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.