Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell nailed why it’s so important to see flawed female characters

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Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell took to the stage at Stylist Live LUXE on Sunday (10 November) to remind us why her character Michelle is so important.

If there’s one show you need to watch in 2019, it’s Channel 4’s Derry Girls.

This hilarious female-led comedy, based in Northern Ireland during the troubles, follows a group of girls (and one, rather unassuming, guy) as they navigate their lives as teenagers in the 90s. From incredible female characters to sharp and witty humour, Lisa McGee’s stand-out comedy is everything we’ve ever wanted and more.

And, as if we needed another reason to love this fantastic show, Jamie Lee O’Donnell (who plays Michelle) explains exactly why her character is, in her words, “such an asshole” – and the behind-the-scenes story is our new favourite thing. 

Talking on stage at Stylist Live LUXE on Sunday (10 November) alongside her fellow Derry Girls’ cast member Saoirse-Monica Jackson, poet Nikita Gill and radio DJ Vick Hope, O’Donnell recalls a moment when a producer tried to give her character a “softer side” and explain away her mean streak – but O’Donnell and McGee were having none of it. 

Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Nikita Gill, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Vick Hope on stage at Stylist Live LUXE.
Saoirse-Monica Jackson, Nikita Gill, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Vick Hope on stage at Stylist Live LUXE.

“When I was auditioning for Michelle, I just remember there was a guy there, and he was saying – because obviously I’m quite loud when I’m saying stuff and a bit of a dickhead in real life– ‘should we give her a bit of a softer side or like a reason why she’s like that?’” O’Donnell recalls.

“I remember Lisa was like, ‘no… women can just be assholes the same as men – there doesn’t need to be any trauma in their past life, she doesn’t need to justify it, she can just be from a happy home, lovely parents, and she’s just a dickhead’,” she continues. “And that’s the thing, [Michelle’s] just a self-absorbed asshole, and women are. There doesn’t need to be a reason to it.”

Of course, as we now know, this was absolutely the right decision – and we’re so glad McGee stood up for her right to create flawed female characters.

After all, it’s about time we stopped telling women that they need to be “nice” and “polite” – and start standing up for our right to be “assholes”. 

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Images: Bronac McNeill

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