Galway’s Linda Bhreathnach heads to the States
When Galway won the UNESCO ‘City of Film’ title in December 2014, it was emblazoned on the cover of Hollywood Trade magazine, according to one of Galway’s brightest film stars, Linda Bhreathnach, who was in California at the time.
Linda inherited the American citizenship from her mother who lived in New York for nearly 20 years. The popular Ros na Rún actress had always planned on spending some time in America. “California just makes sense for me,” she says.
“I’m so into Yoga and healthy vegetarian eating and that’s so big there, so there are so many like-minded people. The weather is amazing and there is so much outdoor stuff to do. I’ll be teaching a Yoga Class in Griffith Park and perhaps one on the beach also,” she says of her life in Los Angeles.
In 2015, Linda travelled to Kerala in South India, where she studied to become a Yoga instructor and keeps a Yoga and healthy lifestyle blog called ‘Yoga Veggie Glow’, which can be found on Facebook.
“I created a Yoga blog to share some of the healthy lifestyle and wisdom I’ve learned along the way; a few small healthy changes can change a person’s life. I share little tips and simple meal plans on my Facebook blog,” she says.
The atmosphere in LA, according to Linda is “so chilled”, and it’s a “real hub for creatives” like her. She feels she’ll fit right in with the healthy, active lifestyle there and feels very lucky to experience life in America and to have the chance to travel.
“Maybe if my life had been different I would have travelled more when I was younger. I didn’t but I am certainly doing that now. I’ve travelled all over the world in the past few years,” she says, listing off the places she’s been; Thailand, Milan, Florence, Pamplona and Toronto are just a handful of places she’s visited.
“I spent six weeks walking all across Spain on the Camino De Santiago. I walked over 800km in one go with a backpack on my back. That experience gave me such courage. I was so frightened going out there on my own, but I think doing that has given me the courage to pursue further adventures and that has led me to California,” she says.
No matter where she goes, Linda will never forget her Galway roots. The Rosmuc native was Miss Galway 2007 and was a runner up in the Miss Ireland contest, but also started her acting career in Galway, and is proud to hail from the UNESCO City of Film.
“[This title] really makes us a player in the international field of filmmaking. Galway has fantastic infrastructure and a skilled workforce. It’s an ideal place for filmmakers to shoot. Everything they need is here – not to mention stunning and varied scenery,” says Linda.
Linda has been acting since she finished school at the age of 17, but had a strong interest in pursuing an acting career from the “ridiculously young” age of five, when she staged shows with her sisters in their family home, cordially inviting their parents to the ‘Performance in the sitting room at 3pm – free entry’.
“My parents were always very kind and encouraging. So I suppose this nurtured my aspirations and so I never really doubted I’d pursue it as a career,” says Linda. But she did have one or two other dreams for her future too.
“There were definitely two other moments in my childhood when I considered being a baker so that I could make my own delicious treats every day; and I also considered being a fire woman as the trucks were cool. In the end I opted for the acting… I figured I’d have a taste of more worlds this way.”
Since she began her acting career as a teenager, Linda has played various roles, including Róise de Búrca in Ros na Rún, and the more recent role of Sarah O’Regan in Corp Agus Anam. Not many can say they walked into their dream career straight from school, but Linda was thrust straight into the working world when she took on the role of Róise.
“It was really weird. I didn’t really realise I was a child living in an adult world. I wasn’t really prepared. I wanted to act and I wanted to be a grown-up but really I was just a teenager. I remember never being able to relate to all the conversations that would happen at work. This used to make me feel somewhat inept,” she says of her early acting days.
Though she loved being an actress, she remembers feeling sad that she never had the typical college experience that her peers enjoyed. But in many ways, she felt she had that with her work.
“The TG4 show Seacht was like going to college. There were a load of us living together in this big old house in Belfast, acting together every day and socialising together at the weekends,” she said, remembering her role as Eithne in the Irish language show.
Linda has done a lot of work with the Irish language, with her most recent show Corp Agus Anam receiving high praise when series two aired in 2014. The second series of the IFTA award-winning show was also nominated for a Prix Europa and received “fantastic reviews”, which Linda says is extremely encouraging. And now there’s talk of a third series.
“We couldn’t have hoped for a better reaction [to series two]. All the national newspapers gave it fantastic reviews. The writer and director, Darach Mac an Iomaire and producer, Paddy Hayes, are such a magical team. They have such a clear vision and work so well together,” she says of her Corp Agus Anam colleagues.
