Amy De Bhrun chats to VIP about her role in Line of Duty, rejection and motherhood

Pic: Lili Forberg

You may not realise this, Line of Duty fans, but Amy De Bhrún does not speak in a Scouse accent. In fact, the actress is a Dublin native, who grew up in Rathfarnham and now lives in Castleknock – she’s just good at what she does. Her role on the hit BBC show as Liverpudlian Steph Corbett was so convincing that even her on-screen husband, renowned actor Stephan Graham, gave her his seal of approval – as someone born and raised in Merseyside! Her fantastic performance in the hugely popular series (a record 12.8 million viewers tuned into the series six finale last month) turned many heads, and no doubt will be the catalyst for more amazing on-screen opportunities.

Already, her acting CV is hugely impressive; Amy has appeared in the likes of Vikings, Coronation Street, Penny Dreadful and, most thrilling of all, Hollywood movie Jason Bourne, starring Ireland’s favourite US A-lister, Matt Damon. It’s not all rubbing shoulders with stars and success though; as Amy tells us in this exclusive interview, acting is a hard graft and dealing with rejection is commonplace in this competitive industry.

It’s also not easy balancing unpredictable filming schedules around being a mother to a little one. But, acting is what Amy has always wanted to do, ever since she was a little one herself. “I don’t remember ever not wanting to do this” she tells VIP during our shoot at the beautiful Station House Hotel in County Meath. “I didn’t want to be famous, or a star, I just wanted to be an actress.”

Amy, this year has been pretty uneventful so far for most…but not for you! What’s it been like, being in one of the most-watched tv shows, Line of Duty?
Ah, it’s been great. It was so exciting because it genuinely felt like I was part of something that was connecting people. People were watching it week by week and sharing their theories and getting so into it, it was such a talking point. My sisters were saying everyone was at the school gates wondering who H was [laughs] It was also really nice because it felt like the first time in Ireland that I was really recognised for work, because I do so much work outside of the country.

Amy de Bhrun
Pic: Lilli Forberg for VIP Magazine

You left to study drama in London when you were 19, so for this to happen so many years later, it must have been very gratifying.
Yes! And there’s nothing like the support you get from the Irish. Obviously the show is huge in the UK, but here it was like, “She’s one of our own!” [laughs] So it has been a lovely time.

What is the show like to work on?
Everyone is so down to earth, and it comes from the top down, no matter what your role is. And it’s good craic! I wonder if it’s because filming is so serious, so when they yell ‘cut’, it’s nice to talk normally and mess about and have a laugh.

Filming in Covid times must have been strange though? In particular filming your sex scene!?
[laughs] The non sex scene! So the restrictions meant we had to film in cohorts, so we had to film very intensely with the people you’re in a scene with for as minimal time as possible. We were staying in a hotel and nobody else was there, we were getting tested all the time, we had masks on going into rehearsals, and they minimised the amount of people that are on set. So the scene with myself and Martin (Compston) in bed, there was a gap between us – like an optical illusion! It was surreal!

It’s been great that actors could continue to make tv happen. Theatre actors haven’t been as fortunate. You’ve also worked extensively in theatre, with one-woman shows in Dublin, London, New York and LA.
I have, I’ve written and performed six one woman shows, and I also performed with another actress on a show I wrote about Lady Mary Heath, a trailblazing Irish aviator, who kind of got lost in the walls of history. Theatre work is fantastic, it really teaches you to be self sufficient and grounds you in the industry. It teaches you so much. And doing a show on your own, there’s a confidence that that builds. So when you’re thrown into situations like working with the likes of Adrian Dunbar, you’re like, “I’m qualified to be here.” I actually think doing the one woman shows are more nerve wracking and exposing than doing tv!

Amy de Bhrun
Amy de Bhrun

Was acting something you always wanted to do? Was it ingrained in you from a young age?
Yeah, totally. I don’t remember never wanting to do it. It was always there. I always used to say I wanted to be an actress, even as a kid. It was never, “I want to be famous” or “I want to be a star”, it was, “I want to be an actress.” My mum used to find me in corners of the house acting out scenes from Annie. I was too small to even say the words properly but I’d give it a good go! And I didn’t just want to be Annie – I acted out the Miss Hannigan scenes too [laughs]

Over the years you really have accumulated varied and interesting acting experiences – from Vikings to Coronation Street! Do you like mixing it up with light and shade?
I do. And because I’ve been under the radar for so long, I’ve been allowed to do different things; I haven’t been pigeon holed, y’know? I think if I’d gone to drama school and gone straight into a big show or movie, I might not have the freedom to pick and choose such different roles! I like all mediums and I like that I know no matter what I’m thrown into, I can do it. I remember a teacher telling me before that you could into drama, or you could go into comedy, or whatever, and go into the orchard and pick that apple. Or, you can go into the orchard and throw a stick into the trees and see what falls. I wanted to see what fell!

