Netflix crime series role is 'icing on the cake' for Belfast actor Séainín Brennan
Belfast actor Séainín Brennan chats to David Roy about landing a role in new Netflix show Hache and why she'll always love the theatre
"TRUTHFULLY? Not much," explains Belfast actor Séainín Brennan when asked what she's allowed to tell us about her upcoming Netflix series, Hache, which will start streaming/screening later this year.
"Netflix are keeping everything under wraps and I don't want to get in trouble. The show is based on real events and that's really all we're allowed to say."
Here's what we do know: created and written by Verónica Fernandez, the eight-episode drama focuses on Spain's drug underworld in the 1960s. According to an early press release for the Jorge Torregrossa-directed show, Hache stars Adriana Ugarte as Helena, "a prostitute who begins as a simple worker in the hands of Malpica (Javier Rey), the head of a mafia gang that operates in Barcelona.
"Helena will go through a sinuous learning process which will take her from the most meaningless position to become the leader of that same heroin organisation."
Brennan plays Anna McVeigh, the wife of the American consul in Barcelona, who "enjoys her privileged position and the Barcelona nightlife a little too much, with disastrous consequences".
So far, so intriguing.
"It's brilliantly written – Veronica Hernandez is a strong, influential, female Spanish writer," she enthuses of Hache, currently filming in Barcelona and other Catalonian locations.
"It's an amazing show because it's quite female-led and every character is really compelling and complex. It's brilliant to be offered a Netflix Original – that's every actor's dream. But as a woman, to get offered such a brilliant character is the icing on the cake."
Best known to Irish viewers for her role as Liz Tyler in BBC hit The Fall, Guildford School of Acting graduate and Irish Film Actors Studio-trained Brennan has also played opposite Philip Glenister in BBC drama Hidden and John Hannah in the 2015 short Girona.
She's also had a successful stage career including roles in Marie Jones's Sinners, Frank McGuinness's version of Ibsen's Ghosts and Owen McCafferty's Scenes From The Big Picture, and was most recently seen in the sell-out run of Gibraltar Strait at The MAC in Belfast last October.
"I've been so lucky in my career because I've always been able to play these really amazing women, roles that you can get your teeth into," she tells me. "And Anna is by far my favourite character. She's just awesome. I love going to Barcelona to play her. My director Jorge is just brilliant, an actor's dream to work with, and the cast are just amazing too."
Hache is a Spanish-language series (the title means 'H' in Spanish), the scripts for which find Brennan switching between English and Spanish as required. Luckily, the former Methodist College Belfast pupil and Ulster University graduate is fluent in Español, as well as being able to speak Italian and French.
Indeed, despite being bitten by the acting bug as a child, up until until a few years ago the south Belfast woman was putting her linguistic dexterity to good use as a political lobbyist in Brussels.
Following an undergraduate degree in European studies, Brennan won a scholarship to pursue her masters in European Political Administration at the College of Europe in Bruges before going on to intern with the Secretariat General of the European Commission in Brussels.
However, since giving up politics to pursue her stage and screen dreams full-time, she hasn't looked back.
"I had a brilliant job in Brussels, but my older sister Donna encouraged me to apply to drama school – and we kind of did it behind my parents' back," reveals Brennan.
"I didn't have a chequebook, so she wrote the cheque. My mum and dad are not 'stage parents' at all: they weren't impressed, so I had to fight and convince them that this was what I wanted.
"I always knew that I wanted to go to university. I didn't want to leave school at 18 and go to drama school, I really wanted to educate myself. And I was very lucky [to be able to do that]. But I love acting, it is my passion and my joy. I think you can only be an actor if there is nothing else in the world that you want to do because the industry is so tough."
And being able to speak multiple languages has already served Brennan well in her acting career, as she explains.
"I always seem to play quite a lot of foreign characters. My first job on radio was a play called Reprise where I had to play a French character. Pam Brighton [late co-founder of Dubblejoint theatre group and former head of BBC Radio Drama in Belfast] gave me that job specifically because I was the only actor she knew who could speak French well. That got me a foot in the door with the BBC Radio Drama Department and I've worked for them ever since."
Brennan adds: "I've been given a great opportunity now with Netflix, where I'm speaking English and Spanish."
The world's most popular streaming entertainment service certainly has a growing reputation for producing quality drama, not least thanks to the recent Oscar success of Alfonso Cuaron's Roma, but that cache isn't the main reason the Belfast actor is so excited to be part of Hache.
"I love this job not really because it's Netflix, but because my character is awesome, the show is awesome and the writing is so good," she gushes.
"Everything starts with the writing: when you read an episode and you can't stop turning the page, you know that the writing is really good. when you finish episode one and say 'where's episode two?' because you want to know what happens.
"It happens a lot, I'm happy to say – but it doesn't happen all the time. I was really lucky with Hidden and The Fall and now I'm really lucky with Hache."
However, having begun her acting career at Belfast's Lyric theatre as a youth, it seems Brennan is not about to lose touch with her roots even as her screen CV continues to expand.
"I love theatre the most," she enthuses.
"The night before I flew out to start filming Hache I finished a big long run of Gibraltar Strait at The MAC. It's my first love. It keeps you fresh, it keeps you on your toes and it's where you learn your craft.
"Nothing beats being in front of a live audience. The adrenaline and excitement builds and then, all of a sudden, it's curtain up and that's it – you're out there on your own for two hours. It's brilliant and I don't think I would ever stop. Well, so long as people want to employ me!"
Somehow, we don't think that will be a problem.
:: Hache will be released on Netflix later this year.