‘Lisa has made me do so many ridiculous things this year’: Interview with Derry Girls’ Nicola Coughlan and Dylan Llewellyn

The second series of Derry Girls returned on Tuesday night.Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), James (Dylan Llewellyn), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Erin (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Orla (Louisa Clare Harland), Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) Photo by Peter Marley.
The second series of Derry Girls returned on Tuesday night.Michelle (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), James (Dylan Llewellyn), Clare (Nicola Coughlan), Erin (Saoirse Monica Jackson), Orla (Louisa Clare Harland), Sister Michael (Siobhan McSweeney) Photo by Peter Marley.

Dylan Llewellyn and Nicola Coughlan were pure buzzing as they arrived into the Guildhall ahead of attending the premiere of Derry Girls Season 2 last week.

And if anyone thought the global success of the Channel 4 and NI Screen production had gone to their heads, Nicola confirmed she got the bus up from Galway for the event!

Derry Girls actors Dylan Llewellyn and Nicola Coughlan arrive at the Omniplex Cinema, Strand Road, on Monday night last, for the premiere of Series Two.  DER0819GS-05

Derry Girls actors Dylan Llewellyn and Nicola Coughlan arrive at the Omniplex Cinema, Strand Road, on Monday night last, for the premiere of Series Two. DER0819GS-05

“It’s really strange, the minute you get off the bus here you are recognised, but people are so lovely, it’s not like horrible, people are so sweet to us, the support we have is amazing,” said Nicola.

Dylan agrees and said he was delighted to be back and shortly after arriving in Derry the duo teamed up for Derry Girls-esque mission to check out the new UV Arts mural on the back of Badger’s Bar.

Dylan, who plays James (a.k.a The Wee English Fella), said: “As soon as we came in we went to it last night incognito. It’s amazing. That was out first time seeing it. It’s very overwhelming.”

Nicola, who plays Clare in the show, adds: “We decided we wanted to have a private look. It’s just overwhelming and strange to see your head that big. It took our breath away, we just rounded the corner and I thought, ‘Oh man.’ It’s not the sort of thing you ever think will happen. You have certain aspirations as an actor but I never thought I’d be a mural and it’s a real honour and if people like it and are glad to have it there, that’s brilliant.”

Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee, second from left, pictured yesterday with cast members Dylan Llewellyn, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland and Nicola Coughlan, when they visited the 'Derry Girls' mural painted by UV Arts at Orchard Street, Derry. The second series of the hit show is coming soon to Channel 4.

Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee, second from left, pictured yesterday with cast members Dylan Llewellyn, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Louisa Harland and Nicola Coughlan, when they visited the 'Derry Girls' mural painted by UV Arts at Orchard Street, Derry. The second series of the hit show is coming soon to Channel 4.

The actors are in agreement that UV Arts have done a brilliant job. “They got it done in three days which was incredible,” Nicola said. “People here were so good to us, sending us pictures of it on Twitter and Instagram while it was being done. I looked up on the wall and thought God those are exactly my eyes, they just got them.”

She adds: “We didn’t even know how people were going to take the mural. When we were told it was going to happen we were thinking what are people going to think of that? Will they think we are mental or why are we getting a mural painted of us but people have had a lovely reaction to it. We literally couldn’t ask for better support from the people of Derry.”

Turning to Season 2, the actors said viewers can expect to see more facets of their characters this season, but don’t go thinking Clare and James have evolved into mature, well adjusted young adults. Nicola said: “Lisa has made me do so many ridiculous things this year. I have so many different bits I can’t wait for people to see - none of them were in the trailer. They’re all really spoilery but I think it was always the side of Clare I knew was in her. I think from the very first moment you’ll see.

“The first episode we do a ‘Friends Across the Barricade’ trip and Clare gets very fixated on making new friends. She has an interesting way of dealing with the world and making her choices. I don’t know that she’s the most socially aware person. You definitely see some intense sides to Clare this time.”

SKI PANTS ARE BACK

While Clare’s Union Jack T-shirt faux pax from Series One has been retired, “the ski pants are back much to my dismay”, Nicola laughs.

Dylan adds: “I think a few of the characters you might see a different side to this time round which might be very interesting, but he’s the same old, still gets the tough love, still on the end of Michelle’s jokes a lot. She hasn’t let up and that’s what makes it so funny, and he is trying to settle in, it’s tough love, and Michelle is toughening him up as he is trying to cope with his surroundings. She’s training him up.”

Speaking about reaction of viewers and the legions of fans at home and abroad the show has amassed, Dylan said: “I love how everyone can identify with someone’s character in Derry Girls. I think that’s sort of cool, with the ‘wain’ and Derry slang, it’s like an inside joke and people wanna know what it is. It peaks people’s interest and they are like, ‘Oh what is that all about’.”

‘OCH, DEAD ON!’

With a little coaxing from his co-star the English actor then tries his hand at some local slogans, delivering hybrid but passable versions of ‘Och dead on!’ and ‘Wind your neck in’, before adding: “Because it’s worldwide the most randomest places like Singapore, Argentina, Cuba, China, India they are all just loving it and it’s such a nice feeling to know it is getting so well received around the world.”

Nicola said: “It’s a testament to how well Lisa has written it, that it is that relatable. I got a message from a girl in Kashmir and she said, this is really what it was like for me growing up with this Conflict. I thought, ‘Jesus that’s incredible’. It has travelled incredibly.

“I went to NY with Louisa (Harland who plays Orla) on a trip for my birthday and the minute I got off the plane at JFK, these girls came over and they said to me, ‘You look like Clare from Derry Girls’, and I said ‘I am’, and we got sent drinks in bars that we went to. It shocked me the reaction we got over there. I spend a lot of time in London with my work and people in London will see people off the telly all the time, but in New York we got approached so much it was absolutely wild.”

Dylan said he enjoys all the Derry Girls Memes compiled by fans.

“There’s this one fan called Charlotte Gillis and she’s got some amazing stuff,” he said, while Nicola also loves the online buzz the show has created. “There was a girl from America did a review on Twitter and I just loved that,” she said, adding: “It’s amazing seeing people you admire watching it - Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) and Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who). When you really admire people and they like it blows your mind.”

FIRM FRIENDS

The cast of Derry Girls have become firm friends while filming the first season and witnessing the show’s growing popularity together over the past 12 months.

Dylan said that it was quite a different experience preparing for Season 2 and knowing your co-workers this time round.

“When we first got the scripts we were doing the voices in our heads. And the chemistry of the girls is just great.”

Nicola adds: “When we went back to filming, the characters were like five friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and because I know the others better, seeing them go back into character is really exciting.”

The duo agree that they have found friends for life within the cast. “We have got a WhatsApp group!” Dylan said.

The first episode of Derry Girls Season 2 will be screened next Tuesday, March 5 at 9.15pm on Channel 4.

Among the guest actors doing a star turn in Season 2 is Irish comedian and Father Ted star Ardal O’Hanlon, who will make a special guest appearance as Eamonn, the awkward, middle-aged mummy’s boy of the Quinn/McCool extended family.

In the UK alone, the first series of Derry Girls was watched by an average of 2.5 million viewers, making it Channel 4’s biggest comedy launch since 2004, and it was also the biggest ever comedy launch series on All4.