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IFTN talks with Maddie Rice & Kate Kennedy, writers of new RTÉ Comedy Pilot 'Handy'
20 Sep 2019 : Nathan Griffin
Louise Harland & Kate Kennedy in 'Handy'.
IFTN caught up with Kate Kennedy & Maddie Rice ahead of the release of ‘Handy’ on RTÉ to talk about how the concept for the pilot came about, the dynamics of a writing partnership, and the Screen Ireland /RTÉ Scripted Comedy series initiative.

Handy will air on RTÉ One this Sunday, 22nd September at 22:30 pm.

Written and starring Maddie Rice & Kate Kennedy, Handy is produced by Farah Abushwesha of Rocliffe and Rachel Lysaght and Lindsay Campbell of Underground Films. Directed by Susan Jacobson, the pilot features Cathal Watters as DoP and stars Louisa Harland (Derry Girls), Owen Roe (Michael Collins), Eoin Duffy (Red Rock), Rynagh O’Grady (Far and Away), Aoife Molony (So Sorry) and Jed Murray (Vikings).

Handy follows Stepsisters Row (Kennedy) and Finn (Harland) who are thrust together again after their Dad (Roe) has a heart attack. They start their very own DIY business around Dublin to help with cash flow and keep their Dad happy but their very first customer is far from smooth sailing.

IFTN journalist Nathan Griffin spoke with Kate & Maddie ahead of Handy’s broadcast on RTÉ this Sunday.

Where did the idea for Handy come from?

Maddie & Kate: “We wanted to write a comedy with sisterhood and female friendship at its heart and for each episode to be hilariously funny and chaotic. We talked about all the odd jobs we had done as actors and what a mad mix of people there are in Dublin- How could we meet them all through the lens of this step sister odd couple?... And so Dublin’s first Handy women were born!”

Can you tell me a little bit about your writing partnership and dynamic?

Maddie & Kate: “We started writing together after bumping into each other at an audition for an advert where we had to be in bikinis. We had to go for a coffee debrief because it was hellish and one latte later we had a show idea... Writing together is fun and easy, which is rare. We are both actors by trade and so we use a lot of improvising to get the first jokes and ideas down. We will meet up, plot the story and some of the gags, and then take it in turns to go off and make the first draft. The place where our sense of humour meets has a quirky, snappy, natural energy and when we hit our stride it flows out!”

You both feature in the show with Kate starring in the leading role alongside Louisa Harland, did you have particular actors in mind for each part when writing the script?

Maddie & Kate: “We always write for ourselves as we love performing together and this time was no different. We always knew Kate would play Row and then we did a big search to find the perfect Finn, landing the absolute talent that is Louisa Harland. A match made in heaven. We wanted to create parts for Dubliners and local actors as Dublin is the beating heart of the show so we looked for local actors.

“We always write parts that we, as actors, would be drawn to and would like to play. We aim to make them interesting enough to attract stars like Louisa and Owen Roe. Even if it’s a Dad, we read it out and if we don’t want to play that part then we need to make it funnier and grittier! Whilst we were writing this Maddie was on tour with Fleabag, having taken over performing the play and who better to learn from than writer-performer Phoebe Waller-Bridge!”

The show is directed by Susan Jacobson and produced by Farah Abushwesha of Rocliffe and Rachel Lysaght and Lindsay Campbell of Underground Films - How did you find working with them and what did they bring to the show?

Maddie & Kate: “It was such a pleasure to work with a team of women! It is so rare to have such a female-heavy creative team and we were grateful to Farah for helping us recruit the best women in the biz. Rachel and Lindsay attracted such great talent to the project, including director Susan Jacobson and DOP Cathal Watters, to name but a few. Susan was a god sent- she got our idea and our tone so immediately it was as if she could read our minds, she is an incredible talent and collaborator which is indispensable to us as writer/performers. She has made us a pilot that is hilarious and heartbreaking, a very hard balance to strike and she nailed it.”

Can you walk me through your experience of developing this project through the Screen Ireland /RTÉ Scripted Comedy series initiative?

Maddie & Kate: “Kate and I sent our pilot script through to Farah who paired us with Underground films and then once we were on the long list, Kate went over to pitch the show. She nailed it and once we had been announced as one of the pilots and received notes from RTE, we were paired with Susan and we developed the script further whilst Underground started pre-production. We then cast the pilot in Ireland with casting director Maureen Hughes and shot it over three days in Dublin. It went by in a flash.”

“To get something that you have written made so quickly and with such passion and support is a really special thing for young writers and we appreciate how rarely this happens. Putting time and money into new talent is a really wonderful thing and we are thrilled to have been involved.”

Handy will air on Sunday 22nd September at 22.30 on RTÉ One.

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