From Derry Girls….to Derry Women! FEMAIL reveals how cast changed

From Derry Girls….to Derry Women! FEMAIL reveals the varying fortunes of the cast as hit show comes to an end – from mingling with Hollywood A-listers to one being left homeless after her flat burned down

  • Channel 4’s hit show Derry Girls came to an end last night after three seasons 
  • Series, inspired by writer Lisa McGee, has been hugely popular since 2018
  • Followed four teenagers from Derry as they navigate through high school 
  • Actors have had varying success from the series, including lead Saorise-Monica
  • While she is yet to star in any blockbusters, she is due to appear in DC’s The Flash
  • Biggest star from show  is Nicola Coughlan, who went on to appear in Bridgerton

From brushing shoulders with the Hollywood A-list to starring in a widely-panned Christian Western, the cast of Derry Girls have come a long way since the series first aired in 2018.

The hit Channel 4 show, which is based on a group of 16-year-old school pupils living in Ireland’s Londonderry during the 1994 conflicts, came to an end last night after three seasons. 

The series, inspired by writer Lisa McGee, who created the show, followed the Derry Girls as they juggled the pressures of high school along with the complex political situation in Northern Ireland.

It starred Erin, played by Saoirse Monica Jackson-  her cousin Orla, portrayed by Louisa Harland, pals Michelle (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and Claire (Nicola Coughlan) and Michelle’s English cousin, James played by Dylan Llewellyn.

From brushing shoulders with the Hollywood A-list to starring in a widely-panned Christian Western, the cast of Derry Girls have come a long way since the series first aired in 2018

Set in mid-1990s Northern Ireland during ‘the Troubles’, it showed the teenagers living through the period of conflict that didn’t end until the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, as the battle over whether Northern Ireland should leave or remain in the United Kingdom came to an end.

Juxtaposed with the group of pupil’s comical teenage problems, the series was  praised by critics and fans.

However  much has changed for the cast since the programme first aired in 2018 – from landing roles in big superhero blockbusters to appearing in Netflix shows like Bridgerton. 

Here FEMAIL reveals the varying fortunes for the cast of Derry Girls as the show comes to an end…  

NICOLA COUGHLAN

Nicola Coughlan, 35, has been the most successful member of the Derry Girls cast so far, having landed a role in Bridgerton which has seen her catapulted to the A-list 

However before landing her role in the show, she was working part-time in an optician having suffered from depression 

Born in 1987 in Galway, Nicola, 35, decided she wanted to become an actress at the age of five. 

She graduated with a degree in English and Classical Civilisation from the National University of Ireland before training at the Oxford School of Drama and Birmingham School of Acting.

SIOBHAN MCSWEENEY

Before landing her role as Sister Michael in Derry Girls, Siobhán McSweeney was widely known as a theatre actor but had starred in The Fall (pictured) 

Before landing her role as Sister Michael in Derry Girls, Siobhán McSweeney was widely known as a theatre actor.

She had starred in The Fall and Channel 4’s No Offence, but had done little TV work elsewhere. 

Since TV audiences fell in love with her character, she has gone on to take on more presenting gigs – among which has been hosting Channel 4’s The Great Pottery Throw Down. 

She told The Independent she was drawn to Pottery Throw Down because it ‘doesn’t make a fuss over certain things’. 

Meanwhile she compared the job to a ‘side-hustle’, telling WhatToWatch: ‘Every actor needs a side hustle, and for years I’ve been pulling pints or teaching or whatever.’ 

Despite her success, she has faced a difficult few years since the programme first aired.

In 2018 her father, Traolach, died,  before her aunt Betsy died nine months later.

In November 2019 her flat in London caught fire and she lost everything.

In March 2020, she confessed she was left with anxiety after the fire.

She said: ‘It takes me ages to leave the house, wherever I am. I have to go around plugging out everything and triple checking everything.’

Left homeless, she then suffered a mystery illness. 

When the pandemic struck, she was staying with a friend and feeling anxious because her asthma placed her in the vulnerable category. 

She told The Times: ‘By the time the pandemic hit I was in this state of crisis survival, I suppose because I was moving from crisis to crisis.’ 

The actor has faced a challenging few years after the death of her father and aunt, while her flat burnt down in a fire 

After suffering from depression, she left London and returned to Ireland where she worked part-time at an optician.

