The cast of Derry Girls

“We’ll mourn along with the audience”: the cast of Derry Girls on the end of an era

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Ahead of the release of series three next week, Stylist sat down with the cast of Channel 4’s Derry Girls to talk filming during a pandemic, saying goodbye and the chaos viewers can expect from the gang this season.

The wait is finally over. Almost three years since Erin, Clare, Michelle, Orla and James last graced our screens, Channel 4’s hit comedy Derry Girls is finally set to return next week for the start of season three.

To say there’s a lot of hype surrounding this season would be an understatement – with only six episodes standing between fans and the end of the beloved series, there’s been a lot of speculation as to what the gang will get up to as they continue to navigate the trials and tribulations of young adulthood in 90s Northern Ireland.

Of course, if the trailer is anything to go by, it seems like an awful lot. From collecting their GCSE results to visiting a seemingly haunted house, it looks as though things are about to get even wilder for the group.

If you couldn’t tell, we’re very excited – so when we got the chance to sit down with the cast of Derry Girls (aka, Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, Nicola Coughlan, Louisa Harland and Dylan Llewellyn), we jumped at the chance.

While they couldn’t reveal too much about the surprises waiting for fans in season three (although we did try), they were able to give us a good idea of some of the treats that lay in store. Keep reading to check out everything they had to say.  

At the end of season two, the gang are excited about Bill Clinton’s trip to Derry. What’s in store for the gang in season three?

Saoirse-Monica Jackson (SM): “At the start of season three they’re anticipating their GCSE results, so true to the gang’s form that is obviously complete madness, and they’re all panicking as usual.”

Dylan Llewellyn (D): “I think James is also now more like one of the girls and they’ve accepted him a bit more – he still gets teased and all that of course because he’s the English fella, but it’s tough love and when the chips are down, they’ve got each other’s backs.”

Jamie-Lee O’Donnell (JL): “I also think we see them grow up and mature within this season as well. There’s still the usual Derry Girls madness, but there are some areas of growth for them individually and collectively. And I think that’s something that we realise towards the end, that maybe things are going to work out OK for them… maybe.” 

A shot from Derry Girls season 3 of the gang being arrested
“There’s still the usual Derry Girls madness, but there are some areas of growth for them individually and collectively.”

There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the trailer – is it symbolic of the kind of chaos we can expect from this series?

Louisa Harland (L): “I think there’s a real elevation about this series. I think that it’s bigger, better – I know they’re all the usual lines, but I think it is true for this final instalment. So that’s definitely a taste of what’s to come.”

JL: “Every episode has something really stand out in it, so I can imagine it’s hard for the team to sit down and try and pick bits for the trailer without giving storylines away – there’s just so much more that obviously can’t be put into the trailer for spoiler reasons. 

“It’s just made me so excited for everyone to see it, because people have been saying, ‘This is going to be brilliant’ after seeing the trailer, and I’m thinking – just wait.” 

Production for this series was put on hold during the pandemic – did you have any trouble getting back into character after such an extended break?

Nicola Coughlan (N): “It was really stressful. The pandemic has obviously wreaked havoc on every industry, not just TV and film, but at points we were like: ‘Are we ever going to get to make it? Is this even going to happen?’ 

“It’s also terrifying not having played a character for three years and then trying to play them again. I was filming on Bridgerton right before and had to wrap that on the Friday and start on Derry Girls on the Monday, so I was really, really scared that I wouldn’t know what to do. But it was sort of like riding a bike. It wasn’t the crazy adjustment I thought it was going to be – Clare was just there.” 

JL: “When you see the other actors, and how they’re portraying the lines and the scenes that you’ve only read on paper, you get straight back into it – it feels like home.”

Did you always know this was going to be the last season? How did it feel reading the scripts knowing they were the last ones?

N: “Lisa has always said publicly that she wanted to bring it up to the Good Friday agreement, so we knew that was going to be the endpoint. And I think even in series one we kind of felt like three series was probably the right amount. 

“It’s about such a specific time in their lives when their friendships are their world, and then when you get older there’s relationships and jobs and everything and they all go their separate paths. Derry Girls is about that specific time, so of course it feels bittersweet, but it does feel like the right time and way to end it.” 

L: “I agree completely. It was weird, you know, reading them being like, this is definitely going to be the end. But they’re so beautifully written and Lisa has got it so right.”

JL: “I think just having three really solid really amazing seasons of a TV show is something that I’m very proud of. It’s what Lisa wanted and what she saw for the characters, and I’m fully on board with that – we all have to grow up at some point. There’s that sort of bittersweet element to it, but I have high hopes for where the gang are headed after the show – they’re all going to be grand.” 

The gang receiving their GCSE results in Derry Girls season 3
“It’s been left on such a beautiful note and it’s been such an amazing process to have got to this point.”

What’s it been like to say goodbye to the show and your characters?

D: “It was very emotional, for sure. Speaking for myself, I feel like I’m really going to miss James, my character, and his sisters basically: Claire, Orla, Erin and Michelle. I feel we’re all such a little family of characters that it’s very sad that it has to come to an end, but it is what it is and this is a good point to end on.”

SM: “Of course, it’s going to be sad because it’s the end of a really monumental journey, but I think it’s been left on such a beautiful note and it’s been such an amazing process to have got to this point. There’s just a real sense of pride and, it’s amazing to see everybody go on to do different things – like watching Jamie-Lee in Screw this year.” 

L: “I don’t think it’s really hit us properly yet, you know. I think we’ll mourn the series along with the audience when we watch the final episodes. It’s such a weird thing, saying goodbye to a character, certainly one that you play for a while. It’s heart breaking, actually. But it’s totally the right time and been done in the right way. And the end is so beautiful.”

N: “It’s just a very weird sensation – I cried so much on the final day. We first auditioned for this show in 2016, so it’s been part of our lives for so long and it’s bizarre. But I think our main hope is that we’ve done this story justice for fans of the show, because we’ve had such incredible support literally from day one. People are so kind to us and have so much love for the show; it’s just so lovely.”

Derry Girls season three starts on Channel 4 at 9.15pm on Tuesday 12 April 

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Images: Channel 4

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.