Around the Forty Foot, the sea-swimming spot in Sandycove in south Co Dublin, there’s always a bit of action. Daily and occasional swimmers, families with betowelled kids, groups of friends chatting and jumping off the rocks, seafront walkers all over the place.
But in the area around the former “Gentlemen’s Bathing Place” – the quaint sign recalls its previously exclusionary nature – there has been a different kind of action over the past few days. A film crew has moved into the network of narrow streets leading to the shore of Dublin Bay.
A security fella says, yeah, the filming's for a series with Bono's daughter Eve Hewson and Brendan Gleeson – 'no big stars, really'. It's not clear if any of this is true or if he's having the crack
The scene: several equipment trucks, an ambulance, a catering tent (“crew only”), various shelters for gear. Multiple high-vis security folk, mingling with friendly but busy crew, masked and lanyarded and many with English accents, and mingling with the public. The wetsuited folk changing nearby could be part of the production or just off paddleboards.
This is an open set, the production and filming taking place in the midst of daily life. A security fella says, yeah, it’s for a series with Bono’s daughter Eve Hewson and Brendan Gleeson – “no big stars, really”. It’s not clear if any of this is true or if he’s having the crack.
A sandwich board near the entrance to Forty Foot announces the cast and crew are working within Covid and health-and-safety guidelines. It doesn’t mention the production company. “We apologise for any inconvenience caused during filming/preparation of this production. We appreciate your co-operation and thank you for your patience.”
Down in Forty Foot at lunchtime the crew are on a break, standing or sitting around, eating lunch from boxes alongside locals emerging from the water or about to jump from the rocks. A funeral wreath sits nearby, presumably waiting for its call.
Later in the afternoon a local reports someone who looks like Sharon Horgan in the water. A young woman in a blue bikini who appears to be the focus of the scene – “I think it was Eve Hewson,” says the local – jumps into the water with a young lad and a teenage boy while a ready-made-audience-cum-possibly-authentic-extras watch. A director type instructs the lad to “swim towards Sharon!”
Horgan, the multitalented and busily prolific Irish actor, writer, comedian and producer – Pulling, Catastrophe, tons of films and Bafta and Ifta gongs – who grew up in Co Meath and is based in London, appears to be in town. Although the crew are officially shtum on who’s in the production, or who has written it, the dogs in the narrow local streets know lots, true or not.
Other intelligence emerges easily from chats and reports of chats. Apparently this is a series called Emerald, a dark thriller “like Fargo”, someone’s told. It’ll be streamed next year, possibly on Apple TV+, and they’re also shooting in Howth and Belfast, and Sandycove again in several weeks, it’s said. Merman, Horgan’s production company, which she cofounded in 2014 and now has offices in London, New York and Los Angeles, is apparently making the series. But you didn’t hear it from me (or anyone in the crew).
An online search yields information that Merman TV-Emerald, a designated-activity company, was set up on Tuesday, May 25th, 2021, with a “current partial address” in Dublin. Fingal County Council notified locals of a big filming production by Merman Emerald DAC on New Street and Townyard Lane in Malahide village, in north Co Dublin, over the weekend of August 2nd and 3rd.
Bizarrely, for a shoot that’s in the wide open in a very busy spot, the production company is tight-lipped. When our film correspondent inquires, Merman will say nothing. The person answering the phone says he has no information about what Horgan is doing or whether she is shooting, nor about a project called Emerald. A call on Wednesday morning tells me: “I’m not sure it’s anything to do with us or not.”
Someone may get back to us. Presumably they’re not contractually allowed to announce anything yet. Which is tricky to pull off when you’re hiding in plain sight.