The Irish actress shot to fame portraying Clare Devlin in Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls, with many fans considering her a fan favourite. 

After the first series aired in 2018, she also played Hannah Dalton in Harlots. 

Meanwhile after she made her West End debut in The Donmar Warehouse’s production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Evening Standard named her ‘one of the Rising Stars of 2018’.

In 2018, Nicola penned a comment piece for The Guardian, detailing the pain of being described as ‘a fat girl’ and ‘overweight little girl’ by a theatre critic in recent years.

She wrote: ‘I’m very lucky to get to use my body to become all these fascinating women. But the prism through which my body is viewed is inescapable.

‘I know I’m not alone; women in my industry are put under constant scrutiny for their looks. It affects male actors as well – I had messages from them – but the vast majority of feedback was from women.

‘Something in our society tells us that women’s bodies are fair game for scrutiny in a way that men’s simply are not.’

However it was when she took on the role of Penelope Featherington, the youngest Featherington daughter, in Netflix smash hit period drama Bridgerton in 2020 that her star really soared.

She has since been invited to the Met Gala, appeared on a variety of hit programmes including RuPaul’s Drag Race and  was named one of Vogue’s Best Dressed Women of 2021. 

Last year, Nicola explained her displeasure at being asked about her shape, saying ‘every time I’m asked about my body in an interview it makes me deeply uncomfortable’.

In a series of tweets, she wrote: ‘Can we please stop asking women about their weight in interviews, especially when it completely irrelevant.

‘I’m seeing a lot of interviews from 10 years ago where people go ‘Oh weren’t the questions so inappropriate!’ unfortunately it’s still happening.

 ‘Every time I’m asked about my body in an interview it makes me deeply uncomfortable and so sad I’m not just allowed to just talk about the job I do that I so love,’ she wrote.

‘It’s so reductive to women when we’re making great strides for diversity in the arts, but questions like that just pull us backwards.’

The actress explained she is ‘not a body positivity activist’ and said her image is not something she defines herself by.

She added: ‘Also, and I mean this in the nicest way ah possible, I’m not a body positivity activist, I’m an actor I would lose or gain weight if an important role requirement.

‘My body is the tool I use to tell stories, not what I define myself by. So yeah, it’s 2021 it would be nice if we didn’t have to keep having this conversation.’

Meanwhile she’s wracked up over 2 million followers on Instagram, who are often left fawning over her holiday snaps and photos of behind-the-scenes red carpet events. 

She also recently hinted she has secured a role in the upcoming live-action Barbie.

The Bridgerton star confirmed that she is starring in a project alongside Ncuti Gatwa as she spoke at Netflix’s Bridgerton FYC event in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Ncuti appeared to hint that their joint project is the upcoming Barbie film as he shared a snap of the pair to Instagram alongside the caption, ‘a pair of dolls’.

SAOIRSE-MONICA JACKSON

Lead Derry Girl Saoirse-Monica Jackson, 28, was born in Derry, where her parents ran a village pub. 

She later left to train in acting at the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester. 

After landing her role in Derry Girls, she was nominated for the IFTA Gala Television Award for Best Female Performance for her role in the show. 

While Saorise-Monica has had a slower start to her career than Nicola, she has already landed a big role in Hollywood following the end of the Channel 4 show. 

She is set to star in the upcoming DC movie The Flash alongside Ezra Miller, who has played the title character in Suicide Squad, Batman vs Superman and both cuts of Justice League. 

Her character is yet to be confirmed, although the movie is due to be released next year. 

Saoirse-Monica has garnered a health 300k fans on Instagram, where she often posts snaps from her holidays as well as alongside her boyfriend DJ Denis Sulta, 29. 

Lead Derry Girl Saoirse-Monica Jackson, 28, is following in Nicola’s footsteps by heading to Hollywood and is set to appear in DC’s superhero film The Flash next year 

Derry Girls was Saorise-Monica’s first big role, having trained in acting  at the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester

JAMIE-LEE O’DONNELL 

Jamie-Lee, 29, who played Michelle in the series, was born to a large family in Derry.

She began acting at a young age in school plays. Upon graduation, she decided to pursue it professionally despite not being able to afford drama school.

She instead studied performing arts at De Montfort University in Bedfordshire.

She began auditioning and dividing her time between England and home, taking part in theatrical productions and working as a dancer for promotions and pantomimes.

