Belfast actress Kerri Quinn on her racy scenes with Christopher Eccleston in BBC drama Come Home
Belfast actress Kerri Quinn couldn't be more delighted by her first major TV role in the hit drama Come Home and how it has been received. Critics have hailed the BBC show, which is filmed and set in Northern Ireland, as "painful and powerful" with one saying it was "beautifully played and beautifully put together".
As the second of the three part series aired across the nation on BBC1 last night, Kerri revealed that she knew immediately on reading the script that her character Brenna was made for her but never thought for one minute she would land the role.
She also paid tribute to star Christopher Eccleston for his encouragement and support, especially when it came to filming intimate scenes with him.
The 35-year-old single mum to six-year-old Libby is known as a stalwart of theatre in Belfast and has been overwhelmed by the positive comments and support from the people of her home city since the opening episode was broadcast.
As first TV roles come they don't get much bigger than working alongside veterans like Eccleston and Belfast-born Paula Malcomson in a drama written by Bafta and International Emmy award-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst.
Kerri says: "It meant the world to me to get the part. I never thought in a million years when I went for the audition I would get it.
"To even be considered for it alongside Chris and Paula was rare and it was amazing to get it. And it was also so emotional.
"It was the big break I had been waiting for a long time and my family were also so delighted. They have been with me through unemployment and some dark times and it was a massive deal for all of us. I will always keep it close to my heart.
"It is great that the public are loving it. All the comments on social media have been so lovely and supportive.
"People in Belfast really do support their own and really root for you and I think that is amazing. It is lovely to read their comments."
Filmed from October to December last year around Belfast and Larne, the drama focuses on a family reeling after mother Marie, played by Malcomson, walked out leaving behind her bereft husband Greg, played by Eccleston, and their three children. The couple had been married for 19 years and viewers have been left wondering why she would suddenly call time on family life.
Kerri plays Brenna Quinn, who is struggling in an abusive relationship and is herself a bit "damaged". She falls for mechanic Greg and quite quickly their relationship becomes very physical.
She says: "I was worried about the sex scenes as I hadn't done anything like that before and also because I have a young daughter.
"But it was all very tasteful and there was no nudity and it was done with modesty.
"Chris put me at my ease straight away. I just laughed a lot when we were shooting those intimate scenes. I think it helped I used lots of mouthwash before we had to kiss in a test scene and I just went for it."
Initially she was also worried that people wouldn't warm to Brenna, who is a complicated character.
It took Kerri some time to get to know the character and says it was a role which she immediately knew was made for her.
"At first Brenna comes across as a bit of a bunny boiler and I was concerned there would be a bad reaction to her," admits Kerri.
"But there is no side to her; she has no filter, what you see if what you get. She is one of those women who has had a tough life and has been damaged on some level. But she is warm and very likeable. When I read the script I knew I could play that part. I knew I was the right person for the job.
"It is like when you read a part and you have someone in your head who you know is perfect for it - that is how I felt about Brenna. I couldn't see or hear anyone else - it was Kerri Quinn's role."
Most of Kerri's career so far has been as a leading lady in local theatre and it was only last year that she signed with an agent in London in the hope of breaking into TV.
On stage she is known for portraying strong characters. She played the enigmatic Sally Bowles, a role made famous by Liza Minnelli, in Cabaret at the Mac several years ago and won rave reviews for her performance as a feisty Belfast hairdresser who goes to university in Educating Rita.
Kerri grew up in north Belfast with her parents Cathy and Gerard Quinn, older sister Roisin and younger brother Gerard. She had another brother, Kevin, who died as a child.
She still lives close to her childhood home with her daughter Libby and says her family mean the world to her and have been a huge support throughout her career.
"Libby's dad is very present in her life and she sees him a lot and my family too have been a great support so I've been lucky to never really have had a problem balancing parenthood with work," says Kerri.
"Libby is my world. She is a real diva and I have just spent this morning deleting about 40 videos she made from my phone.
"Everyone says she is going to be on stage. She is a really good kid."
Kerri describes herself as having been very shy as a child. It was only in secondary school when she was first introduced to drama that she started to consider acting as a career - and found taking part in stage productions did wonders for her self-esteem.
She studied performing arts at Belfast Institute of Further Education and then completed a degree in theatre studies at Queen's University.
