ronagh Waugh is an actress in-demand with two new ITV dramas and more to come later this year, but says she has struggled to mentally shrug off playing a serial killer’s wife in The Fall.
The Northern Irish star, 39, can currently be seen starring as DI Carol Farman opposite Adrian Dunbar’s singing detective Ridley.
She also plays Cara in The Suspect alongside Adrian Turner.
Waugh won praise for her portrayal of broken Sally Ann Spector, but admits the “dream role” which she played for all three seasons took its toll.
Speaking to the Standard, she explained: “The storylines were hugely dark and out of all the jobs, it has been the hardest to shrug mentally.
“It was quite difficult and quite isolating to play Sally Ann because she’s not part of the police team and from the first series on, Jamie [Dornan] and I would keep ourselves quite separate when we were working – I mean, we hung out when we weren’t.
“So it’s quite an isolating, lonely place because I was with the kids that played my children and did a lot of research, talked to women who were married or had relationships with serial killers and it was pretty heavy going.
“I look back on the time very fondly, but it was a tough job and tough role to play.”
And she got to work with Gillian Anderson on it too which was pretty cool.
“She’s a legend! I used to go in on days off or scenes off and sit behind the monitor and watch Gillian work so I could learn from her because she’s just incredible and she has been incredibly kind to me over the years. She had a say in my casting and was very supportive over me being cast.”
On the other side of the coin, Waugh played Cheryl Brady in Hollyoaks for five years. She not only cut her teeth as an actress on the Cheshire-set Channel 4 soap, she met “best friend for life” Kieron Richardson who plays Ste Hay.
She said: “Cheryl was such a fun character, what an absolute gift as an actor to get to play her. She was outrageous, funny, vulnerable, sensitive and just fantastic; I loved her, she had such spirit!
“Initially I was brought in as a comedic character, I did that for a couple of years and then, the producers I guess saw potential in what I was doing and I started to get more serious storylines and I think that’s what prepared me for moving into drama.
“I always say the casts and crew who work in soap are the hardest working in our industry; they work the craziest hours, they shoot about 15 pages a day, it’s wild! And sometimes you cross over so you can be filming between 25 and 30 episodes in one week – not the entire thing, but scenes across a board of 25-30 episodes.
“It’s a real training ground for the craft of acting in television and I love them so much for it and I think that’s what helped me go into The Fall because I had a confidence from Hollyoaks.”
Waugh welcomed her son Oisín with husband Richard Peacock in May 2021 via C-section and returned to work just three weeks later in another ITV drama, Our House.
Ridley is her fourth role since giving birth and even while we chat over Zoom she is multi-tasking with her adorable son strapped to her chest in a baby carrier as she runs errands.
“I think I just feel very privileged that people want me to work and are inviting me to work. As an actress over 35 that can often change whether you have a child or not so for me, I’m just incredibly grateful that people are interested in seeing my work and so you just make it work.”
Looking ahead, she has a film coming out in the autumn called Murmur in which she plays the mother of a young girl with autism.
“It’s a beautiful, beautiful film,” she enthused. “Everyone who was part of the production apart from myself is neuro-diverse so it was a really wicked experience that I really treasure. It took two years to make the film because of Covid.”
Unsurprisingly, she says she would also welcome the opportunity for more comedy roles.
“I did a couple of episodes of King Gary when I was heavily pregnant and I really enjoyed it. I’ve also done Derry Girls obviously, but I’d really love to get my teeth into a comedy.
“And I’d love to do another period drama. I’ve done an Agatha Christie film set in the 1920s, but I’d love to go further back, maybe Edwardian or Victorian. I’ll probably next time I talk to you regret that if I do get cast or something cause I’ll say the corsets are too tight!
“I’m always up for a challenge and one of the things that I love about my career is I’ve been able to be a chameleon and often people don’t recognise me from role to role. You know, they don’t know that I was Cheryl in Hollyoaks, or that I was Sally Ann in The Fall, often they don’t have the correlation and I feel like that’s good because it means that I’ve done my job.
“I want people to know my work more than they know me and I want to keep changing it up and challenging myself so it would be really nice to try something different next time.”
Ridley airs Sundays at 8pm on ITV. The Suspect starts on ITV on August 29 at 9pm.