She previously said: ‘Michelle really thinks she’s maybe just a bit too big for the place she was born in and she’s ready to take on the world one swearword at a time. 

‘She’s really feisty, really ballsy, doesn’t really care about authority, just sort of up for anything and up for a laugh.’

Jamie-Lee, 29, who played Michelle in the series, has found varying success since the show, appearing in the widely panned Channel 4 series Screw and an American Christian rom-com called Redeeming Love 

Like many of her costars, Derry Girls representing Jamie-Lee’s first big break into acting (pictured, before taking on the role) 

Her acting roles since Derry Girls have been limited, although she did appear in one of the lead roles of Channel 4’s police prison drama Screw.

However the show was slammed by ‘disappointed’ viewers who criticised the ‘editing’ and branded the acting ‘sh***’.

She also appeared in Redeeming Love, a movie described as an ‘American Christian Western romance film’ which was released earlier this year to poor reviews. 

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, just 13 per cent of 24 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 3.9/10.

She previously explained she was shocked by the reaction to the show, telling the Irish Times: ‘I didn’t realise I’d be so intimidated by [the fame]. I never expected to be at this level for a start, and I definitely didn’t expect to get recognised, six, seven times a day, or for it to happen to my family.

‘But I understand why it happens and everyone who comes up is a fan of the show.’

LOUISA HARLAND 

Louisa, 29, who played the kooky Orla in the show, doesn’t currently have any future projects announced 

Much like her colleagues, Derry Girls was also her big break – and she has been widely praised for her role as Orla and the representation of autism on screen

Louisa, 29, was born in Dublin but, like several of her Derry Girls co-stars, went on to train in England, at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London.

Her teenage debut as an actor came as Aiden Gillen’s daughter Kayleigh on RTÉ drama series Love/Hate in 2011.

Much like her colleagues, Derry Girls was also her big break – and she has been widely praised for her role as Orla and the representation of autism on screen.

However she confessed she is unsure about the level of fame and the pressures which come with the success of the show. 

She told Dublin Telegraph: ‘I’m so afraid of the internet, that’s not even something that I was aware of.

‘It is so terrifying being a woman and doing comedy because there’s this belief that women are not as funny. 

‘I think the fear of doing comedy as a woman is huge. So definitely if people find what you do funny, that is very gratifying.’ 

Meanwhile Louisa also spoke about her co-stars Nicola’s success, saying: ‘It’s just so crazy. I said this to her as well: ‘It’s so bizarre, but also it feels very correct.”

Since the show, she has appeared in vampire comedy The Boys From County Hell, which was released in 2020.

However much like her colleague Jamie-Lee, she doesn’t currently have any future roles publicly announced. 

DYLAN LLEWELLYN 

Dylan, from Surrey, has a number of projects lined up following the success of Derry Girls, including two TV series which are set to be released this year  

Before appearing in Derry Girls, Dylan starred in a number of British soaps including The Bill, Hollyoaks and Holby City 

Dylan is both the only male lead in the show, and the only English member of the core Derry Girls group.

He was born in Reigate, Surrey, the youngest of three boys born to English parents and attended a specialist school for children with autism, developmental language disorder and dyslexia.

Unlike several of his co-stars, he didn’t attend drama school and instead cut his teeth in some of the UK’s biggest soaps, with roles in The Bill, Hollyoaks and Holby City. 

Since appearing in Derry Girls, he has gone on to star in several other TV shows including Call the Midwife.

However his biggest roles are still to come this year – with the actor starring in two programmes set to hit the small screen in the next few months.

Firstly, he’s due to play a closeted university fresher in comedian Jack Rooke’s semi-autobiographical Channel 4 series Big Boys.

In the six-part series, he Jack is grieving the loss of his father and exploring his sexuality as he enrols at Brent University.

He told Attitude: ‘Everything about it was beautiful to me. I really wanted the part and to tell Jack’s story as best I could. I’m really proud to be in it.’

The actor is also due to appear in the new miniseries Pistol, a drama about the UK punk band Sex Pistols, which is set to premiere on Hulu on May 31.

Dylan appears as Wally Nightingale, who formed a band with schoolmates Cook and Jones in 1972 but was replaced by Rotten when they transformed into the Sex Pistols. He died in 1996 aged 40. 

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