It must be in the genes - Athlone family’s enduring screen presence

Olivia and Henry

Olivia and Henry

Robert Grace

Acting is not your typical everyday profession, so to discover three stars of the silver screen in one home on the Ballymahon Road in Athlone is something truly unique.

Olivia Caffrey will be a familiar name to many. A star of such films as The Matchmaker, Long Time Dead, and Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont, Olivia originally moved to Athlone at the age of six when her father was employed as a lecturer of French at AIT. Having attended Our Lady’s Bower, she left Athlone again at the age of 18 for Dublin, to study drama at Trinity College.

Following in the footsteps of her mother, Olivia entered the acting profession on graduating. After taking part in shows at the Gate Theatre and being cast in a couple of films, she made the move to London after getting a part in Bafta-nominated Playing the Field. It was there that she met her future husband, casting director Carl Proctor, who had been an actor himself before moving behind the camera. They have since had two children, Henry (8 ) and Albert (3 ).

Two years ago, Olivia and Carl moved their family back to Athlone in order to be close to her ailing father, who sadly passed away in the time that has passed. However, Olivia says there are many other reasons the family chose to make the move back to Athlone.

“We decided it would be a nice cycle to come back to Athlone and bring up our children here,” she says. “London is a great place, but I think it is nice to have an Irish childhood. And Athlone has changed so much since I went to school here. You have so many facilities for children and there is so much to do now.”

Now Olivia’s eldest son Henry has decided to follow in both his parents’ footsteps and enter ‘the family business’. Henry has been cast in a spin-off of hit show EastEnders as the cheeky-chappy son of characters Kat (Jessie Wallace ) and Alfie Moon (Shane Richie ). Redwater is a six-part series that tracks the couple’s attempts to locate Kat’s lost son in Ireland.

This will be Henry’s first foray into the world of acting, an opportunity which Olivia says took everyone by surprise.

“I shot a programme called Trivia a few years ago, and last year the same casting director asked me if Henry would like to read for Redwater,” Olivia explains. “It just landed on our laps. We asked Henry if he was interesting in trying and he said yes. I was overwhelmed that he was offered the part after his first audition. But he is a really good little actor; there is a calmness about him; he has the right qualities.”

Olivia had her concerns about thrusting Henry into the world of showbiz, but they were quickly put to bed.

“We were very lucky in that we had a great director in Jesper Neilson,” she says. “He is a very kind man and he and Henry got on really well. Jessie and Shane were absolutely lovely as well. He also had a wonderful chaperone. She was like Mary Poppins.”

“She actually was kind of like a child,” Henry adds. “I thought she was just there to look after me, but she did much more than that. She was like a friend. It was actually quite fun.”

Shooting took around three months, during which time Henry and his family spent time in Wicklow, Dun Laoghaire, and Dunmore East. Continuing with the family theme, Henry got to shoot one of his first scenes with his godfather.

Olivia and her family have taken Athlone to their hearts. This is no fledgling romance, as Olivia and Carl are determined to put down even more roots in the town. They are currently talking about the possibility of opening a drama school in the locality.

“We want to work in the town we live in,” Olivia explains. “There are some drama clubs in town, but what we would offer would be more acting courses for both children and adults. I think, as well, that when you live somewhere you need to be a part of the community, and I would love to be able to get up in the morning, go into town and teach drama.”

As for Henry’s future, he is taking it all in his stride: “I want to be an actor when I am older,” he says. “I might change my mind, but I hope I don’t.”

Redwater is set to air next month, with the exact date yet to be confirmed.



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