Since hitting our screens as the brazen brothel matron Janet in RTE’s hit show Love/Hate, Irish actor Mary Murray has seen her star rise dramatically. Murray began her performance career at an early age, winning her first talent contest at just five years old. From there she attended drama classes at the National Performing Arts School, located at the time in Diggs Lane in Co. Dublin, and devoted much of her time to honing her craft.
“I always knew that acting was my thing. For me that came first to be honest. So when I was in school I was still doing a lot of acting, I would have been probably doing like twenty hours a week, rehearsals and stuff outside of school so I just found a way to make it work.”
An award winning singer, Murray incurred an injury to her vocal cords early in her career and chose to devote her time solely to acting, “I ended up having an issue with my voice when I was about nineteen and for a long time I had a problem with my vocal cords so it took learning to reuse them and everything. While that was happening I kind of got more involved in the acting side of things and moved away from the singing but I will be doing Panto this year so I’m looking forward to getting out and showing people I can sing again because it’s been a while.” She went on to pave a successful career on stage with roles in Twelve Days in May (Liberty Hall), The Pride of Parnell Street (Fishamble Theatre Company) and The Alice Trilogy (Abbey Theatre) for which she won Best Supporting Actress at The Irish Times Theatre Awards 2006.
With a busy year ahead Murray is set to tour China early next year with a Scottish production of Joyce’s classic Ulysses. When asked whether she still suffers from pre-show jitters Murray was quick to react.“Yeah! I get nervous all the time. If you don’t get nervous you’re missing that adrenaline, you get complacent and you get things wrong so you’re better off being a bit nervous, you have to feed off the energy of an audience, and you have to be always trying to keep yourself two steps ahead and if you’re not nervous, you won’t, you know, you’ll just relax in to it and that’s dangerous.”
The Dublin native has had little time to relax with a starring role on Ireland’s biggest drama
on her shoulders. “There’s always going to be pressure on the show because it can’t get any bigger in Ireland than it is, you know? So keeping up the ratings and stuff, I imagine, is a very difficult thing, you can’t know where it’s going to go, but so far it’s been doing great, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it will continue on that trend, but you know, the good times don’t always last forever, so you just have to wait and see how things play out.”
Love/Hate has ferociously gone on to garner international critical acclaim and is a ratings juggernaut for RTE; averaging over half a million viewers per week during its fifth season. Being a home grown drama, made and produced in Ireland is what sets the show apart, with critics lauding creator and writer Stuart Carolan for raising the standard of Irish TV viewing. It is something Murray is particularly proud of. “It’s nice to see Ireland getting in there and rising up the ranks as well and trying to compete against the likes of English and American TV because they have a lot of money to spend on stuff and this is a small country and it’s very difficult to raise the finances and to do home grown dramas and things. The likes of Love/Hate are so expensive to make and so when we get opportunities like this, they don’t come around very often but when they do it’s great for us, it’s great for Irish actors.”
In an ever changing visual landscape social media has also proven instrumental to the show’s continued success. Twitter feeds light up after each show as viewers come to terms with a new plot twist or the departure of yet another main character. A far cry from even five years ago, modern viewers now have the pleasure of being able to pick and choose how they view their favourite programmes. Murray is very aware of this shift in the way viewers engage with what they see.
“I mean just the fact that people can air their views immediately you know, and people pick up on little lines here and there and catch phrases, and they make them very popular within seconds and then the papers pick up on stuff and media. Social media is incredible for getting the word out there.”
You only have to look at the recent success of Netflix series such as Orange is the New Black or House of Cards to see that major networks are now in danger of losing their stronghold over key demographics, especially the coveted 18-34 market. Love/Hate could easily stand against such shows and the fact that its broadcast on a major Irish station may restore some hope that major networks are not becoming obsolete in a diverging social landscape.
It is clear from Otwo’s brief time together that Mary Murray is not only a talented actor but fiercely passionate about her craft. With a jam packed year ahead, her focus is on theatre, taking the stage as far away as China to just a stone’s throw away at the Helix playing the Wicked Stepmother in this year’s Panto. “I am doing Panto, and then I may be doing a film, I’m supposed to be doing a film called Control around January/ February but I’m not so sure about dates at the moment on that. But then I head off to China to do more theatre, I’m doing Ulysses, so yeah there’s a lot of theatre ahead.”
Murray will play the role of the Wicked Stepmother in this year’s Christmas Panto at the Helix theatre, Dublin from Nov 28th- Jan 2015. Tickets from €16.50.