Born Banbridge, Co. Down 9th February 1866
Died Flushing, New York 16th August 1945
Foremost stage player, comedian, singer in light opera and incidental screen actor, who was a constant on Broadway during the latter years of the 19th century and who was still working America’s ultimate theatre circuit towards the end of the 1930’s.
A child immigrant, his parents having arrived in New York circa 1870 and by the age of seventeen had made his stage debut in ‘The Girl I Love’/’The Diamond Mystery’, presented at the Opera House, Paterson, New Jersey in 1883. The following year he joined Minnie Maddern’s Company for a two year spell, touring in plays such as ‘Caprice’ and ‘In Spite of It All’ and for a season in 1887 became a member of Richard Mansfield’s, Prince Krull Company, based at the Madison Theatre, New York.
Still only twenty one and seemingly much sought after, he signed a short contract with Lotta Crabtree, former darling of the gold rush era in 1850s California, appearing in a series of productions, including ‘The Little Detective’ and ‘Pawn Ticket 210’.
An early Broadway appearance saw him in the cast of the David Belasco and Henry C. DeMille social drama ‘Lord Chumley’ at the Lyceum Theatre in 1889 and in 1891 was recruited to inventive producer, Charles Frohman’s Stock Company, soon to take up residence at the Empire Theatre, New York.
During a three year period with Frohman he had central roles in a number of dramas including ‘The Lost Paradise’ at Proctor’s 23rd Street Theatre in 1891, which also featured Maude Adams, queen of musical theatre and archetypal Peter Pan and in 1892 at the same venue, a revival of Frohman’s 1890 hit, ‘Men and Women’.
He was also in the cast of Bartlett Neil’s ‘The Girl I Left Behind Me ‘, which was the opening play at the newly built Empire Theatre in January 1893. In 1894 he exercised all his considerable talents as Jack Alden in the De Wolf Hopper Opera Company’s musical comedy, ‘Dr. Syntax’ and played Dick Capel in the similarly themed ‘The Circus Girl’ at Daly’s Theatre in 1897.
Two further Broadway roles closed the old century, another musical comedy ‘A Runaway Girl’ at Daly’s Theatre in 1898 and director Joseph R. Grismer’s comedy, ‘A Stranger in a Strange Land’ at the Manhattan Theatre in 1899.
In the early 1900s he worked for the most part in a series of top rated Broadway musical comedies. These included the extraordinarily successful ‘Florodora’ at the Casino Theatre in 1900, ‘A Prince of Kensington’ at the Broadway Theatre, 1903 and ‘Glittering Gloria’, first at Daly’s Theatre and then the Grand Opera House in 1904.
The undoubted highlight of his career came in 1905, with his portrayal of William Musgrave Bakerville Peyton, aka Billy Peyton in writer Edward Peple’s finely structured drama ‘The Prince Chap’, presented at Hoyt’s Theatre on Broadway and later enjoyed a lengthy tour of the West Coast in 1906.
During the latter half of 1909 he experienced mixed success at the Bijou Theatre, New York with co-starring roles in the long running comedy ‘The Lottery Man’ and the early folding ‘The Intruder’, one of the very few flops produced by William A. Brady and Joseph R. Grismer. Comedies and an operetta occupied his time during 1911/12, the most noteworthy of which were ‘The Fatted Calf’, staged at Daly’s Theatre and Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera ‘Patience’ at the Lyric Theatre, both 1912.
In 1913 he was persuaded to test his skills in moving pictures and was offered a starring role as Lt. Denton on his debut, in first time director Augustus E. Thomas’ landmark film ‘Arizona’, the inaugural production of the All Star Film Corporation of New Jersey. Thomas, who also wrote the screenplay, earned his place in cinema history with what was the first six reel or feature length western.
Three screen dramas followed, all affording him leading credits; director Daniel Frohman’s ‘The Day of Days’ 1914, ‘Not Guilty’ 1915, from the play by Edgar James and ‘The Lord’s of High Decision’ 1916, directed by Jack Harvey. He then took his leave from the screen and returned to the Broadway stage in 1916, taking the role of Wildred Ferrers in the war drama ‘Arms and the Girl’, starring Fay Bainter and directed by playwright and silent screen actor Paul Dickey.
