Actress Talks About Role in BBC NI Drama

Susan Davey on her television debut in Betrayal of Trust, the docu-drama about paedophile priest Brendan Smyth

Belfast actress Susan Davey was thrilled to get the role of Megan, one of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth’s victims, in the BBC NI docu-drama Betrayal of Trust, but admits it was 'a baptism of fire'.

It was the fresh-faced 21-year-old’s first time in front of the camera and only her second major role (Davey played Ella in the Lyric Drama Studio's production of A Vampire Story).

In fact, Davey wasn’t even sure she wanted to be an actor when she left school. She trained at Gaiety School of Acting, but only committed to a one-year course because she wasn’t sure she would like it. Once she started to train, however, she realized that acting was what she wanted to do.

That realization is what led Davey to the Betrayal of Trust rehearsals, although at the time she never thought she would get the role. ‘I was thrilled just to get a recall,’ she remembers. ‘Then I was given this challenging, important role that I had to really dig down deep for. It’s all been a bit of a baptism by fire.’

For Davey - who wasn’t even born when the events documented in Betrayal of Trust took place, and didn’t know the details until she looked it up for the audition - getting to grips with the material was a gruelling process.

She kept her research into the original story minimal, pointing out that it would be ‘arrogant’ to think she could ever understand what the real people involved had gone through. But after being on set it was still hard to shut it off at the end of the day.

‘I didn't do anything else that month of filming,' admits Davey. 'I just went to work and then home. I didn’t go out at all. I would see a story on the news or people would want to know how it was going. I just didn’t want to talk about it all.’

It's obvious that Davey feels a great deal of responsibility towards the story and her role in telling it. And even more towards the woman behind her role, the real-life version of Megan.

‘Megan is based on a woman who’s still alive and well in Belfast,’ Davey explains. ‘I have so much admiration for her strength. Smyth might have victimised her, but she wasn't a victim. Nobody who went through something like that and survived is. I just really hope I did her justice.’

Davey hopes that people will respond well to the two-part programme (watch it here on BBC iPlayer), but admits that she may not watch it herself. ‘I can’t even watch the trailers,’ she says. ‘I have to leave the room. I don’t think I could sit and watch it with my Dad. It would be too hard.’

Just before she leaves, Davey mentions one piece of research she did do for the role. Someone told her that she had to look up the photograph of Smyth being lead into court. The memory of it makes her shake her head. 'He wasn't sorry,' she says. 'He never said he was sorry for what he'd done.'

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