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Brady’s Ryan reconnects with West Cork locals

Orla Brady.

By Karen Butler

Irish actress Orla Brady was up for a change after years of starring in serious dramas, so when “The South of Westerlies” came along, she leaped into it.

“I was attracted to the idea of doing something lighter and breezier and that turned out to be quite prophetic, not deliberately so, because we then went into COVID and I think we all feel like a little lighter fare now. Also, it was shot in Ireland with some very good people,” the 59-year-old Dublin native told The Irish Echo in a recent phone interview.

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The six-episode series casts Brady as Kate Ryan, an environmental consultant sent undercover as a tourist to the West Cork seaside town of Carrigeen to discourage opposition to an offshore wind farm her company wants to build there.

Complicating matters is the fact that Ryan has a history with the village and must now reconnect with the locals she ghosted for years, specifically Breege (Eileen Walsh,) her best friend, and Baz (Steve Wall,) her former beau.

Accompanying Kate on her secret mission is her 18-year-old son, Conor (Sam Barrett), who unexpectedly settles nicely into the town.

“I really wanted to play her, but it’s not that I particularly approve of her,” Brady said of Kate.

“She is lying to people,” the actress explained. “She is a very avoidant person and so rather than tackle any problem like a grownup should, she rather runs away from them, which is forgivable in the very young, but not as forgivable in someone who is supposed to be grown up and dealing with things. She rather ran away from a whole set of circumstances. She thinks she can get away with it, just go back, tell a little white lie, get the job done and get away. What she doesn’t acknowledge or realize in advance is that she will like and even love the people in this place all over again.”

In talking to various townspeople about the wind farm, Kate hears all sides of the complicated story, especially how it could impact the economy, environment, beauty and tourism of Carrigeen.

“It was a lovely piece of writing,” Brady said.

“Catherine Maher, the writer, kind of created this background of this very pertinent question, which is that clearly we are in the throes of climate change and, we are, and clearly it’s human-made and how are we going to take responsibility and deal with that? It’s a very hot issue.”

The longtime California resident -- who made The Irish Times’ roster of “The 50 Greatest Irish Film Actors of All Time” in June -- was happy to return to Ireland after years of working on international TV series such as “Star Trek: Picard” and “American Horror Story: 1984.”

“I don’t get to work in Ireland that often because the shows I’ve been doing in the past X years have been out of America, although I did do a martial-arts thing [‘Into the Badlands’] where we did our first year in America and then they sent the show to Ireland,” she said.

“I left a very different Ireland than the current one, let me tell you. It was old Ireland that I left -- it was ruled by priests, if you like, and it wasn’t a great place to be a woman. There were many reasons that I left, but that was the essential one and the Ireland I came back to had changed. It is a very progressive country,” she continued. “It was a pleasure to be here and be able to be part of this Ireland that I just hadn’t been before I left.”

“The South Westerlies” will be streaming in the United States on Acorn TV Monday.