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Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), Orla Mccool (Louisa Clare Harland), Erin Quinn (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn)
Derry Girls is coming to an end. But not without one final series of madness and hilarity. Gabriel Tate meets the cast.
‘I am a Derry Girl!’ cheered ‘wee English fella’ James (Dylan Llewellyn) at the end of the last series of Lisa McGee’s glorious comedy. After all, who wouldn’t want to be part of this gang?
With this third series to be the last, this is your final chance to get to know James, Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell), Orla (Louisa Harland) and Clare (Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan) — vain, deluded, infuriating and naive in the way only teenagers are but never less than brilliant company.
Nicola Coughlan also stars in Bridgerton (Picture: Peter Marley)
As are the actors themselves: even over Zoom, their mutual affection and sense of fun is palpable.
They are also annoyingly discreet, at least compared with the characters they play, remaining tight-lipped about what we can expect beyond a few tantalising hints: GCSEs are done and results are pending, Father Peter (Peter Campion) and Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney) host a Stars In Their Eyes night (cult heroes Jenny Joyce and Aisling perform as Shakespears Sister: ‘One of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,’ promises Coughlan), and James and Erin finally… or do they?
They aren’t telling, of course.
Nicola Coughlan and Geraldine Devlin played by Phillipa Dunne (Picture: Peter Marley)
‘The gang have their fallouts,’ says Jackson. ‘Some members get closer with each other, as you do when you are teenagers. The fallouts are dramatic, as are the reunions, but they’re a gang and that’s the most important thing.
‘Otherwise, it’s back to Derry Girls madness and a lot of the stuff we love to see them do — dance routines, going to another concert, getting into trouble with Sister Michael — but everything’s bigger and more chaotic. And we’re all best of mates at the end of the series.’
They’re still up to their old antics in this series (Picture: Peter Marley)
‘They’re still a bunch of idiots, though,’ says Coughlan, reassuringly. ‘It’s the end of their innocence, in a way, but you’re not going to think: “Oh, wow, what a metamorphosis!”’
In the wider world, the Good Friday Agreement is on the horizon, bringing with it lasting peace after decades of violence that Derry Girls has reflected sensitively but honestly — especially at the end of the first series.
When asked for their favourite moment, they all cite that dance to Like A Prayer from Orla, intercut with the horror of family members watching a news report of another bombing.
‘There was no comedy in that moment,’ says Harland. ‘For the first time, it showed some of the darkness that was going on, and there’s a moment in the third series that brings that full circle a little bit.’
It is certainly the most moving moment of the series so far, although for O’Donnell the experience of filming in her home town runs it close.
‘Seeing kids from our schools and communities there, sometimes standing for hours in the rain when all they want to do is say hello and have a picture? That’s overwhelming and rewarding,’ she says.
Derry Girls has been a life-changing show for the actors involved (Picture: Peter Marley)
The show has jump-started careers and given them adventures.
Llewellyn describes seeing the giant Derry Girls mural in Derry as ‘mad and humbling’ while merchandise has Coughlan both bemused and put out.
‘There are mugs and socks with our faces on,’ she says. ‘I just want the money from it, if I’m honest.’
But is it really the end?
‘Three is the magic number and it’s a nice ending,’ says Llewellyn.
‘I know I’ve played Clare for the last time,’ says Coughlan, ‘although saying goodbye to a character is a really emotional thing, like a friend you’ll never see again.’
‘How can we fill this huge hole?’ asks Jackson, speaking for us all.
So long Derry Girls, it’s been great craic.
Goodbye, Derry Girls
What will they be doing in 10 years?
‘James would be a big Hollywood director — the young Spielberg!’
‘Clare will become an intellectual and have a girlfriend who’s far cooler than her. They’ll drink red wine together.’
‘Orla would be a great zookeeper or, failing that, an astronaut feels right.’
‘Erin will be an amazing writer and maybe write her own TV show about where she’s from.’
‘Michelle could be a businesswoman but she’ll want to just party for the rest of her life and be a fashionista.’
Series three of Derry Girls begins on Tuesday at 9.15pm on Channel 4.