The actor and writer on dealing with criticism of her work, coping with lockdown stresses, and her geriatric pregnancy. but try not to ask her about being a national treasure
If there is one thing I am not going to do in this interview with Amy Huberman, it is refer to her as a national treasure. Every time the actor, writer, Instagram punster, jewellery spokesmodel and shoe designer is mentioned in an article, those two words are attached to her name. It seems to be some unwritten law of Irish journalism. Dont do it, she says laughing when I bring it up. Resist!
I have form myself in this regard. I interviewed Huberman in 2013 and used the even more eye-rollingly irritating phrase national sweetheart. Now talking to her on a Zoom call, autumn sunshine streaming into her bedroom in Dublin, her Newbridge Silver necklace shes just launched a new range of accessories glinting in the light, I wonder what does national treasure/sweetheart even mean? And does a label like that come with a certain amount of pressure?
Nobody can do the right thing or say the right thing all the time you just cant please everyone. The older I get the more I realise you have to occupy your own space
Nobody can do the right thing or say the right thing all the time you just cant please everyone, she says of the notion that she is treasured by an entire nation. The older I get the more I realise you have to occupy your own space and whatever people attribute to you I think is (a) none of your business and (b) so out of your control that I think that in a way you have to disassociate yourself with it, you know, because youre only going to be set up for a failure. The weight of that would be too far too terrifying thats far too much pressure.
And anyway, while she is clearly beloved by fans, a much more accurate description of Huberman is national messer. Her Instagram, where she has more than 400,000 followers, is an oasis of endless japes and joyful distraction in these dark times. She announced her pregnancy she and husband of 10 years Brian ODriscoll are expecting their third baby in January by posting a picture of an actual bun in the oven. When we speak she is busy entertaining followers with a spooky pumpkin placed in her daughters toy pushchair and referring to this homemade Halloween installation as Pram Stoker. She loves a good pun, does Huberman.
We are talking as the final episodes of the second series of her quirky comedy drama Finding Joy are airing. The show goes out during a prime slot on Saturday night the finale is tonight, possibly the best episode so far. Without giving too much away, our heroine Joy Huberman stars as the hapless Irish influencer finds herself forced to give a eulogy at a funeral. She delivers a speech that attempts to sum up the essence of modern Irish womanhood. Its funny but also poignant. And laced with typical Huberman whimsy.
Finding Joy has found a place in the hearts of people during the pandemic as a fun distraction from the grim reality were all grappling with
Irish women, Joy says, are neatness hiding a mess, we are good make-up over bad skin, we are desperate to be liked but were afraid to be loved Were Anne Doyle, were Mary Black, were Niall Horan, were Phil Babb and Zig and Zag and were Bosco Were Michael Flatleys beautiful smile and were Jean Butlers hair and every one of her freckles. Were Johnny Logan, were Terry Wogan, were Bernard Brogan and Larry Gogan.Were Nadine Coyle getting caught in a lie.
Its a charmingly funny moment that captures the essence of the TV series created and written by Huberman and directed by John Butler with cameos for familiar faces such as Pat Shortt, David ODoherty, Paul Howard and Neil Morrissey.
In the same funeral scene, comedian Tara Flynn has a memorable musical role singing a deliciously tone-deaf song written especially for the deceased. Huberman has fond memories of filming that episode. We were in a church so you had the not-laughing-at-Mass thing, and added to that theres also a film crew and the pressure of that and there were just too many funny people around. I had Pat Shortt breathing in my ear and then Tara Flynn singing from the pulpit It was brilliant. But very hard to keep a straight face.
Amy Huberman: a bad review can kind of spoil the fun when a show is on air
Finding Joy has found a place in the hearts of people during the pandemic as a fun distraction from the grim reality were all grappling with. For Huberman, the second series meant she could relax more. There was a writers room this time around, which she found useful for bouncing around ideas and sometimes killing them stone dead before they got to script stage.
I definitely enjoyed series two more, she says. And thats not to say that I didnt have those same feelings of going, Oh my God, I hope its working. Oh, God, can we carry the momentum for the next however many weeks?
