In BBC America’s COPPER, Sunday nights at 10 PM, it’s 1864. Irish-American Civil War veteran Kevin “Corky” Corcoran (Tom Weston Jones) is a police detective investigating crime in the dangerous Five Points neighborhood in New York. Although Corcoran relies on two of his fellow Union Army vets for help, his partner in policing is fellow Irish immigrant Francis Maguire, played by Kevin Ryan.

Ryan – not to be confused with the CASTLE character of the same name, played by Seamus Dever – is Irish in real life, which allows him to use his own accent in the role. Descended from multiple generations of stonecutters, Ryan apprenticed in that profession before deciding that his heart was in performing. At a party thrown by BBC America for the Television Critics Association, with West Hollywood’s La Boheme Restaurant transformed into Eva’s Paradise bar and brothel for one night, Ryan answers a few questions amid the conversation and live Irish music.

ASSIGNMENT X: You actually are Irish. Where is your character from?

KEVIN RYAN: FromDublin, where I was born. My character emigrated probably eight years prior. Yeah, I’m the only [real-life] Irishman in the show, which is great.

AX: Tom Weston-Jones is actually English, playing an Irishman who has been in the U.S. for a long time. Are you helping him with his accent?

RYAN: Tom’s doing his own thing, having fun. I think he’s picked up little quirks here and there from my accent and also everyone around. His character’s been over in New York longer at this time than my own, so he’s sort of neutralized [the Irish accent] in a sense and starting to develop into that present-day accent, as opposed to my character, who’s straight off the boat in a sense. I mean, he’s not there that long.

AX: What can you say about your character Francis Maguire?

RYAN: My character is struggling to find a new life, to escape the Five Points and have something better. He’s living in a lot of pain, a lot of regret that is sort of self-contained and he dwells on [those regrets] every day. Over the course of the show, you see this unfold and he starts opening up and the layers coming out, but he’s constantly trying to find a woman he can fall in love with and is kind of a soft-hearted, brokenhearted guy at the same time.

AX: Is he looking in the Paradise establishment for a woman?

RYAN: I think in the first five minutes of the show, I have a naked sex scene with my lover in the show, who is a prostitute in Eva’s, Molly, played by Tanya Fischer. And I fall in love with her and it develops further down the line and I can’t really give away too much on the plot end of things, but yeah, I fall desperately in love, madly in love.

AX: It seems like Francis and Corky spend a lot of time in the bar, gathering and going over information …

RYAN: In the Irish culture, you tend to lean into a bar that is known as “the office,” and in our case, yeah, we hang out there a lot, and we sort of have that as our central home.

AX: Did you do any research in order to play your character?

RYAN: Oh, I did a phenomenal amount of research. When I first got the role, I went to New York. I had a history professor from NYU who I spent about a week with. I had another historian – we walked the original Five Points, went to the American History Society Museum, police museums, old tenement buildings. I was able to get my hands on a lot of rare books that you just can’t get online or even on the West Coast, a lot of documentaries, and then I just really took my time and obviously was searching through the Web, which is a luxury actors have today. And then [COPPER co-creator/show runner] TomFontana – he’s an encyclopedia on the Civil War and everything. And it’s something that I found myself having to work a lot harder, or just [doing] a lot more research, because I didn’t understand what the Civil War was, I didn’t understand New York [circa 1864], I didn’t understand the development of the whole political system at this point, which is the foundation pretty much around this time period. So, yeah, it was extensive and it was a lot of fun. The more I delved into it, the more I got excited about it. And the fact that being an Irish immigrant myself in America, and the Irish influence back then, being able to portray something in the slum of the Five Points – the Irish had worked their way up through society. It was a really special, honorable thing for me to do, and I’m very proud of it.

AX: You also have historically accurate, extensive facial hair …

RYAN: The most interesting thing was when we’re hanging out as a cast outside of shooting, and we’d go into a restaurant or a bar, and it’s everyone with these crazy sideburns and [mutton] chops.

AX: Do you have any other projects coming up that we should know about?

RYAN: I have two films coming out this year – SONGS FOR AMY, directed by Konrad Begg, with Sean Maguire and Lorna Anderson and Patrick Bergin, and then I have TRIPPING TOMMY, directed by Philippe Caland, with Sara Carter and Devon Gummersall.

AX: Have you found any difference in working in Ireland/the U.K. and working for BBC America?

RYAN: More money here [laughs]. Yeah, budget is a huge thing. I think BBC America is for more of a worldwide audience, whereas theU.K. [BBC has been] kind of self-contained. Now they’re branching out here – they’ve sold a few shows. Even on different networks, even inCanada, you see British shows appear. I think it’s going to expand a whole lot, really.

AX: What else would you like to say about your experience working on COPPER?

RYAN: I’m excited to be part of the team, and it’s such a phenomenal team to be a part of, and we’re just lucky to have [executive producers Barry] Levinson and Fontana, [COPPER co-creator] Will Rokos and [executive producer] Christina Wayne all on the creative side. And then what we have to deal with on the location [Toronto stands in for 1864 New York], in the studio, is just phenomenal. I mean, the world that they’ve built there – literally, you can go into any set, any store, open a drawer, and you’ll have all the props, everything there at your disposal. So you don’t have to use your imagination in the sense that you would if you were shooting blue-screen or something like that. It’s all there, ready for you.


Related: Exclusive Interview with COPPER actress Anastasia Griffith

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 – “Better Times Are Coming”

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 – “Arsenic and Old Cake”

Related: Exclusive Interview with COPPER star Ton Weston-Jones

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 – “La Tempête”

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 – “The Empty Locket”

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1  – “In The Hands of an Angry God”

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 – “Husbands and Fathers”

Related: Exclusive Interview with COPPER star Franka Potente

Related: TV Review: COPPER – Season 1 Premiere – “Surviving Death” 

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Article: Exclusive Interview with COPPER actor Kevin Ryan about the BBC America series

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