Two routine comedies followed , the hugely successful ‘Polly With a Past’ at the Belasco Theatre in 1917/18 and ‘On the Hiring Line’, which ran at the Criterion Theatre for a short period in 1919. Into the 1920s and in his mid-fifties he enjoyed a long run as Lieutenant Brambourg in producers Lee And JJ Shubert’s ocean set melodrama, ‘In the Night Watch’ at the Century Theatre, New York in 1921.
A terrible personal tragedy occurred shortly after closing with ‘In The Night Watch’ in May 1921. He returned home after a short journey to the local railway station where he had gone to purchase an evening newspaper, to find his wife Louise had taken her own life. It would be almost two years before he next took to the stage, returning to high calibre musical comedy and a lengthy stint of work, taking dual roles in yet another Shubert brothers production, ‘The Dancing Girl’ at the Winter Garden Theatre, New York in 1923.
But by the mid-twenties until 1931 his Broadway appearances had reduced to a trickle, amounting to less than a handful of short term productions, with his performance as Austin Tyler at the Cort Theatre in 1930, in the Thatcher Hughes and Alan Williams comedy, ‘It’s a Grand Life’, the most notable.
The following year he travelled to Australia for what would prove to be his last motion picture project. His lowly credit in Melbourne based director/producer F.W.Thring’s musical comedy ‘His Royal Highness’ seemed strange indeed. The film shot at Thring’s Efftee Studios was a vehicle for influential Australian comedian George Wallace to help promote his profile on a grander scale.
His long association with the New York stage finally ended, when on the cusp of his seventy first birthday he appropriately took the leading role as Mr. Holmes in writer Basil Mitchell’s comedy ‘The Holmeses of Baker Street’, presented at Theatre Masque from December 1936 until January 1937.
Cyril Scott was a prodigiously talented performer who reached the heights in theatre and most probably if ten years younger would have carved out a lucrative career in films, particularly given the popularity of the musical/comedy genre of the late thirties and forties.
Other Theatre and Film credits:
-Silver Slipper(1902) Broadway Theatre, New York
-The Medal and the Maid(1904) Broadway Theatre/ Grand Opera House, New York
-The Money Makers(1905) Liberty Theatre, New York
-The Royal Mounted(1908) Garrick Theatre, New York
-Modern Marriage(1911) Bijou Theatre New York
-The Woman of It(1912) 39th Street Theatre, New York
– The Point of View(1912) 48th Street Theatre, New York
-Paddy the Next Best Thing(1920) Shubert Theatre, New York
-The New Gallantry(1925) Cort Theatre, New York
-The Passing Present(1931) Ethel Barrymore Theatre, New York
-Paths of Glory(1935) Plymouth Theatre, New York
-Tomorrow’s Holiday(1935) John Golden Theatre, New York.
-How Molly Malone Made Good(1915)
Born Belfast 15th April 1885
Died Belfast 13th February 1970
Assiduous and benign character actor and entertainer, who began his theatrical life in music halls, appearing as a boy assistant to a magician at the Empire Theatre Belfast, circa 1900. This experience enthused him sufficiently enough to forge a career in the flourishing variety bills of the concert and parochial halls of turn of the century Ireland.
He played the Alhambra, Empire and Hippodrome in Belfast, considered to be the most fashionable of the popular music halls, before leaving for a short spell with Frank Benson’s Shakespearean Repertory Company in England. Shortly after his return he formed a double act with old friend Joe Carney and worked the vaudeville circuit under the rather contradictory name of The White Blackbirds and as the name suggests, they developed a minstrel routine which proved to be a temendous success with the demanding audiences of the time.
