Jimmy Nesbitt: ‘It took me a long time to appreciate my Ballymena accent'
It took Jimmy Nesbitt a long time to appreciate his thick Northern Irish accent, the Cold Feet actor from Broughshane near Ballymena has admitted.
Nesbitt, 51, said that at drama school in London and during the beginning of his career he was “very conscious of his Broughshane accent”
It wasn’t until he was auditioning for his role as Adam in Cold Feet, which first aired in 1997, that he realised that his accent provided him with an opportunity.
“I realised that it was time to use the Northern Ireland accent so people could associate it away from all the political baggage [of The Troubles],” he said
The ITV drama series went on to become a generational touch-point over the course of five series and returned this year for a new run.
“My accent is so important to me. It is a part of who I am. I am proud of being Irish, I am proud of being from NI,” Nesbitt said.
Nesbitt was speaking at The Ireland Fund of Great Britain’s winter ball in London’s Globe Theatre where he was honoured for his contribution to Irish culture in Great Britain.
He described how his role in Bloody Sunday, the dramatisation of the 1972 civil rights march in Derry and its aftermath, was important for him, not only as an actor but for his understanding of himself as an Ulsterman.
“ It helped me realise that this episode was the watershed, and that the ensuing 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland were in large part due to what happened that day in 1972.
“For it was on that night that young men all over the country joined up with the IRA in a sense of rage and injustice at what had happened.”
He was, though, terrified at what the reaction might be to a Protestant playing the lead role.
“I was worried about the fact that I, a Protestant from just up the road, was arriving in Derry to tell this nationalist story. I was worried about what my own community would think, what the families would think, about what Derry would think,” he said.
Nesbitt was born to mother May, a civil servant and James a primary school principal.
With his father and three sisters all teachers, the expectation was that Nesbitt would follow in their footsteps. While studying at the University of Ulster he realised that he wanted to be an actor.
“At first I was too scared to tell my family!” he said.
His part in Bloody Sunday playing Protestant MP Ivan Cooper made him realise that acting could be a worthwhile job.
“ I walked away and thought this job does have some worth,” he said.
“As director of Bloody Sunday Paul Greengrass, said, If Bloody Sunday was a pebble in a wall of peace we have done something. “