When Derry Girls elbowed its way onto our screens in a blaze of riotous teenage frustrations in 2018, it became an instant cult classic, sitting somewhere between Father Ted and The Inbetweeners. Since then it’s taken on a life of its own.
It’s now 1996 and sarky teenager Erin Quinn (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), her sugar-addicted cousin Orla McCool (Louisa Harland), tightly wound best friend Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan), boy mad Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O’Donnell) and Michelle’s English cousin James McGuire (Dylan Llewellyn) are contemplating the future.
Created by Derry-native Lisa McGee, this six-part final season promises to be a madcap goodbye to remember, juxtaposed with the Northern Ireland Peace Process.
As well as returning favourites (boring Uncle Colm comes into his own in episode 1!) and spectacular, top-secret, guest stars popping up across the series, there are cracking and inventive new dilemmas and adventures. All played out against a pure 1990’s soundtrack and accessorised with eye-catching what-were-we-thinking?! fashion.
Here, Derry Girls stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, and Dylan Llewellyn, tell What To Watch more…
The Derry Girls stars on where the characters are when we rejoin them…
Saoirse-Monica Jackson, who plays Erin: “They’re still at school so, obviously, there’s a lot of madness that occurs around that.”
Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, who plays Michelle: “Lisa has moved them all on slightly within their friendship circles, relationships and maturity. It’s all stepped up a wee bit. You see things that they’ve never had to handle before in such depth. There's a real balance between the girls maturing and the classic Derry Girls madness.”
Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare: “They’re slightly older but not any wiser. They're very much the same bunch of idiots that you know and love!”
Louisa Harland, who plays Orla: “You pick up [in episode 1] with them getting their GCSE results. They’re all closer. Orla definitely feels closer to James.”
Dylan Llewellyn, who plays James: “I agree with that. Orla and James have a good bond. James is a Derry Girl now, so they’re a bit nicer to him. Sort of! It’s tough love. They're looking out for him and toughening him up.”
Nicola: [Laughing] “James and Orla are the only two nice ones when you think about it. They have good souls. The other three are very morally questionable!”
Madcap antics to look forward to…
Saoirse-Monica: “Because they’re slightly older there are a lot more big events. They have a break from the parents and go on a road trip - madness ensues as usual!”
Jamie-Lee: “Situations happen where Michelle’s pushed into growing up a wee bit. How she handles it… Well, it’s a storyline that I'm thrilled that Lisa trusts me with. I'm very excited for people to see it. It’s more edgy and serious. I loved doing it.”
Dylan: “James has got a few challenges this season. They also had me carry a lot of stuff like luggage. But I won’t say any more on that!”
Louisa: “It’s a very physical season for me too. But I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know what’s on the cutting room floor!”
Nicola: “We had a new dance to learn. I can’t tell you what it is, but it’s a Stars in Their Eyes episode! Jenny Joyce (Leah O’Rourke) does Shakespears Sister and it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Dylan: “And it’s hosted by Father Peter (Peter Campion) and Sister Michael!”
Derry Girls endings are famously poignant. What can we expect from the final episode?
Louisa: “It's the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement, so we’re working towards peace…”
Saoirse-Monica: “We leave on a note that the girls have to look at who they want to be in life. They have to make a decision to be adults. The world’s not going to wait on them. It’s quite a positive thing.”
Jamie-Lee: “The whole series is amazing. It’s not that it’s sad, it’s just that there are so many iconic things happening in it. Lisa has handled it brilliantly. It ends well.”
Nicola: “Lisa wanted to end at the point of the Good Friday Agreement, so we're tracing up towards that time. Every series has always been something really heart-wrenching, and this definitely is. There's a funeral - but we can't say whose! Lisa does endings so well.”
Did you take any keepsakes from the set?
Saoirse-Monica: “I’m going to hound them for Erin’s The Cranberries and Sinéad O’Connor posters! Lisa wants Angela Lansbury. I really wanted the Dolly Parton from the Quinn’s living room, but Ma Mary (Tara Lynn O’Neill) has already requested it!
“I’ve kept Erin’s Doc Martin boots, a pair of jeans, a top she’s had since series 1, and her school tie. Cathy Prior, our costume designer, has been absolutely incredible. She created Erin alongside me and brought in elements I’d never thought of.”
Jamie-Lee: “Having another set of creative eyes on a character and looking at it from a different perspective is imperative. It’s been brilliant to work with Cathy, and Robyn and Sophie in hair and make-up.
“I’ve kept a few of Michelle’s bits, like some of her jewellery and her uniform. Certain things mean a lot to me and I’ll keep them forever.”
Nicola: “I took Clare’s Baby G watch! I remember the very first day of filming. I walked into the trailer and saw it and was so excited because I never had one in the 90s. They were for rich kids. I only knew one girl that had one and I was really jealous. I kept Clare’s rainbow badges as well.”
Louisa: “Yeah, we all got our rainbow badges, that they wear on their uniforms. Actually, in this series I think we wear them on nearly every single one of our costumes. I got to keep a couple of class jumpers too. I desperately wanted the Céad Míle Fáilte sign in the Quinn’s house, but I just didn't try hard enough! I’ll miss playing Orla. It’s emotional that it’s ending.”
Dylan: “I completely agree. Working with this lot has been amazing. I managed to get my Doctor Who scarf that James wore to prom. I've also got a cool No Fear jacket.
“Derry Girls is a big part of our lives and we’re so proud of it. We get recognised, even with face masks. Especially in Ireland. [Laughing] People quote: ‘I’m a Derry Girl!’”
Nicola: “It’s quite strange. I remember filming series one and being a complete unknown. In series two you couldn’t walk down the street. The other day, it was so funny, someone said ‘You’re the wee lesbian from Bridgerton!’”
In the first episode the gang are horrified when dour headmistress Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney) implies they’ve failed their GCSEs.
Never ones to react rationally, they take the next logical (for them) step and break into the school for a sneak preview, only to end up in custody. Elsewhere, Erin’s adult family goes a bit Shallow Grave, when Granda Joe acquires a killer cat called Seamus!
Episode 1, Season 3 of Derry Girls debuts on Channel 4 on Tuesday, April 12 2022 at 9.15pm.
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With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and www.whattowatch.com covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.