Profile: Belfast actress Séainín Brennan
Who? The 35-year-old Belfast actress recently starred with Philip Glenister in the BBC thriller series, Hidden, and is currently working on a Radio 4 comedy, Ruthless. She has helped to raise more than £100,000 for Hospice Care in Ireland and the NI Children's Hospice
Tell us a bit about your background...
I'm originally from the Malone Road in Belfast, where I first began to study drama at Methodist College. After Methody, I went to the University of Ulster, where I attained a BA Honours degree in European Studies. At this point I’d stopped any sort of acting to focus on my education. After winning a scholarship at the College of Europe in Bruges, I began an internship at the Secretariat General of the European Commission in Brussels.
So how did you get from there to becoming a professional actress?
I really loved my work in Brussels. It was well paid, so I knew I would be taking a risk by going for a career as an actress, as it's an industry that doesn't guarantee a steady supply of work. After my internship, I came back home and toured with West Side Story before heading back to Brussels to work in the private sector. I had a few good job offers but I didn't like the private sector work and West Side Story reminded me of how much I love acting. So I came back and went to the Guildford School of Acting and the Irish Film Actors Studio in Dublin.
Did you find it hard to make a return to acting after working in Brussels?
Not really. I think, when you look at it, law, politics and acting are all inextricably linked.
Do you think it's harder to make it as an actress from Northern Ireland?
Yes. I don't know what it is about the Northern Irish accent but it always seems to come with a stigma attached. Look at Charles Lawson as Jim McDonald in Coronation Street. He's a wife beater and a robber. Or look at the Northern Irish characters in Hollyoaks. There are rarely any depictions of |middle class Northern Irish people, just the stereotypical working-class characters. I think there's something about our accent that unnerves the English audience. In certain circumstances it's necessary to change your |accent no matter who you are, though. For example, when I had a role in Death Of A Salesman, an American classic, at the Gate Theatre in Dublin, there was no way I could've used my own accent. When I was in Ibsen's Ghosts, which was directed by |Frank McGuinness at the Bristol Old Vic, I managed to convince them my accent was perfect for the role of Regine.
What was it like working with Philip Glenister on the recent BBC drama, Hidden?
He is a brilliant actor. I found him to be both charming and generous at the same time. He’s the opposite of one of his other characters, Gene Hunt, from Ashes To Ashes. I play his girlfriend, Frances. In our scenes it’s just Philip and me, so I was trying hard to impress him and I think that's what made me perform better in the end. He was completely down to earth. I've always found that, the more famous actors are, the more pleasant and generous they seem to be.
Do you find it harder to work in theatre, television or film?
My first love is theatre, and I'm a purist in that sense, but you have to get it right on the night. While filming, if I get something wrong, I can always say, ‘let's do that again'. I love the dynamic of taking the audience on a journey in theatre. It's scary because you can't stop the show and you must be able to improvise if something goes wrong. The performance can even depend on the audience. Sometimes you can get a very quiet audience or a lively one.
So what do you like to do when you're not on stage or filming?
I like to holiday and discover new things. I love to read, go to concerts and listen to music. I also love going to Donegal. I think you'll find that with a lot of actors — we either like the hustle and bustle of the city or complete solitude.
Tell us about your charity work which earned you a spot as runner up in the 2009 Belfast Telegraph Woman of the Year Awards. Is |that something close to your heart?
In 2005 I staged a garden party at my home to mark the second anniversary of my grandmother's passing. She was well looked after by the NI Hospice, so it was in aid of that. I was shocked when I learned that we'd raised over £25,000. Then, in 2008, I read that the Children's Hospice was in difficulty due to the credit crunch. I decided to organise a charity ball |for the hospice called the White |Sapphire Ball. So many celebrities were kind enough to donate and attend and the event raised over £72,000.
These are my fave things
Who’s your favourite singer?
Probably Barbra Streisand for her singing in theatre.
Do you have a favourite book?
The Catcher In The Rye by JD Salinger.
And a preferred movie?
A Few Good Men.
What’s your ‘never again’ moment?
Going to the loo before a stage call, then hearing the music of the song I'm supposed to be singing start as I'm there.