Pop Culture

Derry Girls’ Saoirse-Monica Jackson Isn’t Ready to Say Goodbye

Saoirse-Monica Jackson knows it’s easy to confuse her with Erin Quinn, the character she plays on the Netflix comedy Derry Girls. For starters, they both hail from Derry, the city in Northern Ireland that was the center of the decades-long conflict known as the Troubles. But while Erin turns 18 during Derry Girls’ third and final season, which drops on Netflix this Friday, Jackson is a 28-year-old woman.

“It’s very bizarre because there will be times where I’m trying to buy alcohol in a shop and I’ve been refused. They’re like, ‘I know what age you are, you’re 16.’ I’m like, ‘It’s a TV show,’” Jackson tells Vanity Fair with a laugh as she recounts how her countrymen have responded to the show. “People really think that we are these girls, but they’re also so, so proud of it.”

In a way, Jackson has come of age during her time on Derry Girls. She was a relatively unknown 22-year-old graduate of Manchester’s Arden School of Theatre when Derry Girls creator Lisa McGee cast her as the lead in the 1990s-set show about a group of friends navigating their teenage years amid the backdrop of political unrest in Northern Ireland. The show’s 2018 debut on Channel 4 in the UK turned her into a local celebrity—a mural in Derry now bears her face along with those of her costars Louisa Harland, Nicola Coughlan, Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, and Dylan Llewellyn—but she gained international recognition when the show began streaming on Netflix later that year and became a breakout hit.

Courtesy of Netflix.

Now, Jackson is set to star in the upcoming DC superhero film The Flash in an undisclosed role and she’s eyeing work in other genres, including horror. But she hasn’t quite been able to shake herself free of Erin. After the show’s final episode aired in the UK in spring, she found herself anxiously awaiting a call from McGee. “You know when you break up with somebody and you keep checking your phone hoping that they’re going to call you? That’s really what it felt like,” Jackson recalls. “That experience of playing somebody and saying goodbye to that time of playing them, that’s quite a weird feeling, especially when you’ve loved what you’ve done with it so much.”

Jackson, who recently moved to Liverpool, took time away from her unpacking—“I’m just trying to get things out of boxes and I’m already running out of underwear!”—to video chat with Vanity Fair about the final season of Derry Girls, her experience on the set of The Flash, and how she “manifested” a scene with one of her heroes. (Warning: spoilers ahead for season three of Derry Girls.)

Vanity Fair: The pandemic caused a long delay between the second and third seasons of Derry Girls. What was it like to be reunited with the cast when you finally made it back to set?

Saoirse-Monica Jackson: It’s always strange. I think all of us have this sort of trepidation, we’re worried that we’re going to forget how to play the characters. Especially having had such a huge step away from it for two years and knowing that it was meant to be the end sort of added more worry, performance-wise, going into it. But as soon as you get to the Derry Girls set and as soon as you see your costumes—because Derry Girls really is a world— it’s so easy just to slip back into it like I never left.

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