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BBC's Common actress Susan Lynch on working with ‘lovely’ Johnny Depp and ‘amazing’ Ewan McGregor

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 24, 2014

  • Susan Lynch

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EWAN McGregor is her champion, she’s acted alongside Johnny Depp,Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

But now actress Susan Lynch is turning her attention to a team of stage virgins in the tiny village of Ruscombe.

Susan’s name may not be well-known but with her distinctive looks are unforgettable.

Her mum is Italian and father Irish and with her pale skin, dark hair and expressive features that makes perfect sense. And when she drops into our office she has that warmth and vivaciousness that stereotype Italians and Irish.

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I’m always grateful when people say yes to being interviewed, so it seems topsy turvy that Susan, is so thrilled to talk to me.

Her enthusiasm about her Stroud project, working with amateur actors is infectious.

As she explains, it’s her chance to “put something back,” because she knows the value of sharing talents at a community level.

More than 20 years ago it was an such inspiring teacher back in her home town in Northern Ireland that spotted Susan’s talent and put her on a path to the big screen.

“I came from community drama. I had an amazing mentor made me feel it was possible to be an actress,” said Susan.

She grew up in a small working class town in Northern Ireland where her mum worked in a school canteen and her dad was a binman.

”I went to drama school when I was 17 became an actress. And I’ve pretty much worked ever since and made a living from it.”

It’s a career which has seen her act in Hollywood films; Interview with the Vampire, Nora and Waking Ned, and be a regular face on television screens.

She’s appeared in the Bill, Cracker, Bodies, Great Expectations, and most recently Ambassadors, a comedy drama alongside comic duo Mitchell and Webb.

Susan moved to Painswick six years ago with her husband, and now has a two-year-old son.

But right now its a small project, a play about to be performed in a community hall which is firing her enthusiasm.

She’s directing the newly formed Ruscombe Amateur Theatre Society (RATS) in their first ever production. It’s the first time she’s directed anything since the same drama teacher encouraged teenage Susan to have a go at directing at her local youth club in Northern Ireland.

“He was such an extraordinary man, he knew that I would be able to do it . He was quite forward thinking.”

RATS was born out of conversations with friends who said they would love to act.

“I have two friends here who always had the desire to act and I thought I’d love to so something here with people.

“It all started in Ruscombe when we lead a play reading workshop, and then another workshop reading Shakespeare,” she said.

“They’ve never done a play before not even as amateurs.”

That has been a refreshing experience for Susan bringing her own professional expertise to a blank canvas.

“I’m enjoying the way they compare the characters’ experience to real life. They’re always asking ‘how would you react if this happened to you?

RATS are performing Crimes of the Heart, a hilarious and heartbreaking story of three dysfunctional sisters in 1970s Mississippi.

“We are an independent thinking company and this is a very individual play,” said Susan.

“I also wanted to give the actors a very different space to inhabit. They can go somewhere else with this play.”

Crimes of the Heart is at Whiteway Colony Hall this weekend.

“We hope everyone will come and support a really talented group of local people, who surprisingly have never acted before. Like me, I think you will be very proud of them.”

For those who want to see Susan herself she’s taking a leading role in Jimmy McGovern’s new 90-minute film for BBC One, Common.

It’s a hard-hitting film about the UK’s controversial Joint Enterprise Law, which can result in a group being convicted of a crime, regardless of which member committed it.

“It’s an awful law because everybody’s circumstances can be different,” said Susan.

Common examines the potential injustice when a young man gives friends an impromptu lift to a pizza parlour and finds himself charged with murder. Susan plays the mother of the murder victim .

“Jimmy writes something very political with an emotional story. It’s interesting how this two strands work together. It’s one of the best things I have read.”

While she’s loved being a director, as an actress, film and television are her first love.

“I’m totally potty about film. I love the whole feeling of being on the set.

“I feel passionate about television and film, and of course it reaches a much larger audience.”

It also means that she has starred alongside some of Hollywood’s leading heroes.

In 1994 she was spotted among the cast of TV’s Cracker and was offered a role as a Parisian vampire opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire.

I tell her that I remember her clearly in the film.

“I’ve never seen the film,” she says to my surprise, explaining that she often doesn’t watch her work as she doesn’t want to become self conscious.

“Vanity is a killer for an actress.”

It was her portrayal of Nora Barnacle, wife of Irish writer James Joyce, opposite Ewan McGregor in the 2000 film Nora that is a role she is most proud of.

“It was such an important film for me. I was so happy to be playing an Irish woman. Frequently Irish actress were never getting cast in Irish roles. For me it was a role I was very passionate about.”

She was also delighted that Ewan fought her corner. When bigger Hollywood names were being lined up for the role of Nora, he insisted he would only take the part if Susan played his onscreen ‘wife.’

“Ewan is amazing”.

“You would think that the bigger the star the more ‘difficult’ someone might be. But that’s rarely the case. Usually you find they are great people too.”

A year later she acted alongside Johnny Depp in Jack the Ripper thriller, From Hell.

“Johnny Depp is just lovely,” she says with the hint of a swoon.

“He’s as lovely as you would think he is. We had such a laugh doing that job. There was a very independent spirit on that film.”

Until six years ago she was living in Camden, but was ready to move out of London. She remembered a visit to Painswick years before, and ended up moving there.

“I love the whole community here. There are so many different kinds of people, it works.”

Crimes of the Heart performed by the Ruscombe Amateur Theatre Society (RATSociety) is on Friday, 28 March 2014, and Saturday 29 March 2014 at 7.30pm with a matinee performance at 2.30pm on Saturday.For tickets see www.ratsociety.comstarts

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