During the early forties the pair toured under the ENSA banner, with an updated act and all the old zest but at the end of the war Carney left for America and Sharpe found himself looking at a bleak future in showbusiness. He was approaching sixty and did not relish foraging for work, amidst the austerity rapidly descending on a victorious but bankrupt Britain, however a season with the Abbey in Dublin in late 1945 was to prove significant and opened a new chapter in the career of Albert Sharpe. Director Frank Launder, when casting for his spy thriller ‘I See a Dark Stranger’ 1946, offered him a small part as a publican, which despite his brief screen time, impressed former Abbey player and leading producer Ria Mooney, who suggested to theatrical impresarios Lee Sabinson and William R. Katzell, that Sharpe might be the Finian McLonergan they were seeking, for their upcoming Broadway musical ‘Finian’s Rainbow’.
He auditioned and landed what was to be a career making opportunity, which even at the age of sixty two, was to make him a major Broadway star and the show, which ran at the 46th Street Theatre for nearly two years, was Broadway’s biggest post war success. Unbelievably Hollywood beckoned and in 1948 he made his American film debut as Timothy Moore in the Deanna Durbin musical comedy,’Up in Central Park’ . The twists of fate were evident here, on one hand, Albert Sharpe at his advanced age, was embarking on an improbable movie career and on the other, former child star Durbin, was, at the age of twenty six working on her penultimate film. He made two further films in 1948 including William Dieterle’s ‘Portrait of Jennie’ starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones and in 1949 appeared in the period comedy ‘Adventure in Baltimore’, which starred another Hollywood princess, Shirley Temple, whose coming of age at twenty one was considered a liability by her studio.
In 1951 he had a low- key role in the Fred Astaire musical ‘Royal Wedding’ and the same year co-starred in a Dick Powell comedy,’You Never Can Tell’ and his last film before a long self enforced break, was Vincente Minnelli’s disappointing ‘Brigadoon’, which boasted a strong but wasted cast headed by Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Following a settling in period on his return to Belfast, he accepted a request by Jimmy O’Dea to appear with him in his review show, ‘So What’ at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, circa 1955 and following this, nothing more was heard of Albert Sharpe for three years, until the spring of 1958, when he was asked by the Walt Disney Studio if he would be interested in the role of Darby O’Gill, in their forthcoming fantasy feature, ‘Darby O’Gill and the Little People’.
After consideration, the seventy four year old Sharpe, once more packed his bags and headed for Hollywood, joining a cast which included J.G. Devlin, Jimmy O’Dea and a young Scottish actor Sean Connery. The film gave him a new lease of showbusiness life, albeit brief, as he made just one more film, co-starring the following year with Joseph Tomelty, in John Guillermin’s crime drama ‘The Day They Robbed the Bank of England’ 1960.
Albert Sharpe’s long professional career began in a bygone age of gaslamps and cloth caps in Victorian Belfast and later embraced the glitz and glamour of Broadway and Hollywood. Through it all his intrinsic ethnic approach remained the strongest weapon in his armoury and although the role playing was constricted, his credibility was never in doubt.
Other Film credits:
– The Return of October (1948)
– The Highwayman (1951)
– Face To Face (1952)
Born Newry 6th June 1953
Accomplished and natural character actor, who during studies at Queen’s University, Belfast, made her first television appearance as Beryl in a pilot episode of a proposed ‘Coronation Street’ derivative comedy series, ‘Rest Assured’ 1972.
A drama course at the University Of Manchester followed and in 1973, in what must have seemed singularly propitious, was cast as Jane Cooper in an episode of the infinite soap ‘Coronation Street’ but unfortunately this early fling with small screen pulp royalty was fleeting and ended as abruptly as it began.
Following a couple of years of repertory work she was offered the role of presenter on Granada Television’s children’s scientific themed series ‘Finding Out’, which lasted from 1975 until 1977 and provided her with at least a functional television profile.
A return to acting in 1977 saw her produce a delightful turn as ex-schoolteacher Marie Kyle in a BBC Northern Ireland production of Stewart Parker’s musically enriched ‘Catchpenny Twist’ and she took a smaller role in another Parker piece, the quirky Belfast set social study, ‘Iris in the Traffic, Ruby in the Rain’ 1981, starring Frances Tomelty and Aingeal Grehan.
