Belfast Telegraph

James Nesbitt: I was into Catholic girls when I was growing up. I enjoyed the segregation, the secrecy, the taboo

By Staff Reporter

James Nesbitt has spoken in detail about growing up as a Protestant boy in Northern Ireland - and how he was "always into Catholic girls" because their relationships were taboo.

In a more than candid interview with an Australian newspaper, the Coleraine actor revealed how Northern Ireland's segregated school system lent an air of mystery to convent girls for him.

The 50-year-old also spoke of what it was like growing up here during the 1960s and 70s.

In an interview with The Age, Nesbitt said he loved convent girls because "you'd get more action out of them" ahead of Confession.

"What I quite liked about going to a boys' school in Northern Ireland was not only were girls automatically more interesting because you were segregated from them, but because of the whole Protestant-Catholic thing, I was always into Catholic girls, because that was really taboo," he said. "The convent girls, I f***ing loved - particularly on a Friday night before they confessed on a Saturday. That's when you'd get more action out of them, because then they knew they could redeem themselves."

The light-hearted interview was carried out by the father-of-two over a few pints while Nesbitt was in Australia to promote BBC series The Missing.

Nesbitt - who has starred in Bloody Sunday and The Hobbit - explained how he grew up during some of the darkest days of the conflict but didn't feel its impact too much as he was "of that generation that didn't want to acknowledge the Troubles".

"I quite enjoyed it, in a way - the segregation, the secrecy, the taboo, the convent girls - because it wasn't having an immediate, obvious impact on my life and my family and friends," he said.

The "drinking woman's George Clooney" split from wife Sonia, with whom he has two daughters, in 2013 after living in New Zealand to film the Hobbit movies.

"We separated after," he said. "But we had one of the best years of our marriage, in a sense, out there." He spoke of his breakthrough role in TV's Cold Feet in the late 1990s, a turbulent time in his life.

"Ten million people were watching and, as much as at the time I would've said, 'Oh yeah, I'm great with all this, I'm the people's champion, I can get on with everyone,' it's confusing," he said. "It has an impact on you. It probably damaged my family quite a bit - that's where the duality of my life was forming. On one hand, here I am, the family man, providing, doing all the things I was supposed to do, being the son that my mother would've wanted me to be. Yet there was this secret: the fame, the excess, the disconnection. I partied too much and I got a bit lost. I regret stuff like that."

Nesbitt grew up with his parents and three older sisters. He said: "You grow up respecting and loving women, but you also probably spend a lifetime trying to replicate that love your sisters give you, and your mother gives the only boy."

Nesbitt's mother May died in 2012. He said despite being close before her death, he wished he "could have another crack at it sometimes... because I miss her so terribly".

When talking about his acclaimed 2002 TV role in Bloody Sunday, based on events in 1972 in Londonderry, he became emotional.

He said: "I find it really hard to talk about actually. (Bloody Sunday) marked the first time I really began to look at where I came from. What had happened to the country I was so proud of?"

Belfast Telegraph


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