"I always loved singing and I was also really shy. In secondary school when I saw the older girls doing plays I admired their confidence so much," she says.
"I believe drama is a great way to improve your confidence and I enrolled Libby in a drama school during the summer. It was amazing to see the difference in her confidence after just three weeks.
"It was brilliant for her; she just blossomed and came out of it as a more articulate and confident child."
After university, Kerri took a year out before knuckling down to focus on her career.
Getting into acting was harder than she thought and she credits well-known local playwright Martin Lynch and her good friend Patrick J O'Reilly, a director and actor with theatre production company Red Lemon, for getting her started.
In fact, she was contracted to do a play in the Lyric in Belfast, where she has spent so much of her career to date, when the opportunity arose to be part of Come Home.
The theatre was so delighted that she had been given such a big break on TV that they were happy to release her from her contract.
"We had the posters and the photo shoot completed and it was a done deal. I was invited to audition for Come Home and was going on holiday and did a self tape and sent it in," she says.
"The next thing I was brought in to read with the director. They then called me back again and that's when I thought 'this is getting a bit serious'.
"I had to do a chemistry read with Chris and I was so nervous before we went in that he just grabbed me and looked at me and told me I would be fine. He was brilliant.
"He has achieved so much in his career yet he hadn't forgotten what it was like to start out and he got me through it.
"We just clicked straight away and I knew the two of us would get on. He made it very easy.
"The Lyric was brilliant and so supportive and they realised it was an opportunity not to be missed."
With rave reviews following the first episode last week, Kerri is naturally hoping that more TV work will follow.
But she says she is especially delighted for her co-stars Chris and Paula.
Honoured to work alongside them, she says she made the most of every minute to learn as much from them as she could.
"I'm delighted for Paula. She left Belfast in very different times and it was great for her to come back to the city and do this drama," Kerri adds.
"Chris loved Northern Ireland so much and he worked so hard on his accent. He never dropped it once. Even when we weren't shooting scenes he kept talking with a Northern Ireland accent.
"The two of them are incredible and they are so established and great at what they do that I was just like a wee sponge learning as much as I could from them. To me, from the start it was a learning platform."
Since making Come Home, Kerri, on the advice of her agent, has not taken on any new jobs in the hope that now the series is on screen new TV roles will come her way.
"It is the first time in ages when I have had nothing to do and to be honest I'm bored, I'm dying to get stuck into something," she adds.
"My heart is in theatre and I would love to do theatre in London and Dublin and of course more TV."
The final episode of Come Home airs next Tuesday, BBC1, 9pm
The critics on Belfast-based TV drama Come Home
Euan Ferguson, The Observer:
It's quite something - to have a drama centring not on police, drugs, Mafia, or garrotted young naked women, or sliding wall panels revealing drawings of stick children, but simply centring on Woman Leaves Man Shock. And it's quite a superb something. It's hard to watch at times, although the physical violence (apart from one shocker) is negligible when set against the psychological and social nastiness. If looks could kill, Marie would be bleeding from a thousand female cuts for the incomparable crime of the leaving of the wains. Thrillingly well acted, unerringly scripted, this is seriously yer man.
Sean O'Grady, The Independent:
There were many moments during Come Home when I wondered just how much humiliation could be heaped on Christopher Eccleston's lonely and confused single dad character Greg. (The drama happens to be set in Northern Ireland, too, but with, thus far, no sectarian or Brexit-related intrusions)... (Greg) wound up getting into a fight and - result - drunkenly copping off with the woman who brings the sarnies round to his garage. By the way, that's Brenna Doyle (played by Kerri Quinn with commendable lustfulness) of Brenna's Baps (pun intended).
David Stephenson, Daily Express:
The start of writer Danny Brocklehurst's three-part drama was both subtle and enthralling, playing with your sympathies all along. We instantly sided with Greg although you couldn't help but think a darker plot line was double parked around the next corner... finally Greg found a connection with the sandwich lady who visited his garage every day, now offering him substantially more than his regular tuna mayonnaise. But he wisely turned down the meal deal on their first encounter. She was the best thing since sliced bread until she moved in and tempted the children to indulge in a friendly whisky at the dinner table. Bless you Brenna.