Jamie Lee makes TV debut in style

Jamie Lee as Eva Maguire in 6Degrees
Jamie Lee as Eva Maguire in 6Degrees

It’s a role most actresses would kill for - a slot in a brand new drama due to air on prime time TV on BBC Two.

It’s even more of an achievement to secure such a role when you are only fresh out of drama college and haven’t any TV experience under your belt at all.

But this was the case for Derry girl Jamie Lee O’Donnell who will debut tonight in ‘6Degrees’ on BBC 2 at 9.30pm.

The new drama, which Jamie Lee says is “pretty hard hitting” follows the trials and tribulations of six students studying in their first year at university in Belfast.

Twenty-four-year-old Jamie Lee’s plays Eva - a Derry girl who she says has come to university “thinking she will escape her problems”.

“She wants to escape her past and move on but she finds it quickly catches up with her and she has to deal with the fall out from that. It’s as if she hits a self destruct button.

“The show can be pretty heavy going at times - there are lighthearted moments of course, but there is a lot of drama to unfold.”

A former pupil of St. Anne’s PS, St. Cecilia’s College and the North West Regional College, Jamie Lee has cut her acting teeth in a number of local productions - treading the boards on numerous occasions.

It was her role as a dancer in 2010’s Millennium Forum pantomime ‘Aladdin’ which inadvertantly led to this break when one of her costars suggested she try and land herself an agent.

With this advice ringing in her ears she approached and agent, who was only too happy to take her on and she started attending auditions.

When she was put up for the role of Eva, she said she felt more than a little “out of her depth” attending the audition.

“I had never done anything like this before - so it was a little daunting,” she said. But as she got through audition after audition - in total passing four stages of impressing the production team - she started to hope she may actually win the role.

“Walking into those auditions - seeing the other people were there and knowing they all wanted the role as much as I did - that was intimidating but as I got through every stage it started to feel real.”

She says she as delighted to gain the role and the entire experience has been very positive. “I loved working with all the cast. I feel for this to have been my first professional TV show, I really landed on my feet to work with such a supportive cast and crew who really welcomed me into the team.”

The new series will run for six episodes, with the first two being aired back to back tonight. The show is described as a tale of six students in a city with no limits. They’re breaking away from everything they’ve known and are here to make their mark. Hearts will be broken, friendships made and trust betrayed, but within all the madness and mistakes, our students are learning the invaluable life lessons that books just can’t teach.

This is a show about relationships - a crash course to adulthood. Six students, brought together by six degrees who are about to become friends for life.

As well as award winning local freelance talent, 6Degrees has also given opportunities to first time local TV writers, Bronagh Taggart, Michael Shannon, Eoin Cleland and Aaron Archer.

Ailsa Orr, BBC Northern Ireland Head of Programmes, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have 6 Degrees as part of our original home grown drama season. It offers a fascinating insight into student life and some of the important themes and issues relevant to young people today.

“It’s also a showcase for some brilliant new acting talent, and has offered an important opportunity for local writers and upcoming production talent. We very much hope it will be enjoyed by a whole new generation of BBC Northern Ireland viewers.”

Anne Stirling of Stirling Productions, added: “This is a wonderful opportunity for a local company to show that good drama can be made in and about Northern Ireland .”