In 1982 she found herself on the streets of Belfast again, but strangely with only minor interest as the infirm mother Janet Martin in the opening teleplay of Graham Reid’s ‘Billy’ trilogy, ‘Too Late to Talk to Billy’ and the adaptation of Gerald Seymour’s implacable thriller ‘Harry’s Game’. That same year, wastefully unnoticed, she appeared uncredited in her film debut, the stark and cynical ‘Crystal Gazing’, set during the early credit crunching years of Margaret Thatcher and co-directed by Jane Mulvey and Peter Wollen.
At New York’s Quaigh Theatre in 1983 she made a front line stage appearance, joining the avant- garde Black Unit Of London in the role of Sandy, in an estimable touring production of Mustapha Matura’s ‘Welcome Home Jacko’. For the remainder of the eighties her career was almost entirely confined to television, taking a brief cameo as Mrs O’Leary in an episode of ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4’ in 1985 and a guest credit in the action drama series ‘Saracen’ 1989,
In 1990 she took the pivotal role of Annie Maguire in writer Bill Morrison’s graphic recounting of the aftermath of the 1974 Guildford pub bombing, ‘A Safe House’ and between 1991/92, in what was her first recurrent role, played Maggie Finch in the Somerset based series ‘Forever Green’, with John Alderton and Pauline Collins. Again without rhyme or reason, she was to face another quiet period, during which she made two guest appearances in the crime drama series ‘Inspector Morse’ 1995 and ‘A Touch of Frost’ 1996.
In her second attempt to make an impression on the big screen, she was cast as Mrs Morris in director Roger Michell’s West Belfast set ‘Titanic Town’ 1998 and once again was absurdly underused. This proved the beginning of the end of her screen career and in 1999 aged fifty six, she bowed out with an effortless performance as Mamie, in the locally produced comedy drama series ‘Eureka Street’. She was not however ready for retirement and her resourcefulness brought about her re-invention as an hypnotherapist, but she was easily encouraged to return to the stage with two choice roles at Newbury’s Watermill Theatre, first as sorceress Fabia in ‘The Gentlemen of Olmedo’ 2003 and as the cunning retainer Brighela in ‘Venetian Twins’ 2004.
Maggie Shevlin had a frustrating acting career, which despite her talent did not produce too many opportunities of making the breakthrough her undoubted ability deserved.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– Brookside (1993)
– In Suspicious Circumstances (1994)
– Beyond Reason (1995)
– The Pale Horse (1997)
– Father Ted (1998)
Born Belfast 17th September 1922
Died 4th September 1963
Anonymous bit part actor, whose film debut was unfortunately as uneventful as his subsequent career. Greater distinction however was registered during WW2 as an RAF pilot, a valorous past he modestly underplayed.
Perhaps a better source of notability would be through his lineage, as a distant relative on his fathers side was the legendary 18th century thespian Sarah Siddons. He did manage a season with the RSC in 1950, appearing in a minor capacity at the Memorial Theatre, Stratford in standards such as ‘ King Lear ‘, ‘ Much Ado About Nothing ‘ and ‘ Henry VIII ‘. Undaunted he proceeded on a low- key traipse through the fifties and sixties, working in films and television. His big screen debut was an uncredited role in director George More O’Ferrall’s war drama, ‘Angels One Five’ in 1952 and the following year was again peripherally cast as Flight Lt. Saunders in the low budget Dirk Bogarde vehicle ‘Appointment in London’.
His most high profile part during this period was as one of the two motorcycle cops in Henry Cornelius’ benign 1953 film ‘Genevieve’, with his partner Geoffrey Keen taking the lions share of the dialogue. In 1954 he found work in several British war features, including director Michael Anderson’s mega popular ‘The Dam Busters’ and was hard to spot as Navigator Williams, alongside Gregory Peck in Robert Parrish’s ‘The Purple Plain’.
