In December 2019, former Red Rock actor Ann Skelly was watching the “amazing” HBO series Sharp Objects when she was moved to compile her wish list for the next 12 months.
etermined 2020 would be her year, Ann (24) put her career dreams “out into the universe” and, shortly after, her prayers were answered.
She was offered one of the leading roles in the new big-budget fantasy series The Nevers, which is already earning rave reviews in the US.
“All my favourite shows have been HBO shows, so I wrote down for my New Year’s Resolutions, like my dream journal: ‘In 10 years’ time, I’d like to be in an HBO show’,” she said.
“And then, four months later, I’m lying on the floor of my Travelodge and I’m on the phone to my agent going, ‘What?’.”
Set in Victorian London, in 1896, and created by Joss Whedon of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fame, The Nevers sees the city rocked to its core after a series of supernatural events gives some people – mainly women – strange abilities.
The show co-stars fellow Irish actor Laura Donnelly as Amalia, who runs an orphanage for those with extraordinary powers.
She is aided in her cause by Skelly, who takes on the role of brilliant inventor Penance.
Skelly said she loved the fact that the series is led by two Irishwomen, and said it had helped them connect from the outset – in addition to having “tea and gin”.
“It helped us bond a lot quicker,” she said. “In the chemistry read, my second audition, I was called in to read with Laura and I was pacing around outside the building.
“Then I went in and there was this Irish woman on the other side and I was like, ‘Oh, grand’. It was a relief.
“I can’t believe there’s two Irish people leading this massive HBO show, so I hope people in Ireland respond well to it as well. I know my mam and dad like it, so job done.”
For Skelly, the feisty female characters in the show are a real “reclamation” of how women in Victorian times were traditionally portrayed as being “straight-laced or prudish”.
She reckons the MeToo movement has helped propel real change when it comes to depictions of female characters, and having two women taking on the lead roles in a major series is proof of that.
“It’s reclaiming them as actual people who have a laugh, who face big world events or grief or tricky situations with humour or are just having a bit of craic because that’s what you do in life,” she said.
When the show was aired last month for the first time in the States, HBO Max recorded its best ever debut figures for an original series, delighting senior television bosses.
The two female stars are supported by A-listers Olivia Williams, James Norton, Ben Chaplin, Nick Frost, Eleanor Tomlinson and Pip Torrens.
Skelly’s breakout role was in Red Rock, in which she played the recurring role of Rachel Reid.
She also played Beth Winters opposite Jamie Dornan in the drama mini-series Death and Nightingales three years ago.
County Down actor Dornan went as far as to predict she was going to be a huge star of the future.
Skelly was previously nominated for a Rising Star award and a Best Actress in a Leading Role gong at the 2018 IFTAs.
All episodes of The Nevers will be available from May 17 on Sky Atlantic and streaming service NOW