Love/Hate actor Peter Coonan has said filming the sexual assault of his character Fran for Sunday's season five finale was a very tough experience.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Coonan said the scene, in which Fran is sexually assaulted in a prison shower, took seven to eight hours to shoot.
“The energy and everything that went into it was tough,” he said. “It was one of those days where you had to walk away and sit on your own just to process what was happening.”
The jail scene stands out against an episode that was already more violent than usual, complete with several gruesome murders.
Coonan said he spoke to the show's writer Stuart Carolan after he first read the script for the finale.
“I read it and had to sit back for a minute and really think about it. I had to ring Stuart and we spoke about it,” he said.
Coonan said he hadn’t “walked the streets” since Sunday’s show and was interested to see how the public would react.
Following Sunday’s finale, a number of viewers posted jokes on social media about the show’s graphic attack on the character of Fran.
Tweets from both personal Twitter accounts and media outlet accounts included references to the broken pool cue which was used in the sexual assault.
‘Very violent portrayal’
Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, says the Love/Hate series is "just a very violent portrayal of the criminal world".
“There’s no way to dress up a rape,” Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said. “The thing we would have liked was for the national broadcasting authority to refer victims of rape or sexual violence or viewers upset by the show to the national helpline at the end of the programme.
“There’s a high prevalence of sexual violence in Ireland. Male rape is an area that doesn’t get a lot airtime, and [the Love/Hate finale] has generated a lot of conversation about male rape.”
According to Ms O’Malley-Dunlop, 21.68 per cent of callers to the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre helpline in 2013 were male. Ten per cent of the centre’s current clientele are men.
“Male sexual violence is not easy to talk about,” Ms O’Malley-Dunlop said. “The jokes on social media [about Love/Hate’s Fran being raped] are often a way to create a distance for something that is too painful to look at, but I think it’s an important issue to look at in society and we need more education so that we can work better to respond to the needs of victims.”
Season five of Love/Hate premiered on October 5th. More than a million viewers tuned in to the season finale on November 9th, accounting for a 56 per cent audience share for that time slot, according to RTÉ.
* The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre can be contacted 24 hours a day on the national helpline on 1800 77 88 88.