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4 | NORTHERN IRELAND – Say Hello to More

Falling into place Star of BBC Two’s The Fall, Aisling Franciosi, tells Clodagh Dooley about her time filming in Northern Ireland, and how she really feels when she’s asked about working with Jamie Dornan


isling Franciosi is on the brink of great things. With roles in popular TV programmes The Fall on BBC Two and Legends on Fox/TNT, as well as an appearance in one of the most anticipated scenes in the history of Game of Thrones, it’s safe to say her star is on the rise. A bright and bubbly Irish-Italian actress, she always envisioned acting as her future career. “It was always my plan to be an actress,” she says. “I think I first decided when I was about six years old! But I have always enjoyed studying and loved languages so I decided to do a degree in Spanish and French in Trinity College, Dublin. During my first year there, I began acting on stage at the Gate Theatre and balanced this with college work. Then, when I was 18, I landed my first TV role as Trish in Trivia before getting my role as Katie in The Fall in my third year of college. “In my final year, I got another role and so had to make a choice – I left college in my fourth and final year, which I’m not sure my parents were too thrilled about at the time! But they fully supported me, as I had said that if certain opportunities come up, I was going to follow them, because you don’t often get a second chance at these type of things.” HOMELAND Aisling, whose father is Italian, has lived in Dublin all her life. “My family had lived in Italy but I was born in Dublin. When my parents separated, my mum and my brothers moved back to Dublin so when people ask me where I’m from, I always say I’m from

Dublin but I’m half-Italian. I feel so proud of both parts of my heritage and I spend a lot of time in Italy on my holidays visiting my dad and family there, but Dublin is the place I would call home.” However, with an acting career comes a lot of moving around, something Aisling knows all too well. During her time filming The Fall, she relocated to Belfast and says her first impressions of the city surprised her. “When you hear about Belfast, you do tend to think about the Troubles and the negative side of things. It is such a huge part of the history and you can’t ever forget that, but when I went up there for the first time, I found it had such a nice vibe. I suppose, part of the reason behind that too was the fact I was going up there for a new job which was exciting, but although I had only visited once before when I was very little and couldn’t properly form a first impression, it feels like a very vibrant, energetic city – there’s this newfound energy there.” So, would she consider Belfast to be a home away from home? “There are quite a number of similarities between Belfast and Dublin, so it’s not a huge culture shock or anything but there’s a lot of amazing, quirky cafés, restaurants and bars in Belfast and so much to do. I really love it there. Obviously, when I move around to different places, there are certain times I’d really like to see my friends and family but I do love being in new cities and I’m quite chatty, so I tend to latch onto people who live in the area, and hang with the cast and crew.” Despite working long hours which vary day to day, Aisling still likes to squeeze some time into her busy schedule to explore her surroundings.

“Unless you’re someone with a larger part like Jamie [Dornan] or Gillian [Anderson] you’re rarely in all of the shooting, so I do get some time to explore a little bit. I really like the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast, where there’s a lot of cool bars, live music sessions and restaurants. I like The Spaniard, a really tiny but quirky rum bar, and The Dirty Onion there. It’s one of the oldest buildings in Belfast, but it’s really modern and they have great food, live music and is generally a nice place to go with some of the cast for a drink together. “I’m a bit of a foodie so I really like spending time at St George’s Market and visiting the stands with produce and crafts. They also have performers there so it’s a great way to spend your day, particularly at the weekends. To unwind on my days off, I love walking around Queen’s University. It’s such a beautiful campus.” I ask Aisling if she gets swamped by fans on her days out. “I actually rarely get noticed. Sometimes when the show is on, someone might notice me but to be honest I’m delighted I don’t get recognised as often, I can’t imagine what it must be like for Jamie!” ROLEPLAY Speaking of Jamie, Aisling so often gets asked about her time working with her co-star, particularly about shooting some of the sexier scenes with him! However, she says this doesn’t tire her and being associated with him can only be a good thing. “I’d be naïve to think that people wouldn’t ask me about that and obviously it’s nice to be associated with talented actors like Jamie, he’s so lovely. I suppose what I do get sick of is when people are

Aisling Franciosi. Credit: Barry McCall waiting for me to talk about his looks all the time. I personally think he does an amazing job in the show so I tend to swerve the focus back to his acting skills. “I’m quite sad we’ve finished filming season three of the show now because it feels like we are a little family and you never know when you’re going to work with certain people again. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for The Fall’s cast and crew.” Aisling, who won an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Award) for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in 2015, says there’s a lot of research and prep involved when playing the part of babysitter, Katie Benedetto – as there would be for any role she plays. “Prep time does vary – if I’m doing a scene where I’m walking down the corridor, I don’t need to spend half an hour getting myself into the mood of the scene or anything! I have a lot of fun on set with the cast and crew but if we’re filming more heavy-going or serious scenes, I like

NORTHERN IRELAND – Say Hello to More | 5

Aisling on set for The Fall. Credit: BBC/The Fall 3 Ltd/Helen Sloan to take myself away from everyone and try to find a certain space where I can tap into more negative or trying emotions – whatever it is that you need to portray in that scene. “I do a lot of research and notetaking too, trying to get a bit more insight into how your character thinks and why they’re thinking certain things. If there is space to do it, you take things from your own experiences too and then manipulate it to fit with the character’s personality. You never live the exact same life as your on-screen character – you do find there are certain similarities but you have to use your imagination for situations too.”

Aisling enjoys playing the role of Katie, but she admits that sometimes the character’s naïve, headstrong personality can be susceptible to some audience backlash. “A lot of people love to hate her and find her really annoying, but I hope that it is only her that they find annoying and not me!” she laughs. “People have told me they think I ‘deserve a good slap’ or I’m ‘a right bitch’ on Twitter but I tend not to read too much into comments. She’s quite an aggravating character and I think there are two camps when it comes to her – people who just feel sorry for her and see how troubled and deluded she is, and the ones who just downright hate her.”

There are some new projects in the pipeline for Aisling and she’s currently busy filming for a new BBC Three production called Clique, written by Jess Brittain and created by the creators of Skins. However, whether she will be returning for her role as Lyanna Stark in Game of Thrones, remains to be seen. “I’m not going to lie, but I’d never watched Game of Thrones before I got the part. It had always been on my ‘to watch’ list but I had never got around to actually watching it. I have watched it now, obviously, and I can see why people get hooked – I think I binge-watched eight episodes in one day! I was a little nerv-

ous being a part of something so loved by many, but you just have to remember you’re never going to please everybody. It was a great opportunity to be a part of something so huge – even if it is just for two minutes!” Two minutes, two hours – it doesn’t matter how long this woman is on our screens before she leaves us wanting more. And with that, I leave Aisling to enjoy the rest of her day off – it might be one of very few in the foreseeable future! The Fall airs on Thursdays at 9pm on BBC Two. The Fall is a BBC Northern Ireland Drama Production in association with RTÉ

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