Television appearances were infrequent but he did have a small role in Nigel Kneale’s seminal 1958 sci- fi series, ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ and also that year was Second Officer Hubert Stone of the SS Californian, in probably the most factually correct Titanic film, Roy Ward Baker’s faultless ‘A Night to Remember’.
Working on a minor role level, a few rungs below the Sam Kydd model, he scraped a living during the late fifties and early sixties with appearances in William Fairchild’s ‘The Silent Enemy’ and the Stewart Granger action adventure, ‘Harry Black’, both 1958. His final big screen role saw him once again in uniform, this time as an unnamed police constable in the Peter Sellers comedy ‘The Wrong Arm of the Law’ in 1963.
Tragically that appearance was to be his last, as later the same year he ended his own life at the age of forty one. In his defence Harold Siddons was probably better than the quality of work on offer, but he arrived a decade too early to take advantage of potential television opportunities.
Other Theatre and Film credits:
– It’s Different for Men(1954) Theatre Royal, Bath(Tour)
– They Who Dare(1953)
– The Blue Peter(1954)
– I Am A Camera(1954)
– The Baby and the Battleship(1956)
– Danger Within(1959)
Born Holywood, Co. Down 1963
Ostensibly doleful comedian and actor who first came to prominence at the 1993 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, reaching the final stages of the new comic showcase, ‘So You Think You’re Funny’, held at the Gilded Ballroom on Bristo Square.
He became a regular Fringe performer for several years in the nineties and in 1997 presented the first of his quasi-autobiographical storytelling plays, ‘Confessions of a Catholic Buddha’, again at the Gilded Ballroom. He followed this a year later at the same venue with part two, ‘Re-Cycling’ and completed the trilogy with ‘The Parting Glass’, performed at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh in 1999.
That same year he made his television debut as lippy and cranky, London cycle courier Tyres O’Flaherty, in the penultimate episode in the first series of the sitcom ‘Spaced’, co-written by and starring Simon Pegg. In 2000 he took a guest role in the one season crime drama ‘Burnside’, which unfortunately proved a doomed vehicle for former ‘The Bill’ maverick, DCI Frank Burnside, played by Christopher Ellison.
Further low-key television work included the comedy series‘Time Gentlemen Please’ 2000/02 and ‘15 Storeys High’ 2002 and made his first film appearance, credited as Zombie in the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright Bafta nominated comedy/horror, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ 2004. Another visit to the Edinburgh Fringe Festivalsaw him co-star as T.J. Sharvin with James Ellis and Ed Byrne in Brian McAvera’s bitter sweet ‘Kings of the Road’, staged at the Pleasance Dome in 2003.
He worked continuously on screen from 2004, mostly in median to low-level roles, the best of which were his DC Maurice Gibney in the pre-crime drama series ‘Murder Prevention’ 2004, the mini-series ‘ShakespeaRe- Told’ in 2005, a contemporary re-working of four Shakespeare classics and as Thaddeus in Anthony Minghella’s big screen romantic drama ‘Breaking and Entering’ 2006.
In 2008 he took a central role as ex-soldier/mercenary McKay in director Steve Barker’s Eastern European set action/horror film ‘Outpost’, starring Lisburn born Ray Stevenson. Now a recognisable face, he was offered a recurring role as dispassionate pathologist Dr. Liam Kerwin in series six of Val McDermid’s heavy duty crime thriller ‘Wire in the Blood’ 2008 and in 2009 played ineffectual hit-man Chris Pringle in writer/director Ben Wheatley’s independently produced debut film, the black comedy ‘Down Terrace’.
A not too insignificant performance as a mortuary attendant in director John Landis’ outrageous comedy ‘Burke and Hare’ in 2010, again with Simon Pegg, was followed by his most important role to date. In an amalgam of previous characterizations, Ben Wheatley cast him as ex-soldier/hitman Gal, in his small budget horror film ‘Kill List’ 2011, which won him the British Independent Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Regular small screen work between 2010/11 included a signature performance as unflappable computer hacker, Benny ’Deadhead’ Silver, in the Neil Cross crime drama series ‘Luther’, featuring Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, appearing regularly through thirteen episodes until series four ended in 2015. He toured with another reflective piece, ‘The Immigrant’ in 2012 and from this point his screen profile was raised appreciably.
