Adapted by Sarah Phelps from the best-selling novels by Tana French, the eight-part crime drama Dublin Murders (airing on Starz) focuses on two seemingly unrelated murder investigations – a young talented ballerina and a vivacious free-spirited woman – led by detectives Rob Reilly (Killian Scott) and Cassie Maddox (Sarah Greene). As the Dublin police wonders whether the cases are linked and Cassie goes undercover to look for answers, past secrets threaten to derail things, both personally and professionally.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Irish actress Sarah Greene talked about why this project really got under her skin, developing the dynamic with co-star Killian Scott, what she grew to appreciate about her character, why she’d never be able to go undercover like Cassie does, the dark sense of humor on set, and what she did to shake this world once the shoot was done. She also talked about her next TV project, the 12-episode series Normal People, and the TV show that she’d love to do a guest spot on.
Collider: How did you get involved with this show?
SARAH GREENE: I got a call from my agent and from Julie Harkin, who’s an incredible casting directing in the UK. I was sent the first two scripts, and I just devoured them and wanted to know more. It just wouldn’t leave me, especially the character. She really resonated with me. But it was a long process. I was told by my agent that they had gone somewhere else, and I was heartbroken. I was on holiday and I was checking IMDB, every day, to see who had been cast. I really felt like this was my part, and that doesn’t often happen to me. It just really got under my skin. And then, I got the joyful call from my agent that said it had actually come back around. There was just something about it, where I knew I was gonna play the part, and that never happens. And we were in the dark, in the same way that the audience is, watching it. We were getting scripts, as we were shooting, so I didn’t really know where the story was gonna go. I’d read the books, but I didn’t know they were gonna be plotted into each other. So, it was a really exciting process, making it. It was a really exciting project to be a part of, with an incredible cast. I’ve always been a massive fan of Killian Scott and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor anyways, so to get to work with them was absolutely a bonus. We just had great people working on it. Most of our crew had just come off of Game of Thrones, and they were just so skilled and so talented. It was a really enriching and satisfying experience, from start to finish.
There’s definitely some dark and pretty intense material in this, so I would imagine that it’s reassuring to be surrounded by a crew that knows what they’re doing and to have a scene partner, like Killian Scott.
GREENE: Yeah. We got to work together for about two weeks, before we started shooting, and we just went through each moment and each scene together. Sarah Phelps is such an incredibly detailed writer. She’s famous for bringing literature to life, like Dickens and Agatha Christie. And so, we knew we were in safe hands, in each moment. Everything was written, so a lot of our work was done for us, in the writing. We just had to tell him the truth, really, and be in the moment, and try not to get in our own way.
With these kinds of stories, it really needs the storytelling to hold things together.
GREENE: Exactly. And working with Killian was just a joy. He’s so spontaneous and so present that it was amazing, and we both work the same way. It was a really good pairing and a good match. And it could have been a disaster. We’d never worked together before, unlike myself and Moe [Dunford], who plays Dan. We’ve done so many jobs together. So, to be in an intense relationship, like Cassie and Rob have, it’s important that you do get on, and we’re lucky that we did.
Because these characters all have layers to them that we don’t see or learn about for awhile, were there things about her that you grew to appreciate, as you played her? As you learned more about her, did she feel like a very different character, by the end of this, than you thought she might be, at the beginning of it?
GREENE: They all go on such a journey, especially Rob and Cassie. They go to hell and back, during this show, and it felt like we did, too. Cassie’s an actress, and a way better one than I am because her life is on the line. When she’s undercover, one wrong move, and she could get killed. We had a detective on set with us, and he would talk us through some of the hardest aspects of it. Anyone who goes to work, every day, and puts themselves in these situations, I’m in awe of them. I can’t imagine having to it to walk into murder scenes, and then trying to let that go, at the end of the day, and going home to your own family to live a normal life. They’re really commendable people, who do this kind of work.
