Working with the acclaimed, Oscar-winning actress Judi Dench was a sheer joy says Ciarán Hinds, who co-stars with her in Belfast and is a top contender this awards season in the supporting actor categories.

He and Dench play the grandparents brilliantly, and their chemistry on screen was identical to the fun they shared off-camera. The 87-year-old Dench was a hoot, Belfast native Hinds, 68, says.

“She was very funny and she would always say, ‘It’s all right for you, you’re all from Belfast. I had to put (the accent) on. That didn’t sound very good. Did it?’

"I said, ‘Yeah, it was close enough. Go on. Don’t worry about it.’" Hinds told 

Meeting Dame Judi for the first time, before filming began, was also a memorable experience Hinds recalled. Belfast was shot last fall, during the pandemic obviously, in locations throughout the city and other parts of the U.K.

“When she came in, when we all met for the first day, we were all across the width and the length of a very big table. So, we weren’t getting close and (were wearing) masks. And Jamie and Caitriona and myself were there already.

"And then in came the great dame, wearing a tiger mask. The tiger mask was kind of ferocious. Like, well, she means business,” Hinds said, adding that the mask had teeth.

“But it was such an introduction and done with such ease and panache, and then you know, she’s up for fun. Her work is…it’s her instinct, her constant search for the truth of things and no bulls***. But not to take yourself too seriously at the same time.”

*This column first appeared in the December 22 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.