Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O’Donnell put her “heart and soul” into her character’s accent for the new show Screw.
The actress, who plays Michelle Mallon in the hit comedy, swapped her school uniform for a prison uniform for the Channel 4 drama, which is penned by Killing Eve writer Rob Williams.
She said: “Doing a northern English accent... I tried my best. I really enjoy doing accents and although I was nervous, putting my heart and soul into it, thankfully people on set responded really well.”
The 29-year-old plays Rose Gill, who has a baptism of fire in her new job at the C-wing of the fictional Long Marsh men’s prison.
“Some of the scenes in Screw are a million miles from Michelle, which I’m really happy about. There’s quite heavy stuff in there, but they’re trying to keep it as true to life as possible because not everything is doom and gloom. Even in dramatic times, there’s some sort of a silver lining,” she explained.
“It’s a survival instinct to find the lighter side of things, especially when the reality you’re faced with is quite dark.
“Rose seemed like a really complex and interesting character and there are a lot of twists and turns to the show. After I’d read the first couple of episodes, I was desperate to find out what happened in episode three, which is always exciting.
“I’m lucky to have the chance to do both in my career — doing Rose and going back to Michelle.”
Jamie-Lee has just finished filming the third and final series of Derry Girls and gave a hint of what to expect.
“It’s great craic. The wait has been a bit frustrating, but I’m focusing on the positive — it’s coming,” she said.
She also joked her character would make an excellent prison guard once she leaves school, explaining: “I’m sure she [Michelle] could [be a prison guard]. Why not? She can reach for the stars and she’s a good talker. She’s definitely tough enough. She’d rule the wing.
“The producers brought in some professional prison officers so we could find out what it’s like to work in a prison. They were very honest.
“Two of the officers we spoke to were women, and that was a big surprise, learning how many women work in men’s prisons.
“Although these were small women, they were obviously really confident and very powerful. It wasn’t the obvious image whenever you think of a prison officer.
“We learnt some basic techniques about how to defuse a situation and also the respect they have for the job and the compassion they show for their colleagues and the prisoners. It added a lot of layers for me.”
Screw begins on Channel 4 on Thursday at 9pm