And adding that layer of being undercover, you’re immersing yourself in it, and your mind and body don’t necessarily know that you’re pretending.
GREENE: Exactly. I’ve always said that about theater. Your body doesn’t know that it’s not real. You’re putting yourself into this intense emotional state, every night, and that’s kind of what undercover is, as well. You’re completely embodying this person and, at the same time, you’re constantly studying people and trying to get as much information as possible out of them, without getting caught. With that anxiety, I could never do it. It’s bad enough to be on stage, doing it. I couldn’t imagine doing it in real life, with the threat of getting found out and possibly getting murdered for it. They’re amazing people.
Even though you are acting and you get to go home, at the end of the day, it still must get in your head a bit. So, when this was over, how did you shake it off?
GREENE: We were exhausted, at the end of this. We put our heart and soul into making this. So, two weeks after I finished, my sister was due to give birth. She gave birth on that day, and I live with her and her husband in London. I became an aunt, for the first time, and took two months off, so that I could be around and help them, as much as possible, and smell his gorgeous little lead. It was the perfect anecdote for what we’d just been through. So, I took two months off, before I started Normal People. It was perfect. I got to be myself again and be completely surrounded by family, which was lovely. I was away for seven months, so I’d missed a lot of my sister’s pregnancy, and it was really important for me to be with family. You do burn out, going from job to job. You have to be careful of your mental health and your body. I’ve been in a really fortunate position that I can take time off, and I think it’s really important just to take stock. Saying no is quite important. You do take a moment for yourself, otherwise your head is all over the place and you’re not yourself anymore ‘cause you’re constantly stepping into other people’s shoes.
When you do something like this and you’re telling a story like this, are there fun days on set? Do you try to not take some of the days too seriously, or do you just have to stay focused on the work until the project is done, when you’re doing material like this?
GREENE: No. Because it was so dark, there was such a dark sense of humor. You have to find some humor, at the end of the day. The material was really dark, but we would try to have a laugh, as much as possible. We definitely found humor in moments of real darkness. You also don’t really want to fully shake off the darkness when you go home at night ‘cause it’s quite hard to step back into that. The character definitely stays with you. Especially with Rob and Cassie, they both dealing with their mental health and previous traumas, and their demons are constantly trying to catch up with them. So, like anyone does, you just try to find some light, in the day. We did laugh a lot on set, but we knew it was also quite serious, at the same time.
You’ve also done another series, with Normal People, playing the mother of one of the story’s protagonists. When that came your way, what was your reaction to that? Were you surprised that was the role that was coming your way?
GREENE: I was absolutely thrilled ‘cause I had read the book at Christmas. My mom got it for me as present, and I just devoured it. When I was approached, I had forgotten that I’m the same age as Lorraine. She’s 35 and so am I. I forgot that, yes, I could possibly have a 19-year-old son. So, I was absolutely over the moon to get that, and to work with the likes of Lenny Abrahamson and Hettie Macdonald, and a writer (Sally Rooney) that I just think is one of the best of our generation, who was also involved with the writing of the series, as well. And it started really true to the book, which I was really happy about. And Lorraine is just such a gorgeous character. She’s the voice of reason, she’s no nonsense, and she’s so warm. She’s such a brilliant mom. And then, just being around Paul [Mescal] and Daisy [Edgar-Jones], who are incredible actors and incredible people, I can’t talk highly enough about them. They led that show. The first read-through, it was so great to sit there and see how exciting it was for this incredibly young cast. I’m really excited about the show, as an audience member, as well. I’m excited to be a part of it.
Is there a current TV series that you watch, that you’d love to do a fun guest spot or guest arc on?
GREENE: Succession. I love that show. It’s so good. I’ve just watched the first season. I’m waiting to sit back and watch the second season, all at once. I absolutely loved it, so that’s a show that I’d love to be a part of. And I adore Fleabag.
Dublin Murders airs on Sunday nights on Starz.