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Bronagh Waugh: The Fall star shows there's much more to her abilities


Bronagh Waugh

Bronagh Waugh

Bronagh Waugh

It's not every actress who can claim their first job was in an Oscar-nominated Hollywood movie - even if her scene was left on the cutting-room floor.

But landing the minor part of a soldier's daughter in the US war comedy Good Morning Vietnam gave Coleraine-born Bronagh Waugh a taste for the craft and led to her landing a role in a Thai soap Khrop Khrua Angrit.

The star of BBC 2 crime thriller The Fall - which returns to our television screens next week - was 12 years old when she moved with her mother Bonnie to Thailand.

Although her scene in Good Morning Vietnam never actually made it into the movie, her ability to speak both Thai and English fluently helped her secure a part in the well-known soap, playing the young daughter in a British family living abroad.

Bronagh stayed in the show for three years and also tried her hand at presenting for MTV Asia.

Now 32, the actress has become a household name after appearing in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks and the Belfast-based drama The Fall.

In the latter series, Bronagh plays Sally-Ann Spector, a rather dowdy mother-of-two and unsuspecting wife of serial killer Paul Spector, played by Co Down actor Jamie Dornan.

It's a sombre, meaty role for Bronagh, who was best known for playing the comedic character Cheryl Brady in Hollyoaks, prior to joining the cast of The Fall.

And it's a role she takes very seriously, dropping several dress sizes to prepare for her nude scenes with her hunky co-star Dornan.

In a recent interview she said: "Stripping off was the scariest thing I've ever done. It was every woman's worst nightmare, but I thought if I can do this I can do anything. Now I'm a 10-12, which I think is perfectly healthy and I'm happy."

Bronagh was just nine years of age when she was first bitten by the acting bug. Having described herself as a "performing monkey", who loved to make people laugh, she joined the Riverside Ulster Youth Theatre, taking part in several performances at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine.

Although no one else in her family had aspirations to act, she grew up surrounded by poetry, plays and music, listening to stories read to her by her mother and granny.

Both women have been major influences in Bronagh's life. For much of her childhood, it was just Bronagh and her mum, although she has three half-sisters and a half-brother, who live with her father Kevin Hayes in Canada. Bronagh recently gained Canadian citizenship, but until the age of 22, she had never met her father.

Growing up, she recalls her mother working long hours to support the pair of them, which has instilled a desire in her to work hard.

When she was 15, her mother's job took her to Venezuela, but not wanting her daughter's studies to suffer, Bronagh was sent back to England to finish her exams at a school in Portsmouth. Her grandmother left her home in Coleraine and moved to Portsmouth to be with her.

Bronagh had enjoyed quite a celebrity lifestyle in Thailand, where her role in Khrop Khrua Angrit made her a well-known name. Starting afresh in England wasn't without its challenges, but she soon fitted into her new life.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last year, the actress said: "I had an American accent in Thailand and got a hard time over that back home.

"I'm very interested in accents and voices - at drama school they insist you find your own and stick to it. I took onboard what they said, as it can be quite confusing for people when your accent isn't what they expect.

"But I've just been auditioning for US roles in Canada and it was very hard not to pick up an American accent. I was always mimicking people as a kid, I was a real chameleon. I've been really into acting since I was little - I used to watch stand-up comedians and mimic their voices. Kids do that to fit in and I was no exception, especially as we moved around a bit."

When Bronagh was 23 years old, she decided it was time to meet her father for the first time.

"I was always curious about him," she has been quoted as saying. "Mum never withheld anything, but I never got round to meeting him when I was growing up.

"You need to know who you are so it was amazing to finally meet him and weigh up the whole nature versus nurture thing.

"Biology wins out. You find out who you are and it completes the puzzle. I was very nervous going to meet him for the first time, but it was an amazing experience. I see him once or twice a year now."

Bronagh now divides her time between Belfast, Surrey and Canada. Having graduated from drama school when she was 20, she got her first UK acting job in theatre, in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

In 2008 she landed the role of the loveable, larger-than-life Cheryl Brady in Hollyoaks, crediting Belfast actor and friend Gerard McCarthy for helping her secure the part.

"Ger was already in the show and when there was an opening for two new characters from Belfast and they couldn't find anyone in England, he insisted they come over here and give us lot a chance," she says.

"The casting director flew over and I auditioned and was recalled and got the part.

"It was really great of Ger to campaign like that for us over here. Not every actor would have bothered."

The role earned Bronagh a nomination for Best Newcomer at the British Soap Awards and on her much-lamented departure, the soap's executive producer Bryan Kirkwood said: "Bronagh has brought an irrepressible, unique and beautiful flavour to Hollyoaks for the last four years. The much-loved character of Cheryl will be hugely missed by everyone here."

Much like her Hollyoaks character, Bronagh, who will be back home soon to film the Cinemagic project A Christmas Star, comes across as warm, bubbly and hugely likeable.

Those who have worked with her describe her as a talented and versatile actress, with her role as Sally-Ann Spector in The Fall finally bringing her skills to a much wider audience.

A life so far...

  • Aged 32, lives in Guilford, Surrey
  • Daughter of Bonnie Waugh and Kevin Hayes. She has three half-sisters and a half-brother
  • Grew up in Coleraine, Thailand and Portsmouth
  • Graduated from Guildford School of Acting
  • Her first TV role was in a Thai soap called Khrop Khrua Angrit
  • Landed her breakthrough part as Cheryl Brady in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
  • Plays Sally-Ann Spector in BBC 2 crime thriller The Fall, the wife of a serial killer
  • Her boyfriend is downhill biker Nicholas Gray

Belfast Telegraph