Irish actors Michelle Dockery and Peter McDonald star in new BBC series This Town

Irish actors Michelle Dockery and Peter McDonald star in new BBC series This Town

IRISH actors Michelle Dockery and Peter McDonald are among the stars appearing in a new BBC series set in the West Midlands.

Written by Steven Knight – who also created Peaky Blinders – This Town tells the story of a group of friends who form a band as a SKA music scene explodes in Coventry and Birmingham in the 1980s.

Both a thriller and a family drama, the series, which aired this week, opens in 1981 at a moment of huge social tensions and unrest.

This Town's Bardon (Ben Rose), George (Jordan Bolger) and Dante (Levi Brown) (Pics: BBC)

Downton Abbey star Michelle Dockery, whose father hails from Athlone, stars as the wife of an IRA man in the drama.

“I play Estella, the mother of Bardon who is one of the group who set up the band,” she said this week.

“Estella has been exiled in some way from the community,” she explained.

“Estella is the wife of Eamonn, who has been recruited by the IRA and has been working for them for many years.

“We assume she has begun to have a drinking problem from the time that Eamonn started working for the IRA and due to her being loose-lipped and talking far too much about what she knows she has to be removed from the community.”

Michelle Dockery as Estella in This Town (Pics: BBC)

Dockery, who was born and raised in Romford, Essex, claims her character is living in “very bad conditions”.

“For her, it feels like she is very much on the outskirts of her community, that she used to be part of,” she explained.

“The relationship is very fractured between Eamonn and Bardon, and Estella misses her son very much because she doesn't spend much time with him, but across the series the music actually brings them together.”

The actor, who starred as Lady Mary Crawley in ITV’s hit period drama Downton Abbey, claims she fell in love with Knight’s script from the very first read.

“I fell in love with the script upon the first few pages,” she admits.

“I think Steven Knight is the most brilliant and prolific writer and it was an instant yes from me to this job.

“I just instantly wanted to play Estella.”

This Town is set in the West Midlands in the 1980s

She added: “There’s a scene in a church at a funeral involving a song that was a pinpoint for me.

“I'm a singer, so to be able to sing in a show and play a character who's a singer was something that really drew me to the series.

“It's been really fun, the music side of it.

“We've absolutely loved it and the music being created from scratch from our brilliant collaborators has been a real joy.”

Bardon (Ben Rose) and Eamonn (Peter MacDonald) in This Town (Pic: BBC))

Dubliner Peter McDonald, who play’s Estella’s husband Eamonn Quinn in the series, claims it’s a show which is “all about identity”.

“I think the series is about identity, particularly how the young characters at the centre try to forge their identify through artistic expression, music and poetry,” he said.

“And how that offers them a life with freedom, joy and all the good things about finding yourself. It’s also about resisting the narratives that have been placed on top of you by the people above, or by people older than you, the people who are perhaps in control of your life up until that point. To me it’s a real celebration of the music and culture of that time.”

He added: “This Town is very much about people who are disaffected. It was a time of ‘no blacks, no dogs, no Irish’ and the communities this series looks at, and Steven writes about so well, are the people who are both on the edges of society but are also who society mainly consists of.

“It’s about how young people in this world, with not many advantages, find artistic sustenance.”

This Town also stars Eve Austin as Jeannie

The Oscar-nominated actor, who has starred in the likes of The Batman, The Stag and The Damned United, said his experience of growing up in Ireland during the Troubles helped prepare him for this role.

“I grew up through the Troubles, I’m from Dublin,” he said.

“You never take that on lightly, there is a lot of pain, hurt and traumatisation over the years.

“It’s a very difficult situation and the solutions were never going to be easy and still aren’t fully resolved so you do feel apprehensive before you take on something that deals with that subject.”

He added: "I’m playing one character who is involved in that, he’s not representative of the whole struggle or the whole political dynamic, but he is one character who was involved in it. I take it on in that spirit.

“I’m really telling a story about a father and a husband who has been through the mill of the Troubles and now the way he treats and how he loves those close to him is distorted and misrepresented from where it would be perhaps coming from in other circumstances.”

This Town is available in full on BBC iPlayer. The series continues to air on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm.