Interview with Philippa Dunne (Niamh) in The Woman in the Wall Which Debuts Tonight Sunday, Aug. 27

Interview with Philippa Dunne (Niamh) in The Woman in the Wall Which Debuts Tonight Sunday, Aug. 27

Interview with Philippa Dunne (Niamh) on The Woman in the Wall

Can you tell us about the premise of The Woman In The Wall and your initial reaction to the scripts?

The Woman In The Wall is the story of a woman living in a small fictional town in the west of Ireland, who is very othered, by her kind of “antisocial, strange, odd behaviour”. But what people may not know about her is that she’s dealing with trauma of having spent years in a Magdalene Laundry / Mother & Baby Home, and she’s still traumatised. She’s constantly thinking of the baby that she had there, and what became of that baby and she’s obviously tormented. This is the reason behind her place in life at the moment and so the show watches her rediscover the fate of this baby and just how much the experience has affected her from the time she spent in the laundry.

When I read the scripts, I thought they were absolutely unreal and I just thought I had to be in this programme. The imagery, the just the grimness at moments, the writing and the characters are all incredible. It’s so dark yet they’re still comedy poking through. And life has so much of that tragedy and comedy balance going on. Anyone reading them would want to be involved. It’s such a powerful story.

Can you tell us about your character, Niamh.

My character is called Niamh, and she is friends with the lead character Lorna Brady played by Ruth Wilson. Niamh is a very focused, grounded advocate who is campaigning for the survivors of the Magdalene Laundry and the Mother & Baby Homes. She wants their voice to be heard, and she wants to get them compensation. She’s not a survivor herself, but she is carrying the baton for her mother who is deceased. Her mother was a survivor who never lived to see justice or recognition for what happened, so she was very much campaigning for her mother’s memory. And also, what makes it current for her is her friend Lorna, played by Ruth Wilson, who is a survivor and who is actively going through the trauma.

In addition to this Niamh herself is pregnant, which makes it very relevant in that when you’re expecting a baby, all your senses are heightened to a mother’s plight and a connection with the baby. So Niamh is very aware of how horrific these women’s experiences were when it came to carrying a baby and then the baby been taken away, she can’t help but empathise extremely with them. So she’s doing it for a mother, for her friend Lorna, for the women survivors in the group from the town, and a part of it is doing it for herself so that she should never meet the same fate as they did.

Niamh comes from the fictional Irish town of Kilkinure – a seemingly close-knit community, which up until the events of the series, remains relatively quiet. Tell us about where we first find Lorna, and what her relationship is to Lorna Brady?

We first meet Niamh quietly stalking Lorna. She’s very concerned for her because Lorna has been acting strange, and you might say drawing attention to herself because of this strange behaviour, unfortunately. Poor Lorna, she’s very bewildered, she’s very traumatised, and it’s affecting her deeply. Niamh wants to know that she’s okay. She knows about Lorna’s history and wants to pin her down and make sure she’s all right. She also wants to involve Lorna in her advocacy work with the group of survivors, as she thinks it could be a good support network for her, but Lorna just isn’t ready for any of that. Niamh just wants to look after people and make sure people are okay.

Why do you think it’s important to tell this story to audiences today?

Because it needs to be spoken about forever, it can never be forgotten. And what the women endured can never be forgotten. We have to be aware of how dark this country got so that nobody would have to suffer that way again. It’s inexcusable, unforgivable. Plus, the fact that it was still in operation up until so recently is absolutely shocking. It’s still too fresh. And when it’s fresh, let’s not wait for the dust to settle, let’s keep talking about it. Because there are people still alive who went through this awfulness, and we need to honour them. They need to be listened to and they need to be heard, their stories need to be told.

You can’t let the memory of this fade because it’s an injustice to the women and it’s putting us at risk of something similar happening again.

How did you find working with Ruth Wilson, Daryl McCormack, and the rest of the cast?

Fabulous! I was pinching myself. I’m a massive fan of Ruth’s work, I always have been, and I have always watched her stuff and loved it. To get to see her perform in real life, she’s an incredible actor, stunning performance. I learned so much just from watching her and how she approaches her craft. My jaw is still on the floor. I didn’t have any scenes with Daryl sadly, but I’m just delighted to be the in the same show as him. It was a lovely production. I just really enjoyed every minute working on this programme, because I knew it was going to be a fantastic show. And I’m really proud of my involvement.

What is your hope for the series?

I hope it’s well received, and I hope it does the material justice. I hope people get to appreciate all the facets of the show because it’s so much more than just that key story.

There are so many genres folded into one – there’s horror, there’s mystery, there’s thriller, there’s deception, there’s redemption there’s finding a certain level of peace, there’s rediscovering yourself and your strengths. There’s just so many strings to the bow of what this show is. And I hope all the different facets do something for everyone, and I see it being a great watch. I want people to appreciate the fabulous writing and performances and enjoy watching it – if enjoyment is the right word. I hope they find it intriguing and appealing.

See Philippa in Motherland below:


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