Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee on season 3 of hit show

Season 3 of Derry Girls premiered last night (Thursday) in the Strand Omniplex before it’s official release on Channel 4 on Tuesday, April 12.

By Daire Ní Chanáin
Friday, 8th April 2022, 3:05 pm

The ‘Journal’ caught up with Derry Girls writer Lisa McGee before the red-carpet event to talk about the success of Derry Girls and the upcoming series.

Lisa said she was excited to see the reaction at the premiere but won’t be able to relax until it’s on Channel 4.

“The Derry audience is the biggest audience for me because I feel like I’m representing them,” she said. “The show is so popular now and there’s a lot of eyes on it so I don’t want to let the Derry people down. Once I hear people laughing at the premiere tonight I’ll be able to settle but if they don’t I won’t!

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Creator and writer Lisa McGee at the world premiere screening of Derry Girls season 3 in the Omniplex Cinema on Thursday evening last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2214GS – 019

“I think Derry Girls has injected a bit of pride into the city and there’s the mural and afternoon teas and things which is brilliant to see. Derry was always viewed as somewhere in relation to Belfast but now Derry is known in itself to people throughout the world. I don’t live in Derry, so every time I come back here and I see the murals, it gets to me that it’s so well loved here.

“I had written the show hoping that it would land in the UK, if it was just for a Derry audience, Channel 4 wouldn’t have had another series of it but I didn’t expect it to go global. We were in New York recently and the fact that people there know the show and talk about it, it’s mind blowing!

“Michelle has some great sayings this series. The only thinking I had to do around the Derry sayings is making it sound authentic, you can’t use all of the sayings because some are too hard to understand. Everyone knows what a ‘wain’ is, even if they don’t, it sounds like what it is. But I have never used ‘lured’ because where would you start trying to explain it? That’s just another language. I use ‘grand’ and things that are easy to grasp like ‘wise up’ and ‘catch yourself on.’ If it sounds like what it is, like ‘boke,’ then that’s great. But when people don’t understand then it pulls them out of it and ruins the joke.

“There’s a lot of people who recognise that the school in the show was Thornhill. The motto was the same on the blazers, ‘Adveniat Regnum Tuum,’ and people recognise other things in the show. We tried to find a school that looked like Thornhill so it was heavily inspired by the school and my time there. Ex-Thornhill girls tend to really enjoy that and they always try to figure out who Sister Michael is based on.

Creator and writer Lisa McGee Mayor Graham Warke at the world premiere screening of Derry Girls season 3 in the Omniplex Cinema on Thursday evening last. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2214GS – 016

“I always say the show is inspired by my school friends. It’s not that one character is one specific friend, it’s a combination of a few of my friends and I pulled them in different ways to shape a character. My experience in school was never really reflected in any films or TV, everything about the north was always so bleak but that’s not how it was. I remember in Thornhill, just laughing until I thought I was going to die!

“The all-girls school is just so silly. You’re so immature at times and there’s things that can set you off. When you get back together with those girls, too, you revert to being a teenager again. I think if you went to an all girls school or a Catholic school you get the show in a different way.”

This is the final series of Derry Girls for now but Lisa says there’s always room for more in the future: “You just never know where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen so, as a writer, you always leave those doors open. I feel so blessed to be able to take these characters exactly where I wanted to take them and I feel really proud of the last episode so I just want to see the reaction to it. Hopefully other people like it too and it’s not just me!

“I think it’s good that people want more after this series. Father Ted is one of my favourite sitcoms and there’s something so good about the fact that they only did those three series and they’re so iconic. I would really hope that we can sit somewhere like that in 25 years time because it never lost the quality. You can watch those episodes over and over again and they never get old. You can watch them the whole way through and then go back and watch it from the start and it’s like watching it for the first time again. For me to work with Ardal O’Hanlon, who plays Eamonn in Derry Girls it’s just lovely as well.”

The Derry Girls cast have gone on to do great things since series one first aired. Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin, has become a huge star with series two of Bridgerton recently released and Derry’s own Jamie-Lee O’Donnell stared in Channel 4 hit Screw. Lisa is so proud of how far they have all come.

“It’s such a cliché but really remember those first auditions when I met the Derry Girls for the first time and I realised that they fitted the characters. Now I see that they’re all going to be huge - they’re everywhere and it’s really nuts to see that happen. It’s a sign that the show has been successful that they’re going on to do these great things but they’re always going to be Derry Girls, even the ones that aren’t!”

Lisa says she always wanted to be a writer and, even in her Thornhill days, she was storing away some of the goings-on from her school days. But what advice does she have for other aspiring writers?

“If you want to write, you have to love it,” she said. “It’s much harder work than people think so you have to really want to do it. I think if you do write, know what it is what you want to say. Know your own voice and don’t try to be like other shows. That’s what worked for me; my voice sounds unique and all I’ve done is explore myself and my background and not try to sound like other writers. I think that’s the key, only you can tell the story your way.”

Derry Girls will premiere on Channel 4 on Tuesday, April 12.