Gemma-Leah Devereux on living the dream: ‘It’s about scaring myself, pushing, trying new things’

Gemma-Leah Devereux on living the dream: ‘It’s about scaring myself, pushing, trying new things’

Ireland’s feistiest family is set to return to our screens with more secrets, lies and skulduggery on the shorelines of the west of Ireland.

The third and final series of hit drama Smother brings us back into the chaotic lives of the Ahern family, who have been in turmoil ever since the discovery of patriarch Denis’s body near their plush family home.

As Anna, a grieving stepmum with a ruthless streak, Gemma-Leah Devereux relished the opportunity to take on a role unlike any she’d done before. And now she’s excited to see what Sunday-night audiences will make of the show’s twisty finale.

In fact, the Dublin actress is looking forward to watching the series with her family, and having fun at them guessing what the Aherns will get up to next.

“Me and my family if we’re watching something we always get together. The first season we had a big bet going on. And they all got it wrong which is great!” she says of Smother’s playful poker face.

“Season one was very different to season two — season two was very explosive and this one is different again. I’m really excited for people to see this season.” 

She obviously doesn’t want to give away any spoilers, but there will certainly be repercussions for the Aherns following the reveal to both Finn (Dean Fagan) and the local gardaí that there was more to Denis’s accident than meets the eye. It’s very apparent that there’s more trouble coming down the tracks for this clandestine clan.

“There are loads of twists and turns, but I think for the characters as well, it’s just really nice to revisit them and see where they are. I always think with anything when it’s going to end, it’s three and out, you can kind of do what you want — it’s going to be a very exciting season.”

Gemma-Leah Devereux as Anna Ahern in Smother, entering its third and final season on RTÉ


For Gemma-Leah, it’s a fitting finale to the series that she has worked on for the past three years. Even though the ruthless Anna spiked arch-rival and recovering addict Elaine’s drink in series two, the actress has a lot of affection for the character.

“When Smother came along, I auditioned and then was offered Anna. As soon as I read Anna, maybe the kind of thing that happens to me when I’m making characters, this voice kind of came out at me off the page. I had this image of her very buttoned up.

“I feel for Anna. She’s very different to me, which is also the reason I love playing her because I love playing characters that are nothing like me. I love shedding my skin completely in characters.

“You start relating to them and you start giving them breaks, because that’s the only way you can play it. I mean, if you really thought they were horrible, I don’t think you’d be able to play it.” 

Gemma-Leah has had a busy run of work since first appearing on our screens in the period drama, The Tudors. Since then, she has relished mixing up her big and small-screen roles in projects like Striking Out, Cardboard Gangsters and the hit Irish crime thriller Broken Law.

The last few years have been more fruitful still — she shaved her head for a lead role in director Ruth Meehan’s The Bright Side, a well-received drama in which she played a pithy comedienne whose life is upended when she receives a cancer diagnosis.

She played the iconic Liza Minnelli and got to work with Jessie Buckley and Renée Zellweger in what turned out to be an Oscar-winning performance for the US star. Zellweger played Judy Garland in Judy, a movie biopic about the tragic star’s life.

Long fascinated with Hollywood stars of the golden era, Gemma-Leah discovered she had been cast while watching a film about the icon.

“I adore Liza Minelli. The morning I got the call that I got the Judy gig, I was watching Judy Garland.

That was an amazing role and I loved doing a biopic, because the character is already there. It’s already built. So it’s all in research.”

Gemma-Leah Devereux, floating on air ahead of a busy year of writing and acting

She and Zellweger first met while at a wig fitting for their characters prior to production.

“She’s just a class act. She knows everyone’s name, she’s really behind everyone, she gives everyone time. She’s so sweet and so on her game and knew that character inside out but also just played, which was really exciting to see.” Smother has increased Gemma-Leah’s profile further, and as the show approaches the end of its run, she has affectionate memories of the experience of filming in and around the Co Clare town of Lahinch.

“The location is absolutely beautiful. Everyone’s so lovely. Dathaí Keane, the director, made sure that Clare gave as much as it could to set the scene of Smother. It definitely is a character and I think it adds to the mood and to the colour. The west of Ireland is the most beautiful place to be in the world, especially when the weather is nice. We all got into sea swimming as well.” 

On her days off during the last series, she would shadow the director on set to learn more about this aspect of filmmaking. While acting remains her primary passion, she has long been fascinated with the filmmaking process and wanted to see whether it was something she wanted to explore further. She has also written a pilot for a TV series she’s keen to develop.

“I’ve always just been so interested in what everyone’s doing on set. Acting is my first love, that will always be my first love. I’ve always wanted to be an actress since I was a kid. But I also think it’s great to branch out. I’ve written a pilot that I’m trying to get made at the moment.

“Writing has been so great. Instead of playing with people you’re on your own, creating all the characters yourself. It’s been a really interesting look at doing it a different way. Last season I asked to shadow, just out of pure interest to see do I want to go down that road.

“I think I would definitely like to do something at some point for sure. I think life in general, with any career, it’s all about learning. To me, it’s all

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