A torrent of work, largely supporting credits, gave him opportunities to impress across the genres. In 2013, his busiest year to date, he appeared in five feature films of varying levels of budget. Most noteworthy was his truculent Frank, in writer/director Paul Wright’s Scottish set and Bafta nominated psychological thriller, ‘For Those in Peril’. He impressed again in director Ben Wheatley’s monochrome shot, English Civil War set, ‘A Field in England’, in which he played the murderous opportunist O’Neill. On television in 2013, he was pub landlord Roddy, in all six episodes of director Nick Wood’s one season comedy, ‘Father Figure’, which also featured Dermot Crowley and Pauline McLynn.
Still in demand into 2014/15, he brought interest to numerous character roles, which included a two episode stint as opportunist Snowy, in the short-lived comedy/drama ‘Edge of Heaven’ 2014 and a decent turn as Reynolds, in writer Dennis Kelly’s submarine set, adventure thriller ‘Black Sea’, released in 2015. A guest appearance in the crime drama mini-series ‘Murder’, was quickly followed by his recurring role as Antoine Berry, in Fintan Ryan’s sci-fi comedy ‘The Aliens’, both aired in March 2016. Michael Smiley has forged a colourful career since his arrival in London in 1983, aged twenty and his art imitating life, screen beginning in 1999, which has taken him circuitously to the cusp of relative stardom.
Other Film and TV Credits:
-Perfume: The Story of a Murderer(2005)
-The Other Boleyn Girl(2008)
-The World’s End(2013)
-My Name is Emily(2015)
-Rose and Maloney(2005)
-The Wrong Door(2008)
-Law & Order: UK(2009)
-One Night in Emergency(2010)
Born Belfast 1962
Pensive, pragmatic actor and musician, a Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama graduate whose disappointingly attenuated product line has never been clearly defined. Her career has coughed and spluttered and in consequence, although capable, she has not achieved the body of work commensurate with her years in the profession
She was a peripheral member of the Lyric Theatre Belfast during the late eighties and early nineties, appearing in a number of plays, including, ‘A Christmas Carol’ 1988, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall 1989 and ‘The Playboy of the Western World’ 1990.
In 1991 she made her television debut as Daphne, in director David Drury’s Ulster set political thriller, ‘Children of the North’ and a year later was appearing regularly as taxi driver Aileen, in the two season drama series ‘Rides’. She followed this with a floating role as Detective Superintendent Neil Pearson’s estranged wife Sue, in another series, the gritty and compelling ‘Between the Lines’, also 1992.
Her next television assignment came four years later, with a principle role as DS Helen Ash in the underrated crime drama series, ‘Thief Takers’ 1996, which raised her profile sufficiently enough for Mike Leigh to cast her in his nervy and melancholic 1997 feature, ‘Career Girls’. This, her first film appearance saw her produce a superbly observed performance as the painfully insecure Annie, who rekindles a college friendship with former flatmate, the caustic Hannah, played by Katrin Cartlidge. Unfortunately she failed to find any significant work in the wake of this success but did secure a co- starring role in writer/director Stephen Bradley’s Irish produced film ‘The Tale of Sweetie Barrett’ 1998.
That same year her faltering stage career received a little encouragement when she appeared in the less than stimulating atmosphere of Cobden Theatre Club in a production of Jean Paul Sartre’s ‘No Exit’, which proved only a precursor to a further long spell of redundancy. She re-emerged after several years in the two part television thriller ‘Blood Strangers’ 2002 and in 2003 appeared as yet another long suffering policeman’s wife, this time as Karen, spouse of maverick undercover cop James Nesbitt in ‘Murphy’s Law’, her third police based series in ten years.
Lynda Steadman made a bid for recognition during her nineties watershed but even then was hampered by periods of inactivity and she failed to establish a marketable name enduring enough to guarantee work in more leaner times.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
-Welcome to Bladonmore Road(1989) Arts Theatre, Belfast
– Hearts and Minds (1995)
– Helen West (2002)
Born Lisburn 25th May 1964
Physically imposing middle range actor, who in his late twenties began a two year course at Bristol Old Vic, graduating in 1993.
