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‘Rebellion’s Ruth Bradley talks improv and empowering female characters
07 Jan 2016 : Seán Brosnan
Ruth Bradley plays Frances O’Flaherty in ‘Rebellion’
With RTÉ period drama ‘Rebellion’ airing on RTÉ One on Sunday nights, IFTN catches up with Ruth Bradley to talk about her role in the show.

Bradley is no stranger to Irish audiences over the past decade taking on roles in RTÉ dramas ‘Love/Hate’ and ‘Love is the Drug’ and has graduated to the international stage in recent years with a starring role in Channel 4 and AMC’s science-fiction television series ‘Humans’. Recent film roles include Paul Mercier’s road movie ‘Pursuit’ (alongside ‘Rebellion’ co-star Barry Ward) where she took the lead in a cast that included Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham. For Bradley however, ‘Rebellion’ offered a completely different task.

The first episode of the €6m drama series – which covers the events of Easter 1916 as seen through the eyes of a group of friends from Dublin, Belfast and London as they play vital and conflicting roles in the narrative of Ireland’s independence - aired on Sunday, January 3rd to strong viewership (over 600,000 people tuned in) with Bradley playing one of the show’s five lead characters.

“We’ve all grown up with the story so to play some part in it was great,” Bradley told IFTN. “It was about people rather than historical figures and is told through those ordinary people from the time.”

Her character – the obstinate and determined Frances O’Flaherty - is the child of a single mother raised by nuns in an orphanage who grows up to be a member of Cumann na mBan and a devout Padraig Pearse disciple.

“Frances is so strong but I like that she is not like the stereotypical strong woman. She was just a normal woman who was passionate and had strong ideals.”

A noted and praised element of ‘Rebellion’ is the three female protagonists at its core with Bradley stating that Colin Teevan’s script appealed to her as she wasn’t just playing “somebody’s girlfriend” as is the case with some other productions.

“In other projects, sometimes the emphasis will be squarely on the men. I notice even subtle little things like sometimes as an actress when you deliver a speech and then watch it back, the camera will be on the man while the woman is talking. So, it was really attractive in ‘Rebellion’ to see these stories so clearly from the female perspectives. They are such great three-dimensional characters – they all know what’s happening and they choose whether to take part in it or not.”

Click here to check out our interview with ‘Rebellion’ actresses Sarah Greene and Charlie Murphy.

With extensive research including watching documentaries and reading history books and novels on 1916 to get a feel of the era, how did Bradley go about actually preparing to portray the wilful Frances?

“For this character, I had a pretty good idea on the way she would talk and compose herself. She’s a soldier. She believes whole-heartedly in a united Ireland. She’s brave, passionate and headstrong – extremely headstrong - so I just wanted to reflect that.”

Bradley states that the naturalistic feel of the dialogue – while also being an obvious consequence of Teevan’s well-crafted script – is also the result of director Aku Louhimies’ giving the actors the freedom to improvise.

“Aku is just an amazing director. He is completely into realism which meant that there was a lot of improvisation. We would end up doing a lot of different takes of the same scene which meant he had a lot of different variations to choose from. As an actor, that is fantastic to have such freedom.”

While a second series of ‘Rebellion’ has been rumoured, Bradley already has a busy slate and she has just landed a role in the third season of Northern Irish psychological drama ‘The Fall’ (which is currently filming in Northern Ireland) – alongside Jamie Dornan and Gillian Anderson. As the second season ended on a cliff-hanger, Bradley has to remain tight-lipped about what her role is on the show.

“I am doing ‘The Fall’ but I can say nothing more or I’d be shot!”

‘Rebellion’ is currently airing on Sunday nights on RTÉ One at 9.30pm. Stay tuned to IFTN for an interview with writer Colin Teevan and producer Catherine Magee.

IFTN Festive Q&A with actor Albrecht Schuch
IFTN Festive Q&A with director Luke McManus
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