Normal People star Leah McNamara got her debut playing school bully Rachel Moran on the BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel.
A year later, she is taking a big step forward from the drama about whether Connell (Paul Mescal) was going to bring her or Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) to the Debs. In her latest role, McNamara is playing an army wife and mum as part of the upcoming BBC Two drama Danny Boy.
Based on real life, her character Lucy Wood is the wife of former British Army soldier Brian Wood (Anthony Boyle) whose actions in the Iraq war were questioned in the Al-Sweady inquiry. The events told in this new drama took place from 2009 to 2014 as human rights lawyer Phil Shiner (played by Toby Jones) investigated accusations of prisoner mistreatment by the British Army.
Speaking to Radio Times about the challenges this role brought about, McNamara explained: “I haven’t done a real-life story before… It was really interesting to learn about something I didn’t – I actually didn’t know about, you know, the inquiry.
“I think I would have been in Ireland when all this was happening, but I know it was a huge thing in the UK. So I was learning about, you know, a whole new world, which is always really interesting to me… And I’d never played a mum before, so that was really nice and something really different for me to do, personally.”
The actress also found herself doing research about the lives of army wives like her character: “It really wasn’t something that I knew a lot about. Being from Ireland, I don’t have anyone who served in the Army; I don’t have anyone in my family, I don’t know anyone personally.
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“It was really heartbreaking to read some of the accounts of these women who don’t know [when their partners] are going to return, where they are, how long they’re going to be gone for… and you’re kind of left with these kids, raising kids on your own. And for those that are lucky enough that, you know, their husbands or partners do come back, you’re kind of faced with the fact that they actually could be a very changed person.”
While the real Brian Wood visited the set and gave his advice to cast and crew, McNamara didn’t have the chance to meet Lucy though the pair exchanged messages.
Throughout the show, Lucy will be the moral centrepoint in Brian’s life urging him to open up about his mental health struggles.
Danny Boy will air on 12th May on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer.
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