Paddy Jenkins is an actor who’s been around the block a few times. He’s known for his comic roles, and he can also do serious, but sadly, for now anyway, it looks like his journey doesn’t look destined to stop at Westeros.
Paddy will star in the Big Telly Theatre Production of Puckoon at The MAC which starts on April 20. We caught up with him before the 10-night run in Belfast and chatted about some of his career milestones.
Paddy first came to most people’s attention in Northern Ireland as the wee Ballymena man in a series of adverts for Fairhill Shopping Centre.
He said: “It was a wee bit of a double-edged sword. For all the people who loved it there were the same amount of people who hated it.
“I remember being up in Ballymena driving about in a bus that had a blown up photo of me on the side of it and the real me hanging out the top waving. We got torrents of abuse from this woman who hated the ad. She was calling me all the names of the day. I suppose I was like a local version of the ‘Go Compare’ man.
“What amazed me the most about that ad was four years after it first aired, I got called back to make another one and they took us to New York. I thought they were joking. It didn’t sink in until I was standing in front of the Statue of Liberty.”
Paddy is also very well-known to the Grand Opera House audiences, who’ll have seen him in many a panto.
He said: “I’m not a funny person. There are thousands of people funnier than me. My good friend John Linehan (May McFettridge) is one.
“But I think what works for me is me working with a writer. I love to see funny stuff written and give it my tuppence worth on top of that. I love the comedy stuff but I love the serious stuff.
“I’ve done Give My Head Peace with the Hole in the Wall gang, but I’ve also done a play with them about the paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth. I played the father of one of the victims, so I spent some time talking to a father of one of the real victims. That was the most challenging role I’ve ever played.”
One of the most poignant roles of his career was as Alex Higgins in Dancing Shoes: The George Best Story in The Grand Opera House.
Paddy explained: “I was playing Alex Higgins the night he died. I don’t think many actors will have been in that position. Playing someone on stage at the same time as that person died 300 yards up the street.”
Of the upcoming show in The MAC he said: “I was a bit too young for Spike Milligan. I didn’t know the story until I read the script. It breaks the fourth wall and the fifth wall. It took him four years to write and it nearly sent him mad and I’m trying to learn it in just two weeks.
“I was aware that Puckoon had been made into a film in Northern Ireland a few years back, I remember trying to get in to the rap party at O’Neill’s. I was doing panto at the time. It was an exclusive event and the bouncer wasn’t for letting us in.
“Elliott Gould (who starred in the film) was standing outside and he spots me and says, “Hello Paddy, it’s great to see you!” He brought us in and the bouncers stepped aside. Turns out Elliott Gould had seen me in the panto. I never expected that he’d know me before I knew him.”
Finally he explained how he managed to get a part in Game of Thrones, but why his scene never saw the light of day.
“I’d been picked for a scene where we were members of Grand Masters of Meereen and we were getting tortured for killing 163 slave children,” he said. “There was six or seven of us and we were hanging up and being beaten.
“Myself and another actor were meant to be on camera for the scene with the rest of the extras in the background. When they lined us up for the scene they put an extra where I was supposed to be. I didn’t cause a fuss, I thought sure why not give the fella his break.
“It took ages getting the scene set up, the make up was fantastic, all the while we were hanging there. When the director yelled ‘Action’ the guy who was in my place fainted.
“By the time they set up the scene again it had to be filmed in a rush and ended up on the cutting room floor.
“I took the money and ran and I got to work with Michelle MacLaren, the producer of Breaking Bad, who was directing that scene. Because the scene never made it at least I’ve got another chance to be in it.”
Paddy Jenkins stars in Puckoon at The MAC which opens on Wednesday April 20. Get your tickets here