Irish actors are taking over the world and rightfully so!
We sat down with actors Éanna Hardwicke, who you may know from Normal People and Smother, and Leah Minto who appeared in Normal People and Red Rock. The pair is currently making a name for themselves across the globe in one of Netflix’s hit series, Fate: The Winx Saga.
They chat about the Irish acting scene, what’s next for them and what it’s like joining a huge franchise…
Hey Éanna and Leah, what an amazing few years for the pair of you! Fate: The Winx Saga has just come out and it’s one of the biggest shows on Netflix. Did you think of that when you were filming?
Leah: You don’t really think of the franchise day to day when you’re doing the work. You’re going in, you’re talking through the scene, you’re getting the work done. It only hits when it’s moments like these and you realise that it’s all around the world and we get to talk to people about it. It is such a huge size. But it doesn’t really come into it too much when you’re working.
Both of you were in Normal People in 2020, and so was your Fate co-star Eliot Salt. Is there a pipeline we don’t know about?
Leah: You would think so! But I had no idea that any of us were on it, I came in about two or three episodes in of the first season and I was trying on my costume for the first time, I just opened the door and Eliot was there. It was so lovely.
Éanna: It must have been weird for her because I met her on the read-through of Normal People, but we didn’t cross paths on the show, and she said, “Oh I’m doing this show in Wicklow called Fate: The Winx Saga”. And I was like, “So you just moved to Ireland for a year?” They were happening at the same time. But Normal People and Winx! It was a good summer for us!
In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in the Irish film industry. Is it nice that you don’t have to head off to Hollywood to make incredible cinema?
Éanna: Yeah, it is really nice. The landscape, when you see it on screen, it does feel like a different world. There is a real otherworldly feeling about it. What I love about this industry is there is a healthy mix of both, shows that film here and use the landscape as well as great cinema and indigenous TV. Between things like Normal People and Fate, you have a broad spectrum of what is going on here!
So would you be happy to work in Ireland for the rest of your life? Or is further afield calling to you?
Eanna: I just finished filming a project in Bristol for the BBC called The Sixth Commandment, it should be out sometime next year. The exciting thing with any story or any job is that it takes you to different places or a different type of character or story than you’ve done before. As much change and as many challenges as you can get the better in work.
You both have really impressive filmographies. How did Fate: The Winx Saga, which is for a younger audience, differ to the others?
Leah: I would say for day-to-day filming it feels the same. You’re going to film a scene, you’re going to talk to the director about how things should go and how we can make it the best. But afterwards, this is the most sort of dialogue I’ve had with different people from around the world who are interested in the show. People from Brazil, Argentina, and Ukraine want to talk to you about it. People have grown up with the animation and it’s really interesting to hear that and get sucked into the Winx world that way!
Eanna: I was just travelling there and I met people from all over the world who had grown up with this cartoon. When the show developed into Fate: The Winx Saga they followed that story along. It means a lot to an awful lot of people. I knew that going into the show but I became especially aware during and after it. These characters aren’t just characters, they’re role models. Of course, they didn’t set out to be that because it would be boring if you are creating a person who is the perfect role model for the audience. But they really did become that. What I think Brian Young has done so beautifully is weaved all these fantasy elements into very relatable stories of young women and young men growing up facing challenges we all faced at that age. And not in a preachy way or a trite way. They make mistakes and they mess up and they face really difficult dilemmas. I think if you can create a fantasy show that does that for people. My eyes were really open to what this means to people. People really see themselves reflected on-screen and I think that’s really exciting.
Éanna, you play Sebastian in the series, have you gotten used to your newfound fanbase?
Éanna: [Laughs] There might be three or four out there! There has been a really lovely response. And that is so nice to hear. People have such a lovely relationship with this show already. There is a moment when you’re terrified. What if you go in there, you film it and everyone just hates you? And people are saying, “You’re not the guy for this. You’re not who we imagined!” I’m sure there are plenty of them, but I’ve only been getting lovely messages which are really nice. I’m not sure how many Sebastian fans there are out there, but I am very grateful for the ones that there are.
Oh, there are plenty! But maybe don’t look that up…
Leah: That is exactly what I’m going to do.
Éanna: Send them to me. That’s how I’ll spend my afternoon!
Meanwhile your character, Leah gets a lovely romance in this. How lovely was it to portray this really gorgeous queer relationship on screen?
Leah: We were really curious about how they were going to portray this. We had chatted about it in season one. We were getting the scripts for the episodes as we were filming so we were watching our stories come to life before us. Myself and Eliot had a really nice chat about it with Brian [Young] the showrunner. It was very important to Eliot in particular, her character is huge in the show, that this was done right and it felt real. We’re also not trying to represent any one type of thing. A relationship is a relationship. You can’t try to tick all the boxes at all times. What we both really liked about it was that it was really right for our characters and what our characters really like in each other. It was really nice.
I used to watch The Winx Club, the original cartoon, on TG4 growing up. Did you watch it as well?
Eanna: I knew of it growing up, a lot of my friends followed it religiously. I was aware of the fanbase.
Leah: No I hadn’t! I remember when they were casting for season one I was like “What is this?” And I looked it up and I just opened a whole new world. How did I miss this for so long? And so many of my friends were like, “You don’t know this?” I had a lot to catch up on! I met a guy in Greece and he was so excited for the show! It really hits you then, it’s incredible.
What about the costumes? They’re so amazing and your costume designer worked on Absolutely Fabulous!
Eanna: Leah has a really cool costume. But I loved mine! I spent a lot of time with costume designer Rebecca Hale because it was a brand new character. We went down loads of different rabbit holes because we could do loads with it. But what we settled on in the end I loved. I loved my barber jacket and my cool boots. I loved my cap! The design in this is class. There’s nothing better than a good pair of boots and a good suit – it can do the acting for you! That’s what I cling to now!
What’s next for you guys workwise?
Leah: I just finished up a production called Absent the Wrong in the Peacock Theatre in Dublin.
Eanna: It was brilliant
Leah: This month in the US, God’s Creatures is being released which I’m really excited about. I think it’s coming to the UK and Ireland later in the autumn.
Eanna: I filmed two films last year, one called The Sparrow which I filmed in West Cork. It was written and directed by Michael Kinirons and that premiered at Galway Film Fleadh, so hopefully, you’ll be seeing that in the next few months. I did a film called Lakelands with Patrick McGivney and Rob Higgins. Danielle Galligan is in that as well. We filmed that just after Fate, so hopefully, that is coming out in the next six months or so. I am excited to share those with other people.