Derry Girls actress Siobhán McSweeney has spoken about the huge success of the show and her hopes and expectations for the future.
McSweeney plays Sister Michael in the show. The character is a favourite amongst fans thanks to her scything comments and hilarious facial expressions as she deals with the high jinx the primary characters get up to.
Derry Girls has become the biggest comedy to come out of Ireland since Father Ted in the mid-90s, and it has raised the profile of all the actors.
Speaking to the Irish Post, McSweeney said: “I always say it feels great, but d’you know what, it feels very separate to me because it’s gotten so big now—after a while the numbers make no sense.
“You get messages from people in Brazil and you’re like ‘Well that’s nice, whoever that message is meant for—because it can’t be me!’
“It feels like a thing I did with my mates, and I’m always taken aback when people say they’ve watched it before I remember ‘Oh yeah, of course, because it was on the telly!’
“But it’s lovely. People have taken it into their hearts so completely that people think Lisa [McGee, Derry Girls creator] has written about their lives or that I must have known their headmistress or something.
“It belongs completely to the fans now, I think.”
The interviewer asked McSweeney if she is struggling with imposter syndrome, where individuals fail to acknowledge their own contributions to a successful project, and assume they are fortunate to have been working alongside the real talents.
She responded quite brilliantly, saying: “I try to kick the imposter syndrome firmly in the ass.
“As a woman it’s better to seem confident and recognise that we do deserve these things—but I’ve recently started dabbling a bit in writing and I must admit that imposter syndrome is very much creeping up there.
“But I’d call it more of ‘Sure f it, it’s grand’ syndrome– like why not?
“I used to be scared of trying things and now I’m like ‘Sure f it, why not?’”
McSweeney then went on to speak about her mother, aunt, and other Irish women that have inspired her throughout her life.
She said: “The Together For Yes Co-Founder Ailbhe Smyth gets an immediate mention, as does 1960’s – 70’s Northern Irish politician Bernadette Devlin, particularly due to her book ‘The Price Of My Soul’.
McSweeney was gifted The Price of My Soul by her mother at a young age and describes it as a “very special – especially now that mam’s gone”.
“And my aunt, who was my surrogate mother and who passed away a few weeks ago. She was a very large figure in my life and she was a very large character and she always inspired me. Betsy Ní Shuibhne was her name.
“Mam was hilarious. My mam was so, so funny. And look at the humour in all the political movements—look at the humour in the North; the cartoons, the signs at the protest.
“You can’t tell me that humour is a flippant thing now. The way it’s utilised now, it’s sharp.
“The women of Ireland are so inspirational. How we have repeatedly stood by ourselves in the fight for our bodily autonomy and in such uniquely female fights.
McSweeney was asked about the much anticipated third season of Derry Girls.
“First of all, I don’t know anything. Second of all, Channel 4 would stab me and then find my lovely doggy in Cork and stab the doggy. They’re terrifying.
“But no, they’re rightly very protective of their beautiful show.
“It’s down to Lisa. This is her story, literally. I can’t imagine how vulnerable she must have felt when it first aired.
“But I imagine the 3rd series might include the aftermath of the Clinton visit, the ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement.
“Maybe we could do something where can say something snarky about Westminster’s f king ignorance of the history of Northern Ireland. ‘The documentary of Derry Girls’ or something. Something where we can make it even easier for them to understand.
“Maybe the third series should be done with sock puppets supplied by Jim Henson and we could go a bit slower, because when it comes to Westminster it’s obvious that the first two series is still a bit over their heads, so we’ll go a bit slower again.
“But she’s eager to clarify her comments before anyone misconstrues what she means.
“For the sake of any confusion, I mean this with the utmost contempt. Christ.”
Lastly, would there ever be a possibilty of Sister Michael being given her own show in a spin-off once Derry Girls is finished?
“I think both me and my bank manager would be very pleased with that!
“I don’t know how it would work, my imagination isn’t strong enough to see where she’d end up. It would be quite funny, but the thing with spin-offs is that they’re very rarely done well. ‘Frasier’ is the exception, obviously.
“But I love playing her. In many ways I want to be her. My gait gets a bit wider, or I stick out my chest a bit more or look down a bit more—it’s a very powerful stance to have. So to feel that powerful isn’t a bad thing either.
“But one of the things I love about my job is the variety. Sister Michael is a lovely suit to put on, but I have a whole wardrobe to fill.”
Maybe not a Sister Michael spin-off then, but what about a Derry Girls movie?
“I’d love it to happen!
“I think it could work. I mean I don’t know, it’s got nothing to do with me unfortunately.
“It would have to be done with Lisa—I don’t think anybody else could write it—this could come around and bite me in the arse now and it’ll be done by a whole writers room! But that’s down to Lisa. She’s been living with this for such a long time.
“But I’d love to do one. I’d love to see what adventures they get up to.
“And because it’s a film you’d get quite an extravagant budget! We’ve done the first two series on the same small budget. Essentially– and it was grand for our needs– but it was essentially a regional budget for a regional programme, not a mainstream one.
“It’d be great to be able to stretch your wings and say ‘Let’s put them on the pyramids!’ or something. ‘Set it in space!’
“I suppose it would have to be a school trip or something wouldn’t it?
“Who knows. Anything that gets my bank manager off my back.”
Siobhán McSweeney was speaking to the Irish Post.
Take a look at some of Sister Michael’s highlight from Derry Girls.
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