From Song to Screen: Bold Irish Women

Irish Actresses, Nicola Coughlan from Bridgerton and Annie Murphy and Catherine O'Hara from Schitt's Creek are all nominated for SAG awards
in 2021.

By Tom Deignan

When the Screen Actors Guild awards are handed out next month, Irish women will be well represented, showcasing talents ranging from costume drama to biting comedy to social activism.

Nicola Coughlan, Annie Murphy and Catherine O’Hara find themselves on two of the most talked about TV shows of the streaming era – the British-set period series Bridgerton, and the celebrated comedy Schitt’s Creek.

Coughlan grew up in Oranmire, Galway, and is best known for the Belfast comedy-drama Derry Girls.

But she has found lots of new fans as a member of the sprawling cast of Bridgerton, which has set many young hearts aflutter during its first season on Netflix.

The series, produced by Shonda Rhimes, is a modern mix of Masterpiece Theater and bodice-ripping drama.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton. Photo: Fandom.com

Coughlan plays Penelope Featherington on the show, a seemingly invisible teen – with a secret.

The cast of Bridgerton – including Coughlan – is up for a SAG award in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. 

The competition includes Better Call Saul, The Crown, Ozark, and Lovecraft Country.

This week, Coughlan earned yet another honor – and also proved she’s not afraid to speak her mind.

Variety magazine highlighted Coughlan in a report featuring a noteworthy list of international artists and activists. 

“What an honour to be included in ⁦@Variety⁩ Global Women of Impact Report, means the absolute world,” Coughlan posted on Twitter.

Coughlan told Variety: “It’s funny playing the most low-status person in the room, and also the most high-status person in the room,” noting that her character is just 17 years old, and trying to figure out how to use the newfound power her secret brings. 

Coughlan was also praised for standing up to social media scolds who commented on her appearance, at the recent Golden Globes Awards.

Meanwhile, two Irish Canadian actresses from the same hilarious show will be competing in the SAG category Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Show biz veteran Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, Best in Show) and relative newcomer Annie Murphy are nominated for their mother-daughter work in Schitt’s Creek, a big winner at recent Emmy ceremonies, now available on Netflix.

Once asked about her Irish connection, O’Hara said: “Who doesn’t want to be associated with people known for their deep and undying love of the land, the letter, romance, family, laughter – at themselves, almost as much as at others – music and any lovely thing that brings a tear to the eye.”

Murphy and O’Hara face strong SAG competition from Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini from Dead to Me, and Kaley Cuoco for The Flight Attendant.

Those shows, along with The Great and Ted Lasso, are also up for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series.

If you’re looking for a more musical screen experience these days, check out Billie O’Connell – better known as pop sensation Billie Eilish– and her brother, Finneas, in the documentary The World’s a Little Blurry.

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas in 2017.

Eilish and her brother grew up in California, the children of Patrick O’Connell and Maggie Baird.

Eilish (Irish for Elizabeth) was even meant to be her first name – though the family pronounces her name EYE-lish.

“My whole life I’ve been told by my parents that, y’know, I’m Irish and Scottish and I’m like ‘Okay, yay!’,” the 19-year-old singer told Ireland’s Today FM last year.

Eilish has already won an armful of Grammy Awards, and cultivated a brash, independent look and persona.

A more seasoned – though no less bold – Irish American musician also has a new collection of music about to drop.

St. Vincent performing at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles in October 2018. Photo: Wikipedia

Annie Erin Clark has earned popular and critical acclaim performing  under the name “St. Vincent.”

The Oklahoma native has a new album entitled “Daddy’s Home” coming out in May, and the first tracks are already making the rounds online and earning raves.

According to Rolling Stone, “Daddy’s Home” is an album that’s teeming with life and loss, backup vocals and brass sections.”

Of her formative years, Clark has said: “There was a stiff-upper-lip and toughness on my dad’s side, a good Irish Catholic family who never talk about anything. I would always hear things like, ‘Toughen up. You’ll be fine. You shouldn’t cry unless you’re bleeding’ and stuff like that.”

Clark has managed to pour all of those emotions into St. Vincent music.

With the new album on the way, Clark – like everyone else – is waiting to see what the future is for live music.

She is “dreaming about how it will all work onstage, whenever touring is possible again,” she told Rolling Stone.

“The last record and the tours I did were full multi-media assaults. [This time], I will be excited to just play. Just people onstage playing music and killing it, without all the spectacle.”

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