Actress and comedian Aisling Bea talks to Sophie Goddard about love, loss and why she’s definitely not the new Fleabag
Aisling Bea is, in her words, ‘living a circus life’. The writer/actor/comedian is currently in Rome filming Netflix rom-com Love. Wedding. Repeat, starring Sam Claflin, Olivia Munn, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jack Farthing and Freida Pinto (Bea plays Rebecca, a friend of Eleanor Tomlinson’s character). Apparently, six weeks filming away from home is a doddle. ‘This year has been nuts,’ she explains. ‘I have a house in London – that’s “home” – but a year ago I was in LA. Then I moved back to London, then New York in September. Then I came back in January and now I’m in Rome.’ Most of us would be flagging by this point, but Bea, 35, is impressively chirpy. ‘It definitely feels normal now – when I was 18, I moved to Dublin for four years, then to London. I suppose I haven’t been near the house I was brought up in for 17 years. It’s sort of in my bones.’
Within seconds of talking to Bea, you realise why she’s so good at what she does – storytelling is in her blood (quite literally. Her grandfather was novelist and poet Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and her great-aunt was playwright Siobhán Ní Shúilleabháin). ‘Making people laugh is the greatest love of my life, and it has been my favourite thing to do since I was a kid,’ she tells me. ‘My cousin showed me a video of me hosting “the cousins talent show”. I swear to God I was nine, stood on a chair in this hotel function room, with 40 aunties, cousins and uncles. My granddad used to love it when we’d get up and sing – it’s not too far off my persona now.’
Brought up in Ireland’s Kildare by her mother, a teacher and former jockey, with younger sister Sinéad, Bea’s father Brian, a vet, took his own life when Bea was three years old. Bea (real name Aisling Cliodhnadh O’Sullivan) changed her surname to Bea in memory of him and wrote an article about the experience of loss in 2017. I say how touching I found it. ‘It is very odd when someone talks about it because it is a piece of writing, and I am a writer,’ she says, thoughtfully. ‘On one hand I’m like, “Thank you very much, that is a lovely thing to say about a piece of work”, but on the other it’s like, “I still feel like I am getting my head around it”.’
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