Interview: Diona Doherty

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THE STYLE EDIT Editor Jenny Taggart talks drama, laughter and her latest role in television show Derry Girls with actress and comedian, Diona Doherty

Where were you born and raised?  

I am pure born and bred in Derry.

Were you always theatrical as child?

Always. I knew I was a performer from a young age and so did everyone else around me. I was a part-time waitress at 15 and I was serving a communion party one Sunday. Whilst pouring their tea and coffee I spilled an entire jug of boiling water over the 8 year old girl making her communion, she screamed the place down. Turns out I was such a bad waitress that the tea/coffee water I was pouring was straight from the tap and stone cold. So I guess I had to find another career path. Pronto!

Who inspired you when you were growing up?

My brother was always a great inspiration for me. He never tried to be someone he wasn’t and I think for a teenage girl that’s a massive part of your teenage years – trying to impress and fit into a certain ‘group’. He did his own thing and I loved him for it. Performer wise I remember watching Charlize Theron in Monster and thinking ‘wow’. I just would love for someday to have the same impact on another budding performer.

How did you become involved in acting?

I had a brilliant drama teacher at Thornhill College – Ms Meade – she was zany and fun, and she just inspired me to be myself. At this point I knew I wanted to be involved in drama and acting. Up until then I think I just knew I wanted to perform but wasn’t quite sure in what field.

What has been your favourite acting role to date?

Ah jeepers! I’ve been so lucky this past two years that I will have to give you two: one theatre and one television. Two years ago I was cast in a one woman show called Alice Milligan: A Girl Of Genius – doing a one woman show was most definitely on my bucket list. The sense of empowerment and accomplishment from holding the audience for the duration of a play, entirely on your own, is wonderful. I also got to perform the show a handful of times in New York. A dream! T.V wise, last year, I shot one of the leads for a new BBC comedy called Soft Border Patrol which will air early 2018. It’s a mockumentary style comedy and all the dialogue is completely improvised by the actors. Writers provide ideas, and once we are briefed on those, we are left to run with the scene. That was such a freeing way to work, and the most fun on set! I haven’t seen any of it yet, but I’m told it looks great.

Alice Milligan: A Girl Of Genius
Soft Border Patrol

What advice would you give to young girls starting out in the entertainment industry?

If you work hard enough and if you’re good enough, they can’t ignore you.

Describe your life in film titles.

The Hunger Games – because it’s January and let’s face it who isn’t hungry in January? Pursuit Of Happiness – I think that everytime I tick off a career or life goal, the buzz never lasts very long and I’m searching for the next big thing. Peter Pan – because I genuinely feel like I’ve never grown up. I’m very playful and absolutely dire at adulting.

What would your autobiography be called?

‘So What Are You In At The Minute?’

If your pet could talk, what would it say about you if we asked for a reference?

My cat would probably say: “Diona constantly hugs, lifts, kisses me and she has major laughing fits, even on her own – two to three times per day – and they’re largely unexplained. She just reeeaaally enjoys her own craic!”

Can you tell us a little about your role in the newly released C4 series ‘Derry Girls’?

Derry Girls is a new sitcom set in the 90’s in Derry. It’s fast paced, hilarious and heart-warming. I (ironically) play a Ukrainian character called Katya. I guest star as Katya in episode four, airing January 25th. Katya comes to live with the Quinn family for a week, through a charity. Very soon the family realise she isn’t the shy and retiring type, nor does she come from the impoverished, underdeveloped world they think she does. She was a fun and feisty character to play, and I got to learn the difference between a Russian and a Ukrainian accent… I think.

Behind The Scenes on Derry Girls

What was it like filming in your hometown?

Most of Derry Girls was filmed in Belfast. Although Katya appears in one episode, because of locations I was actually on set every week of the entire shoot, and so was lucky to film in Derry for the only two days it was shot there. I think there were a few raised eyebrows followed by concerned tweets as people started to recognise the 90’s RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) vans roaming around. I also got to shoot in Derry last year for a few days for Penance, a film for TG4. We shot the rest in Donegal. It’s lovely being able to work in Derry after having moved to Belfast 10 years ago, I don’t get much of an opportunity to go back that often.

Are you proud of your Derry roots?

I love being from Derry. I can’t explain how often people get enjoyment from our accent. I’ve been told we “sing when we talk”. It’s like a dancing monkey, people asking for you to say things in ‘Derry Talk’. My husband thinks we are all from a different planet because not a day goes by where I will say or do something and need to explain that ‘that’s how we say it / do it in Derry.’ It’s brilliant. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Where do you see yourself career-wise in 10 years time?

I absolutely love performing comedy and would love to do more sitcoms. However I get such a sense of accomplishment from Drama too, from more serious roles. I want to keep storming ahead with TV and film work. I have four T.V shows and one film airing early this year: Derry Girls (C4), Soft Border Patrol (BBC), Medical Hospital UK (C5), Give My Head Peace (BBC) and Penance (TG4) and I am hoping that 2018 opens lots of doors from it.

The Vice?

Controlling everything.

The Virtue?


Biggest regret?

Going to Queens to study Drama. It wasn’t the right course for me, but it may be for someone else. I wanted to be an actor and that course certainly did not cater for that. I just have £30,000 worth of debt from the degree as a lesson learnt.

Pet Hate?

Every single person that rudely ignores every performer flyering for their show at the Edinburgh Fringe, ever. It’s very specific I know, but if you flyered for a show for even one day during the festival, you’d understand. JUST SMILE AND SAY NO THANKS!

What’s the most irritating question you’re constantly asked as a female comedian?

When I am described as a comedian, people assume stand-up, whereas I have never done stand-up in my life and don’t intend to. I write and perform comedy sketches, or comedy characters but I am primarily an actress. I suppose it’s the whole men versus women thing though – who is funnier? It’s a stupid question. I highly doubt your genitals contribute towards your humour.

Best friend?

My husband. We spend A LOT of time together and have almost become the same person. We may even look alike now.

The person who makes you laugh out loud the most?

Sean Hegarty, my husband. And not just because he is a brilliant comedian but because he has the exact same dark and silly sense of humour as me. We laugh every day. We record a podcast together and release it weekly called Hanging With The Hegartys, it’s about our general musings and having a laugh.

What’s on your bucket list?

Travel. I want to see everything, everywhere and I intend to tick a country or two off per year until I’m a goner. A bucket list dream destination is to take my future kids to Lapland for Christmas one year.


Catch Derry Girls on Thursday nights on Channel 4 at 10pm

Follow Diona:

Twitter: @dionadoherty

Instagram: @dionadoherty

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