TV Interview: Siobhan McSweeney – Holding, Or Putting The Cork In It

October 24, 2022


Siobhan McSweeney plays Brid Riordan in Holding, ITV’s adaptation of Graham Norton’s funny and tenderly perceptive best selling debut novel of the same name. Set in the insular fictional village of Duneen, West Cork, on the edge of Ireland, a place with its own climate and rhythms, Holding is directed by award-winning actor, director and producer Kathy Burke. Darkly funny and inherently Irish, the four-part adaptation is written by Dominic Treadwell Collins and Karen Cogan. The series introduces us to a surprising, quirky and shrewdly observed world told through its idiosyncratic, yet very real characters, who each have their own frailties, complexities, secrets and pasts. It is also a compelling murder mystery, which unfolds with a distinctive and darkly comic tone and explores themes of grief, community, family, and various shades of love – from quietly passionate to taboo to unrequited.


Can you tell us about Holding?

The premise is that a skeleton is dug up and there’s a mystery around who it is. Tommy was meant to marry Bríd, but he never turned up to the church on the day. So it’s the story of our local garda [police service] trying to figure out what happened to him.


What attracted you to the project?

I was immediately captivated by the tone of the piece. I thought it was something I hadn’t seen done before, particularly in Irish programmes. It’s a tone that’s sort of a bit odd and off. It’s beautifully written, but it manages that extra thing in creating a world that’s immediately recognisable but also a little bit strange. It reminded me of the Coen Brothers.


Had you read the book before filming started?

I hadn’t read the book – sorry Graham – and I still haven’t read the book. It’s such a specific world and when you’re creating a character, you need to work with the information you have on the page, and if there was extra information it would have been very muddy. I’m looking forward to reading it when we’ve finished filming.


Can you tell us about Bríd?

Bríd lives with her husband, mother and two kids and is essentially a farmer’s wife. She’s superficially very recognisable – a mother, a wife, a daughter – but actually she’s holding on to something that happened to her in the past. She’s holding onto the fact Tommy Burke was meant to marry her 20 years ago and never turned up. She’s also someone with incredibly low esteem and she drinks. I think Bríd is filled with shame because of her relationship with her mother, because she was ditched at the altar, and because she’s been told she was not attractive. She’s been made to feel crap about herself. I think the village is filled with people who she feels talks about her all the time and keeps her in that place of feeling rejected at the altar.


What’s Bríd’s relationship like with her husband Anthony?

They’ve been married a long time, He swooped in when Tommy didn’t turn up. I think Bríd feels that the marriage was a business transaction; that Anthony got the farm and that’s why he he had any interest in her. I think she’s treated the marriage like that, I think there’s a lot of affection, a lot of history, and they have two lovely children together, but the marriage isn’t going too well. It could be better.


What was Bríd’s relationship like with Tommy Burke?

I think Tommy Burke was the local stud and she hates him for what he’s done. That humiliation, she’s never gotten over it.


Bríd and Evelyn used to be best friends, what happened?

Evelyn Ross was Bríd’s best friend; I think they were incredibly close when they were girls and then boys come into the picture and they sort of drifted. I love how Bríd and Evelyn are written, it’s an interesting study into female friendship that superficially places Tommy at the centre of it. It’s actually about when girls become teenagers there’s a shift in the power dynamic, and it’s a beautifully well observed friendship.


Can you tell us about Bríd and PJ?

Bríd’s relationship with PJ is really quite beautiful. I think as they get to know each other for various reasons there’s such a joy between them; they really like each other. Viewers will see lots of spontaneous laughter and it’s nice to show people growing closer without noticing they’re growing closer.


The characters of Bríd and PJ are not usually made the romantic leads in stories or given the great love story, the great will they/won’t they?

I think PJ finds Bríd funny and light and joyful even though Bríd thinks she’s low, grumpy and sullen. And Bríd finds PJ so kind and he’s so funny and it just softens her completely. I just love their relationship so much.