After initial repertory work his screen career began falteringly, playing a journalist in actor/director David Hayman’s 1993 TV drama, ‘A Woman’s Guide to Adultery’. His peripheral casting did him no favours in the somewhat overheated adaptation of Carol Clewlow’s novel, which also featured Adrian Dunbar and Ian McElhinney.
The following year he took a central role in another TV adaptation, this time Catherine Cookson’s ‘The Dwelling Place’ and the same year co-starred as the idealistic Clym Yeobright in director Jack Gold’s anaemic interpretation of Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Return of the Native’.
His Film debut came in Julian Jarrold’s 1995 independently made, emotionally charged drama ‘Some Kind of Life’ and later that year appeared in several episodes of writer Kay Mellor’s acclaimed series ‘Band of Gold’, set in a bleak contemporary Bradford, in which he played abusive husband Steve Dickson.
For the remainder of the nineties he struggled to convince, guesting in a number of TV series, with Paul Greengrass’ film comedy/drama ‘The Theory of Flight’ 1998, the only bright spot in an otherwise humdrum period.
A meatier role as Peter Davison’s brother Graham Braithwaite, in the black comedy series ‘At Home With the Braithwaites’ in 2000, revived his fortunes temporarily but this was followed with yet more perfunctory television work, including such staple fare as ‘Holby City’ and ‘The Bill’ both 2000 and ‘Murphy’s Law’ 2003.
Important stage roles during this time included Christ in ‘The York Mystery Plays’ at Yorkminster in 2000, Roger in Kevin Elyot’s ‘Mouth to Mouth’ at the Albery Theatre, London in 2001 and the Cardinal in John Webster’s ‘The Duchess of Malfi’, a National Theatre production performed on the Lyttleton stage in 2003.
The turning point in his career was arguably his appearance as the solicitous knight Dragonet, in the unerringly forbidding big budget film ‘King Arthur’ 2004, which brought him to the attention of HBO producers, trawling for suitable cast members required for the upcoming epic series ‘Rome’ 2005. His starring role as maverick Roman soldier Titus Pullo gave him a global platform to display his capabilities, which he delivered with much aplomb.
Following this two year Italian project, he took leading parts in the action/horror film ‘Outpost’ released in 2008 and the television drama ‘Lifeline’ 2007. Three films during 2010/11 drew exorbitantly on his emblematic physical image, the bleak, futuristic, ‘The Book of Eli’, directed by twins Albert and Allan Hughes, starring Denzel Washington and writer/director Adam McKay’s comedy crime caper, ‘The Other Guys’, both 2010.
In 2011 he produced a particularly cogent performance as Irish born mob enforcer Danny Greene in Jonathan Hensleigh’s 1970s Cleveland set ‘Kill the Irishman’, prominent in a cast including Val Kilmer and a malevolent Christopher Walken, in his element as loan shark Shondor Birns. The same year he was an obvious choice as Volstagg, warrior friend of the eponymous hero, played by Chris Hemsworth, in director Kenneth Branagh’s fantasy adventure ‘Thor’, reprising the role in the 2013 sequel ‘Thor: The Dark World’.
On television in 2012, he was the gay, urbane, Russian killer, Isaak Sirko in writer James Manos Jr’s long running, Golden Globe winner, ‘Dexter’. Writer/director Jalmari Helander then cast him as renegade US secret service agent Morris, in his 2014 action drama ‘Big Game’, with Samuel L. Jackson as the targeted President William Alan Moore.
Further big screen work during 2014/16 included novelist Veronica Roth’s ‘The Divergent Trilogy’; ‘Divergent’, 2014, ‘Insurgent’, 2015 and ‘Allegiant’ 2016, in which he was cast as Marcus Eaton, leader of the altruistic Abnegation faction, the latter two directed by Robert Schwentke. In 2016, in another decent spell on television, he joined the cast in season three of the pirate adventure series, ‘Black Sails’, convincingly menacing in the role Edward Teach aka Blackbeard, with Toby Stephens as the unhinged Captain James Flint.
