa Harland – who play Erin, Clare and Orla – as well as “the wee English fella” Dylan Llewellyn and writer Lisa McGee.

Derry Girls Premiere Party

“I’m super proud to be from Derry, and as a Derry girl it’s amazing to have our global premiere here in Derry,” said Saoirse-Monica Jackson.

“There would be no show without the people here,” said writer Lisa McGee. “They’ve inspired me and I wouldn’t have all the stories and the jokes without the unique people in Derry.”

The actors signed autographs and posed for selfies with their fans before taking their seats in the cinema where cream horns – a reference to an episode in Series 1 – were served along with the usual refreshments.

Earlier in the day the actors were spotted wearing “I Heart J-L O’D” badges in reference to their co-star Jamie-Lee O’Donnell. O’Donnell, who plays Michelle in the series, was unable to attend because of a theatre commitment.

The Derry Girls gang also stopped off to pose for a photo at the new Derry Girls mural in the city centre.

While the audience have been sworn to secrecy until after the initial episodes air on Channel 4, the cinema was “buzzing” after the show.

Great to have the cast and crew of Derry Girls in the Guildhall after tonight’s premiere screening,” said the mayor of Derry, John Boyle. “The viewers are in for a real treat next month.”

“Big half-term laughs with my teenage offspring at Derry Girls Season 2”, said Chris Jones.

Series two of Derry Girls is expected to air in March 2019.

Source: Derry Girls series two premiere leaves audience ‘buzzing’