Actor Thaddea Graham“There is this expectation of, unless it’s great, we’re not going to make another one.”

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Thaddea Graham was surprised when her agent suggested she read for the part of a Victorian gang boss, as she told Ryan Tubridy today. Now, almost two years later, the 24-year old from County Down says she’s overwhelmed with the attention she’s been getting for her performance as Bea in new Netflix drama The Irregulars. Speaking to Ryan on the phone from Dublin, where she’s currently shooting another TV series, Thaddea spoke about The Irregulars, how the production was affected by Covid and her personal adoption story.  

Crime drama The Irregulars is based on the ‘Baker Street Irregulars’ from Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1887 novel, A Study in Scarlet. In the TV version, Thaddea’s character Bea is the leader of the pack, hired to help Holmes and Watson with their investigations. The teens trawl the streets and cellars of London for clues, while battling hostile supernatural forces at the same time. The series launched in March and Thaddea told Ryan she’s happy but adjusting to all the attention: 

“It’s been very, very surreal. But it’s been really lovely to finally be able to share it. We worked on that job for over a year. Obviously when you’re shooting it, you can’t say anything. It’s all very secret and hush-hush. And then a couple of months later, half a year later, the world’s talking about it. It’s very strange. It’s very overwhelming.” 

Covid stalled production two weeks before the series was due to wrap and five months later and back in County Down, Thaddea says she wondered if the shoot would ever be completed. Then she got the call to go back on set, this time under Covid protocols:  

“It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking, but I suppose it’s the fear of the unknown. Nobody really knew how to work in these circumstances, but we had a brilliant Covid team who kept us all safe and we were being tested all the time.” 

Ryan asked Thaddea about her adoption story, which she has spoken about in the past. She says she was born in China in 1997 and at three days old, she was found by a passer-by at an entrance to a building. At thirteen months old, she was adopted to Northern Ireland. Thaddea says her parents have talked about her history since she was very small; something she’s very happy about:  

“We’ve always spoken really openly about the adoption and about my past, which I think is a brilliant way to have done it. And I am so lucky to have them, they are just wonderful people.” 

Thaddea told Ryan about her dislike of the word ‘abandoned’, which she has referenced in past interviews. She explained why it doesn’t sit well with her: 

“I can’t speak for everyone’s situation, because they’re all different, but in my situation, I don’t feel like I was abandoned at all. I was left in a place where my biological parents knew that I was going to be fine. And I like to think, I think whatever situation you’re in, you have a choice to look at it positively or negatively and there’s enough negativity in the world already, you know? Give the positive one a chance and see what happens.” 

Thaddea’s experience working on The Irregulars has been a hugely positive one. She says the casting director, Sarah Crowe, wanted her for the part of Bea even though Thaddea herself thought her Chinese heritage might be an issue: 

“This is Victorian London. This won’t work! But the only person who ever had a problem with that was me. I was the only one doubting myself; I was the only one trying to talk myself out of it before I’d even got into the room to read or to meet them.” 

Thaddea hopes that other casting directors will take a similar view: 

“My experience so far is, I have been very lucky and very fortunate. But I hope that I’m not the anomaly. I hope that this is the way that things are going.” 

Ticking the diversity box now and then is not enough, Thaddea says. She believes under-represented artists should to be free from the pressure of having a hit show every time. She says the same old storylines and characters come up again and again, even if the quality varies. Thaddea believes that diverse artists should have the same freedom and the same space to fail: 

“We need the scope to have an OK one. They don’t all have to be phenomenal. Because there is this expectation of, unless it’s great, we’re not going to make another one. And that’s not fair, because, you know, all of these other stories are made 100 times over, and they’re mediocre, or they’re OK, but the ones that are kind of new have to be brilliant.” 

Diverse representation in TV and movies is important, she says, because it is fair and authentic:  

“I think that we need to let people with authentic voices tell their own stories, whatever that is. It think we need more of that.” 

You can hear more from Thaddea Graham on The Irregulars, her love of Dublin city and her hopes for the future in the full interview with Ryan Tubridy here.  

If you’ve been affected by anything in Thaddea’s story, you can find information on helplines at rte.ie/support.

Ruth Kennedy

© The Listener 2021

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