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Return to home-grown drama by degrees

February 28, 2012

By Christine Keighery

BBC Two Northern Ireland is set to showcase a host of new home-grown acting talent with the brand new six-part drama, ‘6Degrees’, featuring Mullaghbawn actor, Ryan McParland.

Ryan plays Leech, one of the six lead characters in the series, which starts tonight (Tuesday) at 9.30pm.

Over six half hour episodes, viewers will follow the turbulent lives of Leech and five of his fellow  freshers  as they crash through their first term at the fictional University of Belfast.  The series explores the “madness and mistakes” of student life and targets an audience, largely overlooked by most new TV drama.  Written by, filmed in and starring actors from the North, the series is being hailed as a, long overdue, return to home-grown drama – something that hasn’t really been seen since the ‘Billy’ plays of the eighties.

Rising star and Mullaghbawn native, Ryan McParland, spoke to The Examiner about the daring new drama.  Clearly thrilled about his involvement in the series, the ex-St.Paul’s pupil, describes “6Degrees” as the “first real indigenous home-grown drama to appear for quite a while” and is excited to be part of something with such quality storylines.  His character, Leech, is documented as “delusional and sex-obsessed, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.”  There are other sides to Leech, however, and it’s this multi-dimensional aspect of the role that really attracted Ryan.

“Leech is certainly a bit of a loose cannon but, at the same time, he’s quite a warm guy on the inside. I think he’s representative of people of that age group going into Uni for the first time – he wears a ‘mask’ as such, as a defence against getting hurt”  As the series progresses, Ryan reveals we see the mask slip and get to know the real Leech, who’s actually “a good person at heart.”

“Leech is definitely a different type of role for me. He’s a joker so was great fun to play but he’s also such a complex guy so was very challenging to play too.”

“6Degrees” is the latest string to the talented young actor’s bow.  At just twenty-one Ryan has a number of acting projects already under his belt spanning stage, film and TV, including his first feature film, “Good vibrations”.  The biopic depicts the story of Terry Hooley, the ‘Punk godfather’ who discovered The Undertones.  The Belfast based film, which also stars Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker and Liam Cunningham is due for release this summer.

The hard working actor spoke to The Examiner at the end of a week- long shoot, filming the lead role in one off drama, “Spoof or Die”, part of Channel  4’s upcoming series of short films, ”Coming Up”.  The gritty drama is set in East Belfast and Ryan’s co-lead is accomplished young actress, Yasmin Paige.  He is also involved in a short film with Peter Ballance, the well -known Newry actor.  Ryan has high praise for Peter, who is also his former Performing Arts teacher, describing him as “instrumental” in nurturing his talent and instilling his love and passion for drama.

With a May debut in Belfast’s Lyric theatre in “The Civilisation Game”,  a play directed by Oscar nominated Tim Loan, Ryan certainly isn’t resting on his laurels.  The busy young actor is building up  an impressive CV and with the prime time “6Degrees” series about to expose him to an even wider audience, the future definitely looks bright for this Mullaghbawn thespian.

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