Suits You Sir

Gerard McCarthy brings talent to the Hollyoaks beauty parade

Since taking up the role of controversial, cross-dressing, bisexual Kris Fisher in Channel 4’s hit show Hollyoaks, west Belfast actor Gerard McCarthy has learnt that versatility is a valuable commodity in the world of performing arts.

McCarthy's wacky character Kris has had his fair share of ups and downs. From struggling with his sexuality to dealing with an HIV scare and falling in and out of love, the part has been an actors dream. Despite the gruelling schedule and the occasional pair of high heels, McCarthy has enjoyed every minute.

'This character is really, really exaggerated,' McCarthy admits. 'And the tendency when you're playing a character like that is to go completely over the top. At least that's what my theatre experience taught me. The first couple of weeks the director kept telling me to bring it right down - you go into acting mode and that's the last thing that they want. So I've learnt a lot on this job. And it's been great getting to know the whole cast.'

More recently McCarthy's work on Hollyoaks was recognised by the 2007 British Soap Awards and Inside Soap Awards, where he received two nominations for Best Newcomer. At home he was awarded the Big Buzz/Naked Sun Irish Entertainment Award for Best Irish TV Actor.

McCarthy's career was given its kickstart when he was awarded the Kenneth Branagh Renaissance Scholarship to train at Laine Theatre Arts school in Surrey. Graduating in 2002, he made his professional debut in the Perth Repertory Theatre’s production of Carousel before fulfilling a lifetime's ambition in London's West End joining the cast of smash hit musical Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre.

Other theatre credits include TS Eliot's Murder In The Cathedral, The Good Friday Trilogy, and the title role in the workshop production of Casanova by Vivien Ellis Prize winner Philip Godfrey.

On the film front Gerard has played Jack in Miguek Guerreiro's acclaimed No Place To Go and the lead role in Rajesh Nair's Pop Goes The Bhangra. In 2006, after presenting a number of TV projects such as BBC NI's Inside Out series, Gerard was offered a part in the popular soap Hollyoaks.

'It was a shock,' he admits. 'But I was ready for it. When opportunities like this come around, you have to grab them with both hands.'

Away from Hollyoaks McCarthy has been pursuing other dreams like A model actorsinging and modelling. This year he was one of the headlining acts at the Big Buzz/Naked Sun Irish Entertainment Awards in Belfast, singing the George Michael classic 'Faith'. He has also been a resident judge at the CityBeat 'Search For A Young Star' competition in Belfast where he entertained the crowds during each of the heats and shows.

McCarthy was also chosen by Belfast fashion house Playground to model their spring/summer 2007 collection. 'I never considered modelling before so I was really nervous about accepting the offer,' says McCarthy. 'But once I got into it I really enjoyed the experience.'

So what's next for the versatile blonde-haired boy from Belfast? Might the lure of LA prove irresistable or is Soap Land home for the foreseeable future?

'Hollyoaks to Hollywood you mean?' McCarthy quips. 'Who know's what's going to happen. I would never have dreamed that four years after leaving drama school I'd be in a show as high profile as this. Funnily enough, just last month Hollyoaks was launched in the US, so we'll be going over to do some publicity.

'It should be interesting to see how a character like Kris goes down in America because he is unique. Initially you'd think that the Americans would love him because he's Irish, but he's not a singing, dancing Leprechaun, far from it.

'Who knows what might happen further down the line though. One thing you learn in drama school is to always be prepared for whatever job comes next, whether that's singing, dancing, acting or presenting. Whatever it is, bring it on!' 

Lee Henry