It was only on the other side of the whole thing, when it was finished and on the TV and RTÉ were really happy with it that I was like, Oh my God, I wish I hadnt been holding my breath for so long. I do just feel really lucky to get to do what I love. But it comes with huge mixed emotions. There is the fun and the love of it and then theres the self-doubt.
How does she handle self-doubt? I think its definitely gotten better as Ive got older, says the 41-year-old. I dont indulge it as I used to or try to build myself around the foundations of what other people expect. Because I just think that youre always going to fall short then, depending on whose opinion you ask. I find that quite creatively stifling for me to be looking outward all the time.
Huberman, having discovered her acting chops at dramsoc in UCD, where she went planning to become a social worker, has starred in Irish TV series and films such as The Clinic, Striking Out and A Film with Me in It. She shone in British programmes such as Threesome and the reboot of Cold Feet. Shes well used to putting myself out there with the work and everything that comes with earning a living as a creative.
I used to be kind of floored by criticism. But my bounce-back time is shorter now. I do think it gets better as you age. I just dont have the energy to give at the end of the day
I dont exactly mention a pretty excoriating recent newspaper review of Finding Joy, but it hovers over this part of our conversation like a bad smell.
How does she deal with criticism? Her response is that she is better at dealing with it now. I used to be kind of floored by it. I think thats just because probably, Ive always been wanting to please people. But my bounce-back time is shorter now. I do think it gets better as you age. I just dont have the energy to give at the end of the day.
Did somebody call it the Bank of F**ks? Its like, how much do I have left in there? And sometimes you have zero left to give. So thats not to say that it doesnt sting. Yeah, of course, youd want everybody to be giving you the thumbs up. But I mean, if youre doing something for blanket approval, I dont know if youre ever going to get it.
Having said that, she says a bad review can kind of spoil the fun when a show is actually on air, so she tries to avoid it. And then someone will say, Oh your man didnt love it did he? and youre like, Oh no, dont tell me … but what did he say?, she laughs.
Look, people have a right not to like your stuff. I just dont like it when its personal. The silly side of me just wants to make people laugh; thats what this particular show is there for. Its been really lovely to see people really engaged in Finding Joy in the middle of another lockdown as a bit of escapist fun, and people have been really, really kind. And thats the thing you have to focus on.
We talk about lockdown life with her adorable little dog, Phoebe, and ODriscoll, rugby player turned sports commentator and a regular feature of Hubermans hilarious Instagram posts during lockdown. She says she tries to keep upbeat for their two children, daughter Sadie and son Billy, but like everyone has her bad days.
Amy Huberman and her husband, Brian ODriscoll. Photograph: Phillip Massey/Getty
I think that for the most part people are resilient I mean its a shitshow, and theres no other way to describe it. Its incredibly difficult for people whether its having relatives that are sick her own father, Harold, who has Parkinsons disease, is in a nursing home and hasnt been well lately or the pressure on peoples mental wellbeing. Its such a mashed pie of everything. And even to try to separate it and figure it out for yourself when its changing all the time is hard. Like sometimes youll be grand, and other days youre just not.
She has kept busy through the crisis.Theres a new collection of her range for Bourbon footwear coming out, theres the jewellery and the not inconsequential matter of that pandemic pregnancy. She says she has now reached the turtle stage. We joke about her having a baby at 41, and how medically its classed as being a geriatric pregnancy. I said that to them in the hospital and they were like, Yeah, you were probably geriatric the last time too, she laughs.
Finding Joy is excellent on the messy reality of parenting small babies. In one episode, Joy borrows a friends infant for a day and decides it is not very much fun at all. Huberman has found her pregnancy a useful distraction of late, and is trying to get as much writing work done as she can before the baby arrives in January.
Theres a potential book project and a TV thing she cant talk about. Shed like to get as much as she can done in advance of the happy chaos that will ensue when she and ODriscoll become parents of three children.
But yeah, look, Ive ordered one of those babies that sleeps really well. No reflux. One of those unicorn babies that doesnt cry. I put it in the notes. So Ill just keep the receipt and see what happens.
See? Amy Huberman, national messer.
The Finding Joy series finale airs tonight, at 10.05pm, on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player