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Called Exploring Northern Ireland With Siobhan McSweeney, the series which airs on More4 sees her tour the lakes, mountains, coastline and forests.
The actress from Cork 41, who plays Sister Michael in popular Channel 4 series Derry Girls, delivers her own “affectionate and mischievous take on the province” during her travels.
“When the idea was first mooted, I think I was a little bit surprised – very surprised – that anybody would want me to do it. But when I thought about it, I was delighted to leave the flat.
“We have four episodes and they each deal with a geographic area. You got a different vibe from the place, and I loved that. What didn’t surprise me was the vast and warm and generous welcome we got everywhere we went. And genuinely, not in a trying to hawk their business or smile for the camera way, but I think people really understood the intention behind the show… There is a great pride in Northern Ireland for their home place.”
McSweeney loved presenting, but the filming was pretty full on.
“We’d reach this point midway through each week where, instead of going out for dinner, I’d go, ‘Can we just order pizza?’ I was really confused as to how tired I was. That was quite surprising. I think on the north coast as well, I did quite a lot of physical stuff – for me, physical stuff, anyway. And even with the first episode, with paddle boarding, I felt a little bit apprehensive about getting into a wetsuit and being so visible in a wetsuit… I was nervous about it, because you’re aware that everyone has an opinion.”
Brilliantly though, she did it anyway: “The majority of women are like me, so I got over it. And I think also, if we’ve got to a point where my belly is making primetime television, then I sort of have to go, ‘I’m not dropping this opportunity’.”
She believes there’s a lot of misconceptions around Northern Ireland and hopes this series will change that. “I hope you see that it’s an incredibly beautiful, and poetic, inspiring country, filled with beautiful, poetic, inspiring people who are just living their lives. They’re mortified and embarrassed and bored, utterly bored, by the way they’re portrayed and neglected. There are huge problems there, absolutely – but there are huge problems everywhere. And if you go there, you are guaranteed to have a wonderful time.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to the people of Northern Ireland for allowing me to stomp around their beautiful country. But if it means that more people go there in a respectful and open-hearted way, then you’re in for some craic, I’ll tell you.”
Exploring Northern Ireland With Siobhan McSweeney stars on August 12 on More4 at 9pm.