Violence, spoilers and that cat: Love/Hate hard men open up

RTE’s gripping crimeland drama reaches its season finale on Sunday

Exclusive interview with Peter Coonan and Laurence Kinlan head of Sunday's season finale. Interview by Eoin Burke-Kennedy.


If you walk into a shop today and take so much as a cursory glance at the news stand, a significant element of the unfolding Love/Hate plot with will be revealed to you.

Like it or not, spoilers are part and parcel of tabloid culture and have been for years before the box set culture arrived.

Nonetheless, the constant drip-feeding of future plot lines is driving some Love/Hate fans demented.

“If people are watching intently for five weeks, the last thing they want is to find out what’s going to happen from the papers,” says actor Peter Coonan aka Fran.

His character’s fragmenting relationship with the show’s chief villain, Nidge (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), has dominated this season’s offering, and Sunday’s season finale promises something of a high-octane showdown.

Fellow cast member Laurence Kinlan (Elmo) says he’s threatened to tell people what happens, just to see their reaction, but without fail, he says, they don’t want to know.

“Even people that ask you what happens next week, if you threaten to tell them, because I’ve done it a few times just to see, they actually go ‘no, no stop, actually I don’t want to know’”.

“So ye, I think it is in bad taste when newspapers release spoilers because the thing about the newspapers…people wouldn’t buy those newspapers but it’s on the front cover so they’re passing by shops and it’s in their faces.”

It’s something that clearly annoys Kinlan.

“We’ve worked so hard on this, like everybody does. The last thing we want is to have the last episode ruined.”

The success of the show is unparalleled in terms of the Irish TV drama, grabbing record audiences with each successive series.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly makes it so addictive. The quality of the writing? Its proximity to Ireland’s real-life gang culture. The loveability of its bad guys?

The answer isn’t obvious to the cast either.

Coonan suggests the success of US dramas like The Sopranos and The Wire which “so many Irish people watched religiously” may have something to do with it.

Writer Stuart Carolyn has “created a similar world in Dublin but yet it’s authentically Dublin as well.”

“It comes from the writing. The characters are so believable, so well-developed.”

Kinlan admits to being baffled by the public’s appetite for the show’s bad guys.

“Why they have warmed to a character that does such bad things, that’s a hard one…I mean, on one level, we all love the bad guy.”

He describes watching Nidge’s taut decision-making “as amazing”.

“It’s funny, there are characters that do bad things but there’s a huge likeability factor as well in the things they do.”

And what of suggestions the show glamourises violence?

They reject this , insisting the show endeavours to show the awful effects that violence has on families directly involved with crime.

“I don’t think we glamourise it. I mean we paint this bleak picture. I mean my character lost his wife, his house, and is living in caravan and everyone is fearing for their life,” Coonan says.

“I’ve been hiding in a shed for year. There’s nothing glamorous about that,” Kinlan adds.

Bringing the police operation into sharper focus - a major plank of this season’s plot - has also shone more light of the plight of victims, they say.

Coonan refers to Siobhan, Tommy’s embattled partner.

“I mean you look at Siobhan’s character this year. The torment she’s under with Tommy being so damaged and with her having this struggle as to what does she do. Does she go against her instinct which is to protect her uncle or protect herself and try and get a better life?”

I had to ask about the furore over the cat. Both admit to being surprised by the response to scene.

“It was really surprising the response. I mean people get killed every week on the show. It was crazy the response that it got, and the airtime that the cat itself got,” says Coonan.

“It was to show Wayne the character has absolutely no remorse. He doesn’t value life whether it be human or animal. So that’s what Stuart was trying to do. There’s always a definite reason why he puts something in, and it’s not just to glorify violence.”

On a lighter note, Coonan admits to being a bit of box set junkie himself. He’s watched The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Missing, House of Cards, Breaking Bad.

I have to remind myself he’s in full-time employment.

Kinlan, on the other hand, rather gingerly confesses to dropping The Sopranos after three episodes, and to never having seen The Wire.

Sunday’s finale promises to break audience records.

Surprisingly, both actors claim they haven’t seen the episode in its entirety.

“There’s a lot stuff we filmed that we haven’t seen yet. There’s a lot going on.” says Kinlan.

He tells me to “expect what’s expected every week of the show”.