Ciarán Hinds and Roisin Gallagher on tv drama The Dry

Cast of comedy drama The Dry
Cast of comedy drama The Dry

Belfast actors Ciarán Hinds and Roisin Gallagher play father and daughter Tom and Shiv Sheridan in The Dry, streaming on ITVX from March 23.

From the producers of Normal People, this moving comedy-drama is an irreverent, sharp and funny depiction of a family in various forms of denial.

The story centres on 35-year-old Shiv, the eldest daughter, as she returns to Ireland for her grandmother’s wake, taking a break from London and her ‘career’ (with a small ‘c’) in art.

Shiv is six months sober, and it is fair to say her life is not going as planned. Shiv’s family – who have never really dealt with or talked about the damage caused by the sudden death of her adored elder brother, when he was 24, not to mention her parents’ failing marriage or Shiv’s own chaotic behaviour – are wary of having her back.

Her father, Tom, a man of few words, has recently retired and found work as a delivery driver. He believes in keeping himself occupied and having a purpose.

“Obviously, the death of a child is the one thing that nobody ever recovers from in a way, but life has to go on. And he's been very, very supportive of wife Bernie all this time. But I think he's just got to the age where he can't do it anymore,” says Hinds about his character, who finds solace in Tai Chi and his close connection to a new woman - Mina.

His own personal memories of Tai Chi are very different.

“I haven't really gone that way in my life. But I do remember, about 40 years ago (in fact, I think it was the day the Pope came to Ireland, in 1980, in Stephen's Green early in the morning) taking some Tai Chi lessons from somebody who knew how to do it.

“I think we'd been up all night and we didn’t quite know what we were doing. So we were just having fun in Stephen’s Green, pretending that we understood, and were very spiritually aware of the arrival of the Pope,” reflects the 70-year-old north Belfast actor, who was nominated for an Oscar in 2021 for his role in Belfast.

The eight-part series, which was initially released on BritBox, was filmed in Dublin – am experience Hinds thoroughly enjoyed.

“I've done theatre and I know that the industry here has been building up very strongly, north and south. Weirdly, a lot of the work you do as a film actor is about going away: you go away to location, and I’ve been all over the place.

“But for some reason, even though my home isn't in Dublin, I felt like I was coming home to work on this.

“There’s a delicate tone that we have to achieve between the humour and the truth and the issues, but the balance is perfect.”

Shiv Sheridan is the black sheep of the family. An artist, alcoholic and general scapegoat for her family’s dysfunction. She is trying to turn over a new leaf – by moving home and staying sober. But is green juice and a weekly alcohol support meeting enough to stave off the stresses of living with your family again when you are in your thirties?

West Belfast actress Gallagher, who has worked extensively in the theatre in the north of Ireland, thoroughly relished the challenge of her first major TV role.

“It was a very different process to what I was used to. I was kind of going ‘Hi, where’s my five-week rehearsal process?’ You don’t get any of that on a TV show, so you really have to trust your choices and your instincts, dig deep and listen to yourself. But it was fun and I had an absolute ball,” adds the 36-year-old.

With three months between reading the script and filming, Gallagher was keen to research the role and that of alcoholism and addiction.

“Shiv is quite complex and goes through so many emotions across the episodes, and figuring all that out was a challenge that I really relished. I listened to quite a lot of podcasts about what it means to be sober-curious addiction. I also listened to the audiobook of Russell Brand’s Recovery to get an idea of the 12-step programme.”

She took it a step further by talking to some of those involved in the recovery programme.

“Something I noticed from hearing people’s stories of addiction - that thing of coming back to yourself and relearning how to be your true self in lots of different situations with different people who otherwise have a perception of you as an addict. It comes down to ‘people, places, things’ because everything in your life is affected by it. I was struck by the tenacity and courage of people who were coming through programmes like AA and just taking it one day at a time.”

The Dry also stars Pom Boyd, Siobhán Cullen, Moe Dunford and Adam Richardson.