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Hazel Doupe and Thomas Levin who star in RTÉ drama Smother, shot in the Lahinch area.

Thriller stars share love of North Clare landscape

STARS of RTÉ’s hit drama Smother have shared their impressions of the rugged North Clare coastline, and its role in creating the atmosphere for what has been described as a ‘Celtic Noir’ thriller.

Thomas Levin and Hazel Doupe, who play father and daughter Carl and Ingrid Jensen, were among the stellar cast involved in RTÉ’S Smother which was shot last year in the Lahinch area. The six-part series follows the fortunes of the Ahern family in the aftermath of the suspicious death of patriarch Denis. His wife Val (Dervla Kirwan) is in a new relationship with Carl, but Denis seems to be able to keep his grudge against them going from beyond the grave.

After being cast as Carl, Thomas, whose TV credits include the Danish hit Borgen and Channel 4’s Norskov, travelled to Ireland to join the cast. “It was my first time in Ireland and North Clare and it was fantastic waking up and going to work there every day,” he told The Champion. “It humbles you and sets you up in a very good way for acting. Your senses are completely awoken. There is a feeling of destiny in that landscape. It’s an ambiguous feeling but really, really beautiful. Every day on set, I thought,  ‘I can’t believe my luck’. I was really grateful to be there.”

Eighteen year-old Hazel, star of the critically acclaimed feature film Float Like a Butterfly, agreed that the dramatic location played a major role in creating the suspense in the thriller. “I was in Lahinch just before we started shooting and the weather was nearly violent at times,” she said. “I could feel the sea spray even though I was 200 or 300 metres away from it. The landscape and the sea play a massive role in the series, but I think it’s going to be shown [later in the series] in a much nicer way. One of my favourite scenes involves the sea and it’s calm and serene. It’s relaxed and blissful and there’s a contrast for TV and for the soul.”

Shooting on Smother started in February 2020 and was suspended for a time after the outbreak the pandemic. The series was later completed in keeping with strict public health guidelines for TV productions which involved quarantine and daily testing for Covid-19.

Unpredictable weather was also among the challenges the cast and crew faced, according to Thomas. “The weather was just crazy at times,” he said. “It was raining, snowing, windy and then the sun would come out, all on the same day. It was fun for us, but I don’t know how they edited.”

While Thomas said that the cast did manage to get out for a pint, when restrictions were lifted last summer, he wouldn’t be drawn on where he enjoyed the best Guinness. “I’m too old now to drink the night before a day of shooting, but I did get to have a break and a pint,” he said. “It was wonderful and it’s very nice to know there are differences depending on where you get a Guinness.” He also got to enjoy some traditional music while in North Clare. “I felt blessed to be with such wonderful Irish actors,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the Irish.”

Smother was written by Kate O’Riordan (Mr Selfridge, The Bay) and produced by Treasure Entertainment (Finding Joy, Handsome Devil) with BBC Studios. The series is included in the BBC Studios catalogue for international sales and Rayna Connery of RTÉ confirmed on Friday that the Alibi is the latest TV channel to announce that it will screen the drama.

The production of the series was enabled by a number of partners including Screen Ireland and WRAP (Western Region Audiovisual Producers Fund).

Episode 5 of Smother will be screened on RTÉ One at 9.30pm next Sunday.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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