Kate O'Flynn - Bridget Jones's Baby actress on growing up in Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 09 September 2016
Bury's Kate O'Flynn finds herself on set giving Renée Zellweger a hard time. Roger Borrell finds out why.
Kate O’Flynn’s audition for a major part in the next Bridget Jones film is not going quite to script.
The former Bury Grammar School girl is going for the part of Alice Peabody, a new broom brought in to liven up a TV current affairs programme, where Bridget works as a news producer.
‘Alice is there to shake things up and Bridget is very much her target,’ says Kate. ‘She’s a hipster, very confident, a bit of a ball breaker vaguely in the mould of Janet Street-Porter. The antithesis of what Bridget is all about.’
Kate decided to audition as a cool calculating ice-maiden. ‘That didn’t seem to work and the casting director suggested I tried the part in a northern accent. It just seemed to work - my Lancashire accent is one of the reasons I got the part.
‘Considering this is my biggest commercial film to date, the audition process was the least painful I’ve experienced. It probably lasted little more than 15 minutes and two weeks later I was told I had the part. Another two weeks and I was on set bossing Renée Zellweger about!’
The battle between Alice and Bridget is a key plotline of the film but if you want to know who prevails you’ll have to see Bridget Jones’s Baby which releases in this country on September 16. As well as Zellweger, it also stars Colin Firth, Jim Broadbent and Patrick Dempsey.
‘It was amazing to suddenly find myself working with Renee,’ adds Kate. ‘She is incredibly generous with her time. She’s lovely to everyone despite working crazy hours and she’s a real team player. All the best actors are.
‘Of course, she is a phenomenal actor. It was quite something to be up so close and see those qualities that make her so brilliant.’
‘I hadn’t seen the Bridget Jones films for a few years so I watched the first one and realised just how brilliant and funny it was. Bridget is a character that speaks to a lot of people, they recognise something of her in themselves.
‘And it has an appeal beyond national boundaries. My sister-in-law is Dutch and she was telling me how much they loved the film over in Holland.
‘It’s good to be playing a part in a Lancashire accent, but I think times have changed – I think we’ve moved on from the days when we had to hide our accents.’
Kate, now 30 and single, grew up in Bury where her father is a dentist and her mother teaches languages. ‘I didn’t do anything special when I was at school. I acted in some productions at Bury Grammar, but it was spending my spare time at the Royal Exchange in Manchester that made me think this is the life for me. I got to see the working of the theatre from every angle. It was a terrific experience.’
She probably surprised herself by getting into Rada when she was 18. She studied there for three years while trying hard to remain focused on what she calls ‘the real world.’
Kate got her first break in the theatre on the Lyttelton stage at the National Theatre in London in a play called Port. She got rave reviews for her role which required her to start as a stroppy 11-year-old and develop into a young woman of 24. It earned her the Jack Tinker Award for most promising newcomer.
She also received critical acclaim in the revival of Sheila Delaney’s gritty Salford drama, A Taste of Honey, with fellow Lancastrian Lesley Sharp. It was an intense production which involved taking a psychiatrist into rehearsals to help plumb the depth of Delaney’s characters.
The Lancashire accent has been put on hold as she appears in a revival of the Broadway hit production of Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie - again to great reviews. And she’s been popping in and out of the TV police comedy drama, No Offence.
Another landmark moment in her career was working with legendary British director Mike Leigh on his film, Happy-go-Lucky. ‘I enjoy film and the theatre and I’d like to continue doing both but I love being on stage. You get rehearsal time and get to know the character. You are certainly more in control than in film work.
‘I don’t have any fixed ambitions. My aim is just to work with people on interesting projects and with writers and directors I admire. I want to work with the crème de la crème.’
Despite the hectic schedule, you get the impression she’ll always find time to travel home. ‘I do love Lancashire and I love to get back every six weeks or so. I crave open spaces and friendly faces so I have to come back for a fix of Lancashire and walk in the Ribble Valley. I‘ve been in London for a decade but the draw back home is still there.’
Who’s the daddy?
Kate can be seen on screen this month with Oscar winners Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth for the next chapter of trials and tribulations of cinema’s favourite singleton.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is directed by Sharon Maguire who was in charge of the original film, Bridget Jones’s Diary, which kicked off the comedy series based on writer Helen Fielding’s novel.
Finding herself ‘fortysomething’ and single again, Bridget decides to focus on her job as top news producer and for once, she has everything under control.
Things start to unravel when she meets a dashing American and finds herself pregnant, but with one hitch… she’s not completely sure who’s the baby’s father.