“There is talk of a third series, which would be fantastic. It’s getting better every year. It’s exciting to see Irish drama go in this direction. We’re getting better at creating our own niche I think. Corp Agus Anam is being classed as Celtic Noir and being compared to shows such as The Bridge and Love/Hate. It really is holding its own out there in the world of big, bad, beautiful TV drama.”
The character of Sarah is one that is close to Linda’s heart as it’s her most recent role, but when asked to choose her favourite character, she simply can’t decide.
“Corp Agus Anam has special meaning for me as I think it’s such an important form of storytelling. Darach [the
writer and director] bases all his stories on real-life events, so I feel it gives stories a voice they might not have otherwise had.
“Of course my first role in television was so exciting – playing Róise in Ros na Rún. All I ever wanted was to be a professional actress, so when I was cast in that at 17 it was a real dream come true,” Linda says, reminiscing on the start of her career.
“Seacht was wonderful as well. I made some of my best friends on that show, not to mention on Ros na Rún. But to be honest, I couldn’t choose just on character as my favourite. I’d feel I was somehow slighting my other characters.”
But she feels she can really relate to Eithne in Seacht. Eithne is a young college student, and while working on the show, Linda was also studying hard for her Arts degree in NUI Galway – seizing the opportunity to go to college after all.
Fiona, the daughter of a publican who was also a politician in The Running Mate was another character she could relate to, as this was who she was in real life. But after some thought, she says she can relate to all of her characters – some perhaps a little more than others.
“Sometimes I wished my characters reacted in different ways. I wanted them to be stronger. I’d love to see more shows where women have more pivotal roles and aren’t a varying degree of damsel in distress,” she says. The show Girls by Lena Dunham is one she enjoys and refers to as “refreshing” with its strong female characters.
One thing that all of Linda’s characters have in common is the use of the Irish language. To Linda, the Irish language is part of who we are as people; “The remnants and nuances of it are still to be heard in how we Irish people speak English… how we phrase things like ‘I’m after being to the shop’ for instance. ‘I’m after’ isn’t really English. It’s Irish English. It’s a direct translation from the Irish language. This is dotted over how we speak,” says Linda, who was an official spokesperson for ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’, a nationwide campaign to promote the Irish language.
“The point is that even though as a nation we may not be speaking the Irish language, in a way are; the syntax is still alive and well. It’s part of our collective psyche. It’s connected to who we are in a very deep way.
“Our Irish language is part of our identity as a nation. Even if a person only knows one single Irish word, it is still so powerful. It is powerful and assuring to have a national cultural identity and TG4 helps nurture and contain that so that others may have the privilege of experiencing their native language in a modern way. It has been a genuine honour for me to have been part of that story – part of that preservation. But we all are in some small way, without even realising it – it’s part of who we are.”
TG4 and Ros na Rún, in Linda’s opinion, have been pivotal in Galway’s success in securing the title of UNESCO City of Film, as they have been “churning out” highly-skilled film professionals for years. To Linda, being able to say she came from the UNESCO City of Film is a “privilege”.
“People the world over will come to recognise Galway as a main player in the game of filmmaking. That is huge and wonderful and magical and we really deserve it and we will be more than able to live up to the title.
“I always viewed coming from Galway as a privilege – and indeed coming from Ireland. We very often don’t give our little island the credit it deserves. It may rain a lot, but it is so damn beautiful and the people are so full of chats and life and loveliness. There’s a lot of beauty in the simplicity of our lives here. So it has always felt good to tell people where I’m from. The title just adds to that now.”
And coming from such a strong cultural city will surely have its benefits for Linda’s career, as she looks to the future and prepares to take the next big step in her career.
“I always worked by myself, representing myself and getting work through word of mouth and by keeping an ear to the ground. But I finally decided it was time to be seen for a wider range of roles, so I signed with an agency in Dublin [Nolan Muldoon Agency]. I’m very excited about it,” she says.
“There may be one or two things coming up this year, but I’m never convinced it will happen until I’m walking on set! So I’m not sure, but it is exciting to feel I’m moving into the next stage in my career and opening up to all the possibilities that are out there.”
In fact, Linda sees a bright future for herself, whether she continues her acting career or not. As long as she’s happy and contented in herself, regardless of what happens in her career, she feels she’ll be doing well.
“That’s kind of how I set goals. They’re more to do with general life-enjoyment. Really that’s what it all boils down to,” she says, imparting some final words of wisdom.
“Acting is my great passion and it will always be part of me. I don’t think there will ever come a day when I’m not an actress. My main ambition would be to remain contented and happy with my little life… count my blessings… look on the bright side, and keep the chin up.”
This article was originally posted in GALWAYnow in Spring 2015.