Actor Gabriel Byrne was a trendsetter when he made the successful transition from television to cinema screens forty years ago, and his love for Ireland burns as brightly as ever, he tells Shea Tomkins
Gabriel Byrne has shared the silver screen with some of Hollywood’s most recognisable names, but as a rookie actor seeking to pick up some tips of the trade, he needed to look no further than the cast of RTE’s much-loved TV serial, The Riordans.
“Like most people in Ireland I was brought up on Sunday night watching The Riordans,” he says as he chats to Ireland’s Own about his memoir, Walking With Ghosts.
“When I was asked to join, it was the strangest of situations because all of a sudden I was among these characters that I felt I knew so well. I wasn’t talking to the actors, I was talking to their characters, Tom Riordan, or that, but after a while I got used to it.
“Because at that time there were only two channels, the series was so well watched that overnight you became instantly known. When The Riordans ceased they developed a new series called Bracken which was based around my character, and that was a very different experience.
“It was the first time that RTE had ever done a colour programme on location, down in Wicklow. Joe Lynch and Mick Lally were wonderful actors to be involved with.
“I look back on that time of my life with enormous fondness, and it gave me a profile in Ireland that allowed me to go on to do other things.
“You could work with John Cowley or Tom Hickey on the farm in The Riordans and they really knew about farming. John Cowley could strip an engine while he was giving you the lines. It was a marvellous form of acting school.”