Brendan O’Carroll said he took the chance to “say goodbye” to late entertainers Barry Humphries, known for his stage character Dame Edna Everage, and Paul O’Grady, when writing the new four-part series of Mrs Brown’s Boys.
The 67-year-old is set to return to his role as mischievous matriarch Agnes Brown in the series, alongside Jennifer Gibney as Cathy Brown, Paddy Houlihan as Dermot Brown, Eilish O’Carroll as Winnie McGoogan, Dermot O’Neill as Grandad and Pat Shields as Mark Brown.
Despite being a regular feature on Christmas schedules for more than a decade, the new episodes will be the first mini-series run since 2013.
O’Carroll, who created and wrote the sitcom as well as starring in it, said it will pay tribute to veteran comedian’s Humphries and O’Grady.
He said: “I always try and put a little message, if I can, into every one of them (episodes).
“In this whole series… I wanted to say goodbye to Dame Edna and to Paul. So it was hard to find that spot but I did find it, within the series, I did find it.
“I don’t tell the BBC these things, I just do them.”
Australian entertainer Humphries, who died in April aged 89, entertained generations with satirical characters including Dame Edna and Sir Les Patterson during his seven-decade career, while O’Grady, who died in March aged 67, rose to fame as persona Lily Savage before going on to host a string of TV programmes.
O’Carroll described the upcoming Mrs Brown’s Boys series as “easier” to write than the regular two episodes at Christmas because he felt “more free” to explore different storylines, including his character Agnes being depressed in the first episode titled Miserable Mammy.
“The reason that I wrote this one is that I’d never done Agnes as depressed, and everybody gets depressed at some time,” he said.
“But I thought it’d be nice to see what she’s like, or what the family’s like when she’s depressed, and also to have the family ignore the fact that she was depressed.
“In other words, ‘Ah come on Mammy, get a grip on yourself’ and so there was that end of it.
“There was also to make sure that I got the message across that Agnes is depressed, but she sought help, she did contact the doctor. That’s what you’ve got to do when you’re depressed.
“…You can’t handle it on your own, it’s difficult. So I wanted to put that across, but as well as that try and be funny.”
He also said filming in a TV studio with a live audience without Covid social distancing measures felt like a “rebirth”.
“We love a live audience,” said O’Carroll.
“It always feels like a compliment to me that we had four episodes to do, we had 400 seats in the studio so it gave (the BBC) 1600 tickets to give out, and we had 96,000 requests for tickets.
“It’s just incredible that people want the experience of just being at a Mrs Brown (recording) and it is an experience because we don’t stop, even when we’re not on camera, we don’t stop.”
The cast of the upcoming series comprises many members of O’Carroll’s own family, while the character may be based on his own “extraordinary” mother despite years of denials.
— Mrs. Brown's Boys (@MrsBrownsBoys) April 19, 2023
He said: “So I used to go, ‘No, no’. But actually, the longer it goes on, I start to realise, Agnes is my mum, but without the education my mum had.
“My mum had a great education. Agnes didn’t, but she has the wisdom. And she has that turn of phrase – mum would have a turn of phrase for everything, but Agnes has that turn of phrase that she doesn’t always get right – ‘Well, that’s the way it goes, the cows come home to roost’. But you know what she means, and she knows what she means.
“I think the freedom of being Agnes comes from, I learned a lot from my mum.
“I’m the youngest of the 11 kids – she was 46 when I was born. By the time I got to formative years, the other family had either emigrated or got married. So I had the uninterrupted attention of this genius of a woman.
“So I soaked everything up from her.”
Mrs Brown’s Boys returns to BBC One at 9.30pm on Friday, September 8.