Ray Stevenson was given an almighty leg- up with his Titus Pullo portrayal, which in an exposure driven industry, placed him in a more favourable position than at any point in his career. Although now absorbed in a busy work schedule, he has perhaps been manoeuvred into a degree of typecasting, he might find difficult to expel.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– G:MT Greenwich Mean Time (1999)
– Punisher: War Zone (2008)
– The Three Musketeers(2011)
– The Transporter Refueled(2015)
– Drovers Gold (1997)
– City Central (1998)
– Green Eyed Monster (2001)
– Babylon Fields (2007)
– Crossing Lines(2014)
– Saints and Strangers(2015)
Edmund (Birdy) Sweeney
Born Dungannon 14th June 1931
Died Dublin 11th May 1999
Model player of ethnic rural types, a late arrival to professional acting, whose first brush with stardom came in 1942, when as an eleven year old, he amused BBC NI radio listeners with his note perfect bird impressions. This peculiarly homespun talent thus spawned the nickname which subsequently became his nom de guerre. He re-emerged many years later, making genuine contributions to a number of stage and screen productions, filling roles requiring furtive, edgy, and salt of the earth characters. Before that however, he worked diligently during the sixties and seventies as a stand-up comedian on the flourishing Irish club circuit, until when aged fifty one, he took the first steps towards a career change, with a television appearance as a walk-on extra, in the first of Graham Reid’s family in crisis plays, ‘Too Late to Talk to Billy’, 1982.
His legitimate television debut came two years later, in Derek Mahon’s Ulster set drama ‘The Cry’ and the following year had a minor role in writer/director Douglas Livingstone’s troubles based, ‘We’ll Support You Evermore’. Another marginal role marked his introduction to the big screen, when he played a West Belfast building site worker, in Bill Miskelly’s heart warming, locally produced, ‘The End of the World Man’ 1985. He had slightly better luck two years later, co-starring in Joe Comerford’s gritty, basement budget romantic thriller, ‘Reefer and the Model’ in a cast headed by Ian McElhinney and Carol Scanlan.
In 1989, in what was the beginning of his short stage career, he appeared almost cherry picked as George, in the Lyric Theatre’s production of John McClelland’s ‘Charlie Gorilla’ and after some trifling television work, he landed his first credited film role, playing Tommy, in Neil Jordan’s acclaimed ‘The Crying Game’ 1992. Two Abbey productions in 1993 saw him promoted to the serious end of the credits and he did not disappoint, with sound performances in Michael Harding’s drama ‘Hubert Murray’s Widow’ and the Greek tragedy ‘The Trojan Women’.
More substantial screen appearances followed, including Patrick Dolan’s emotive, famine inspired mini-series ‘The Hanging Gale’and a tolerable version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic ‘Kidnapped’, both 1995. He was not as fortunate in Stuart Gordon’s 1996 Irish made sci-fi comedy ‘Space Truckers’, in which he was once again wantonly underused. Undoubtedly his most memorable role and one which perfectly suited his disposition, was that of Eamonn Byrne, the irascible sheep farmer, in the enormously popular series ‘Ballykissangel’, a part he played from 1996 until his death in 1999. His final film appearance was brief but accurate, playing an old priest in Frank McCourt’s autobiographical ‘Angela’s Ashes’ 1999, which unfortunately exemplified the category of work offered to him.
Birdy Sweeney was indesputably typecast for the majority of his career, a situation he no doubt found frustrating but unavoidable.
Other Theatre, Film and TV credits:
– The Government Inspector (1993) Theatre on The Rock, Belfast
– Where the Heart Is (1994) Project Arts, Dublin
– The Only True History of Lizzie Finn (1995) Abbey Theatre, Dublin
– The Snapper (1993)
– The Butcher Boy (1997)
– Scarlett (1994)
– The Old Curiousity Shop (1995)