One of the more highly-anticipated crime dramas of the new TV season is NBC’s Prime Suspect starring Maria Bello (A History of Violence, Coyote Ugly). Also starring in Prime Suspect is Irish-American actor Aidan Quinn (Michael Collins), seen recently in indy movies such as Sarah’s Key and Flipped, as well as Jonah Hex. Quinn plays Lt. Kevin Sweeney in Prime Suspect, which is a re-imagining of the acclaimed British series of the same name, which starred Helen Mirren.
Celebrated Irish actor Brían F. O’Byrne also stars in Prime Suspect as Detective Reg Duffy. O’Byrne was last seen on TV on the other side of the law, portraying a long-lost criminal cousin from Belfast on the brilliant Showtime drama Brotherhood. Bello herself plays an Irish American cop on Prime Suspect. Her character’s name is Jane Timoney, and her father, Desmond Timoney, also features prominently in the cast.
Former New York City police officer Mike Sheehan (who has also worked extensively as a TV news reporter) is serving as a writer and consultant for Prime Suspect, which premieres Thursday, September 22 at 10 p.m.
In another intriguing British/Irish/American TV project in the works, BBC America recently announced its first original scripted series. It is set in the rough-and-tumble world of New York’s Five Points during the Famine Era, and will follow an Irish immigrant cop. The show, which is not slated to air until next summer, is entitled Copper. Veteran TV writer/producer Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide) is leading the writing-producing team behind Copper. No word on casting just yet.
Moving away from cop shows, there is the new thriller series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar on the CW network. Entitled Ringer, the show features Gellar as two troubled twin sisters. The Irish element of this show is not evident until you hear the main characters’ names: Bridget Cafferty and Siobhan Martin. (Siobhan also has a pal in the show named Gemma Gallagher.) It seems the girls have been at odds all of their lives. Bridget is a recovering alcoholic who has had run-ins with the mob. Siobhan, on the other hand, lives a life that seems downright boring. Just when Bridget gets herself into real trouble, her twin sister disappears in a boating mishap. So, Bridget goes ahead and assumes her sister’s identity. Only then does she discover that Siobhan’s life may not have been so boring after all. Ringer premieres September 13.
Dominic West, best known for playing Irish American detective Jimmy McNulty on HBO’s The Wire, recently starred in the much-hyped BBC America show The Hour. The six-part series looked at the behind-the-scenes drama at a groundbreaking news show in 1956. The setting, not to mention the dashing costumes, inevitably brought comparisons to Mad Men. West’s parents were Irish Catholic immigrants to Yorkshire. He also attended Trinity College, Dublin and lives in Ireland with his wife, Catherine FitzGerald, whom he married in Limerick in 2010. Look for West in the upcoming Rowan Atkinson James Bond spoof Johnny English Reborn and in the 2012 superhero-in-space flick John Carter, alongside Ciaran Hinds.
West’s career may be thriving, but some Irish fans may still be displeased that he played British marauder Oliver Cromwell in a 2008 TV movie. “My mum still won’t speak to me,” West told the Guardian a few years back. “And my missus, she’s not Catholic, but she is Irish. We’re getting married in Ireland just after it comes out, which means she’ll be going through town with Oliver Cromwell. That’ll go down a treat.”
Finally, on NBC, Anjelica Huston (who spent much of her youth in Ireland, with legendary filmmaker father John), and American Idol runner-up Katherine McPhee are slated to star in Smash, a new show about the making of a Broadway musical.
All of this new Irish TV enhances the already strong Hibernian presence on television. Fiona Shaw can currently be seen on the fourth season of HBO’s vampire show True Blood. The motorcycle gang show Sons of Anarchy has featured Ireland and Irish gangsters prominently. Denis Leary just wrapped up the acclaimed series Rescue Me. Then there’s CBS’s Blue Bloods, about a family of Irish cops in New York City, which returns for its second season on September 23. Among those involved in Blue Bloods is actress Bridget Moynihan as well as show producer Thomas Kelly, the best-selling Irish-American author of books such as Payback and Empire Rising.
Blue Bloods also features Donnie Wahlberg, brother of box office star Mark Wahlberg, who scored a knockout last year with his “Irish” Micky Ward biopic The Fighter. Now comes word that Mark is planning a sequel. Wahlberg has said he does not plan to go the Rocky route and do multiple sequels. It is true, however, that the movie made well over $100 million at the box office and did not even feature some of Ward’s best fights (including the epic bouts against Arturo Gatti).
Sligo-born actor Chris O’Dowd has gotten himself elected into one of the most prestigious (or at least lucrative) comedy troupes in the world: the Judd Apatow clan. O’Dowd (who also appeared in the raunchy comedies Dinner for Schmucks and Bridesmaids) will soon appear alongside Jason Segel and uber-babe Megan Fox in the film This is 40. Apatow, of course, is the comedic force behind recent comic gems such as The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad. Early word is that This is 40 is a spinoff from one of Apatow’s other huge hits: Knocked Up starring Katherine Heigl and Seth Rogen. This is 40 will catch up with several of that film’s characters further on down the road of married life with children.
As for Chris O’Dowd, after the Apatow flick, he is slated to appear in Friends with Kids alongside Bridesmaids co-star Kristen Wiig and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm.
Northern Irish thespian Stephen Rea (The Crying Game) has a supporting role in an intriguing historical drama due out in October called Blackthorn. The film is a revisionist look at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who are believed to have been killed in a gunfight with Bolivian soldiers in 1908. In this film, Cassidy survived the battle and has been living in Bolivia. But he aches to see his family once more, so he heads home to the U.S. only to wind up in one more grand, possibly deadly, adventure. Blackthorn (which is the name Cassidy lives under in the film) also features Sam Shepherd (as Cassidy) and Eduardo Noriega.
Rea’s fellow Northern Irish character actor Ciaran Hinds is among the members of an impressive cast for the November spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the famous book by John Le Carre. Gary Oldman, John Hurt and Colin Firth are also featured in the flick, which is about an intelligence officer who comes out of retirement when it seems that one of the top officers in the British Secret Intelligence Service is a Soviet spy. Though this flick seems very much an all-boys affair, it’s a screenplay by British-born Bridget O’Connor.
But if you prefer films targeted mainly at women, see Sarah Jessica Parker star alongside Pierce Brosnan in I Don’t Know How She Does It. Also featuring Kelsey Grammer, Greg Kinnear and Jane Curtin, I Don’t Know How She Does It deals with the problems of a career woman with a crazy schedule and children to raise.
And finally, from the “Want to feel old?” department, it has now been 20 years since U2 recorded its powerhouse album Achtung Baby. (Which means it’s been 25 years since the Dublin rockers released The Joshua Tree.) The creation of the 1991 album is the focus of the highly anticipated documentary From the Sky Down, which opened the Toronto International Film Festival in early September and was directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth). The film also might help the lads forget about a certain Broadway musical about a certain wall-crawling superhero about which certain critics have had a lot of negative things to say.