Another exciting apple that fell from the orchard was your role in a Hollywood movie a few years ago: Jason Bourne, starring Matt Damon. That must have a huge deal for you!
Yes, it was incredible. And, y’know, the doors in this industry open slowly over time, and that was another thing that opened another door for me. It was an amazing experience, being on set with Oscar winning actors and directors and the production was just huge. It was just a different world, even the way there was a barista on the set who’d give you whatever coffee you wanted, green juice, snacks [laughs]

And it was so fast-paced; a scene you’re in with the brilliant Tommy Lee Jones sees you as a logistics tech in a CIA control room, trying to catch Jason Bourne…
It was mad, my sister and I grew up watching the Batman movies where he played Two Face, so it was a bit of a weird moment getting to work with him! It was really cool, the director made sure we all built the atmosphere up in the room so we were all amped up and the camera gets right up in your face and you’re like, “this is my moment” [laughs] It was a dream job.

Amy de Bhrun
Pic: Lilli Forberg for VIP Magazine

Irish people are obsessed with Matt Damon. What was it like to be in a movie with him?
He was really nice; I remember one day was the director’s assistant’s birthday and he brought a huge cupcake delivery in a princess castle design, it was amazing. He’s very nice and normal, but obviously I don’t know him personally; he’s not my friend, I just said hello to him [laughs]

Could you deal with the level of fame he has?
God, I don’t know! I don’t know if I could cope with that many eyes on me, because with all the positivity, there’s negativity as well. And that sometimes feels unwarranted, when you’re just doing a job. But I think fame and doing the work are two different things. So, if I’m a succesful actor and good at my job, and fame happens, I could deal with that maybe. And I think you’re in control of how much you put out into the world and how much you share, to a degree.

There seems to be a lot of pressure on actors, particularly women, to look utterly perfect. Did you ever feel that way?
I feel it less now than I did. I think that’s maybe from getting a bit older and working on myself and realising that my body is my tool; I’m proud of it and what it can achieve. And my body has made a baby! That’s really impressive! I always try and view my body as what it can do and not what it looks like. Otherwise you’re in for a losing battle. Also, you’re supposed to look like a human being! I think people forget that about actors… you’re actually supposed to look like a person, not a clone [laughs]

Rejection is also part and parcel of being an actor. What’s your experience of that been?
I’ve had to grow a thick skin! My husband doesn’t understand how easily I can get over things [laughs] I never think the part is mine until I’m on set. I always think an audition is an opportunity for me to show what I can do, and if it doesn’t work out, then it just didn’t work out. It’s not that I’m a terrible person or awful at my job. Obviously there are instances that knock you; sometimes you’ll have been on set and end up on the cutting room floor. I’ve had experiences where I’ve been in something and signed up to a certain amount of episodes and then my character ended up being cut! That’s why I think you’re better off gigging away, doing your job as much as possible and eventually it all comes through.

Your husband Seán Brannigan is a director and illustrator. It must be lovely to be with someone who also loves the Arts and being creative.
It’s brilliant because we’re in the same industry so we have a total understanding of it; if I have a tape audition that I have to do, he’ll help me with my lines, or he’ll understand that suddenly, with two hours notice, I’ll need him or somebody to mind our child so I can be on a set. He’s great.

Amy de Bhrun
Pic: Lilli Forberg for VIP Magazine

Your almost-two-year-old daughter Billie is adorable. Where did the name come from?
I love boy’s names for girls. And the year I met my husband, his grandad Bill died that year, and I thought it’d be really nice to call her after him. Her middle name is Lena, after my iconic auntie who was just a legend in our house. It was lovely to have a family connection but also be original with it!

Is it difficult having to leave at a moment’s notice for a job whilst juggling motherhood?
It is hard, and weirdly I find it gets harder, maybe because of the age that she’s at. And also because of Covid, and they can’t visit while you’re on set. But our families are really supportive and I have amazing help from them. When you know your child is being so well looked after it takes the weight off!

The future is looking brighter for us all at the moment. In terms of your acting career, it feels like it’s about to soar. What would you like to next? And who’d be the dream to work with!?
I’d love to do more work in Ireland. And bigger roles, really! More leading roles. Because it is a slow journey to get there! I’ll keep going as I’ve been going which has served me well, and see what lands. I’ll keep throwing the stick at the apple trees! There’s a list as long as my arm of who I’d like to work with…Steve Carrell, Eddie Marsan, Mike Leigh, Emily Blunt, Kirstin Wiig…but Cate Blanchette tops the list!

Amy de Bhrun
Amy de Bhrun

Interview: Niamh Devereux
Photography: Lili Forberg
Styling: Megan Fox
Hair: Suzie Dowling for Peter Mark
Makeup: Robyn Byrne


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