'We just saw things the same way'
Gary Cooke and Barbara Bergin from their TV3 series On the Couch
In conversation with FRANCES O'ROURKE
is a writer and actor, best known for being one-third of Après Match on RTÉ. He co-wrote and stars in TV3’s new comedy, On the Couch. He lives in Baldoyle, Dublin, with his wife Lorraine and their two children
I first met Barbara in a recording studio when we were doing a voiceover. It was May 1998 and I was gearing up to do Après Match. We really became friends when we did a show, Guess Who’s Coming to The Dinner by Roddy Doyle. We just saw things the same way. Barbara’s very bright, witty and very funny. And very human too. Sometimes when you’re rehearsing, people get really serious . . . Barbara had a sense of fun about her. She’s a brilliant actress.
I was in Players in Trinity and I did a three-month course in the Gaiety School of Acting afterwards, acted in a few Joe Dowling plays. I remember being in a play in the Theatre Festival, Savages by Christopher Hampton. Part of the set looked like it was for a light entertainment chat show. Before the first show, everyone was warming up, doing head rolls . . . I was doing mock interviews with the other actors, taking the piss. The director threatened to punch me. He said “if I thought you were doing it deliberately, I’d punch your lights out”.
That was before Après Match – that was the first time I found a format: Barry [Murphy] and Risteárd [Cooper] and I were always doing stuff, it went from there.
It was great having Barbara around when we worked on MacBecks, she’s just full of fun and humour. Some people need that and some don’t; I’m somebody who needs it. She and I had been fooling around with ideas for 10 years . . . initially we’d been thinking of a theatre show with two of the characters.
That fizzled out, then after MacBecks, we got back together and started working on stuff that turned into On the Couch.
One day we got a camera, messed around with Dudley and Sylvia, two of the characters. It was improv, fun to do. Then Barbara went off and edited the thing at home. I think I will probably never be totally aware of just how much work she had to do. But when she showed it to me I started pissing myself laughing . . . we thought, there’s something in this. That’s really where On the Couch started.
Barbara and I wrote it together. It’s not simply a comedy, it’s a dark tragi-comedy. It’s not like In Treatment (in which Gabriel Byrne plays a therapist), although we were going to call ours In Denial.
Therapy is great way of getting into characters’ inner lives very quickly. We’re not making fun of therapy . . . it’s a device.
What else do Barbara and I have in common? Well, I’m not wild about salsa dancing I must admit . . . but we both have an interest in Spain. She speaks Spanish, I just pretend to speak it.
Barbara’s more structured than I am, I’m more stream of consciousness. She’s better at the story than I am. And the story is everything.
She’s always up for a bit of fun . . . it’s her way of being.