Interview with actress Lola Petticrew for A BUMP ALONG THE WAY

Filmed entirely in Derry and led by an all female creative team, A BUMP ALONG THE WAY tells the story of fun-loving, 44-year-old single mum Pamela (Bronagh Gallagher) who becomes pregnant following a one night-stand, much to the shame of her buttoned-up teenage daughter Allegra  (Lola Petticrew).

A BUMP ALONG THE WAY opens in Irish cinemas on Oct 11th

I believe you had some involvement with the script long before you worked on the film, what can you tell us about that?

We did a reading of the script in London, the film’s producer Louise Gallagher had seen me in a play I did, Come Home, and she thought about me for the character. Bronagh and I share the same agent and Louise contacted them and set it up. We did it with Shelly Long, the director. We did the reading in character for a small audience and figured out what worked and what didn’t work. We didn’t think much about it after that, I just presumed that would be it. Awhile later I got the call asking me did I want to be in the film and I was delighted.

The film is led by an all-female creative team which I am sad to say is still an unusual thing in the industry. What was it like working in that environment?
It was incredible right from the start. Louise is an amazing producer and she worked so hard on the project. Tess McGowan wrote such a great script, and then there was Shelley who had a new baby and was balancing home life with the film. it was incredible to see. There is still a stigma around women having babies and a career, which is ridiculous, but she proved everyone wrong. Northern Ireland Screen helped her to get funding for childcare during the film which was amazing. That doesn’t usually happen. And then obviously working with Bronagh who is a national treasure. She is so giving and made me feel comfortable on set. We immediately had this lovely chemistry. It was a really nice environment on set, everyday walking in just felt good. We had an amazing script supervisor, Orla, another female and it was just so comforting on set to be surrounded by these women. We could draw on each other’s experiences. Nothing felt embarrassing or awkward and no one was afraid to ask questions or suggest something. There wasn’t that fear that we might get shut down.

You mentioned Bronagh there, she has so much experience from blockbusters to small budget films like this one. Did you learn a lot from her?
Absolutely, Bronagh is incredible. Between her music career and her acting career, she is so busy, but she just takes everything in her stride. She showed up every day ready to work, ready to take on board what people threw at her. She makes everything easy. A mother-daughter relationship is so intimate, but Bronagh is open so that intimacy just came naturally.

Your character Allegra comes across as a strong, independent young woman. Can you tell me about her from your perspective?
She was a treat to play. What is interesting about her is that a lot of her strength comes from her vulnerability. She is a really open, creative, wonderful girl and she is so repressed by her social situation. The embarrassment of being 15 is hard enough not to mention the stigma of having a single mother, an absent father, and then having a mother who gets pregnant after a one-night stand. Her world is crumbling around her and then you have the school situation. They are just kids trying to navigate it and it’s hard. She is emotionally intelligent, but you can feel the weight on her. To deal with that kind of thing at any age is incredibly hard, but at15 it is so tough. What I think is really beautiful is that it was like what we had on set; she is surrounded by amazing women. There is friction with her mother, but it is born out of love. It is two women desperately trying to communicate with each other. Her mother wants to be her friend, but sometimes you just want your mammy to be your mammy.

Derry is becoming an unexpected film hub thanks to the success of ‘Derry Girls’ and now this. What was it like to film there?
When we started filming Louise mentioned how Belfast has become such a Mecca for Northern Irish filming and she talked about how Derry is such a fantastic city that has so much to offer. She wanted to be part of making Derry a landmark for filming. It is a great city, I loved working there. I think it is going to keep growing as a filming location.

You are from Belfast and the film is set in Derry. Was it hard to master an accent that is so similar to your own yet also distinct in its differences?
Absolutely. You can have an idea you are doing it right, but it can be hard to tell because like you said there are similarities. I was surrounded by Derry people so I could ask anyone on the crew for their advice, that was helpful.

The film was supported by the Northern Ireland Screen’s New Talent Focus scheme. How important do you think schemes like that are?
They are so important. I can’t imagine films like this being made without that type of support. Who would take the risk to support a mother-daughter comedy-drama set in Derry? We made the film on a small budget, but the thing that’s made it is the heart that was involved. Everybody onboard did it because they wanted to be part of it. The NI Screen support was essential. When you have an idea that you love and that many people support it to get made and then you get to see the fruit of it, that is an amazing feeling. It was an important story and thankfully NI Screen recognised that.

How does it feel having your wee film play at the Toronto Film Festival?
If you had told us last October when we were sitting in that wee house in Derry that we would have the smallest chance of something like that we would not have believed you. Watching the film now though I totally get it. When I see the love and joy in the film, I completely understand why it’s getting these opportunities. It’s amazing that these Northern Irish women who care about film get to go to major festivals and represent Irish film making. It is a privilege.

The film had its premiere in Belfast. What was it like to have it on home ground?
It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my career. I got to bring my mammy and my daddy and the rest of the family. I went to the cinema all the time when I was young and there I was at the Belfast Film Festival at the premiere of a film I’m in and to add to it is a film I love being part of.

And you won a new talent award when the film played at the Galway Film Festival?
Galway was brilliant, but I didn’t think I would win anything. I had just wrapped a film on the Friday and got down just in time to see Bump. The awards were on Sunday, but I was just so tired after filming I couldn’t stay. I just finished a five-week shoot. I was on a bus home when Tess called to say I had won. I couldn’t believe it.

I have family in the North and I noticed that the prop’s in your character’s family home are so distinctly NI 1980s – like the knitted dolly on the toilet roll holder. I believe the house had a connection to someone on the crew. Can you tell us about it?
Believe it or not, it was the childhood home of our director of photography. They were going to sell it and he gave us permission to use it before it was sold. It felt really special to use a real family home and it’s lovely for him to have it on film. And all those little trinkets, like the doll, are so familiar from growing up visiting relations. It was much nicer than being on a built set, it didn’t just feel real, it was real.

If there was one thing you want audiences to take away from this film what would it be?
I would want them to walk away thinking that you can’t underestimate female relationships and female friendships. Also, we are starting to catch on to the bullying that happens to women throughout our lives and that we are finding ways to manoeuvre that and say no. I think that we find a lot of joy in the hard things that happen in our lives and this is a hopeful film. It starts out funny and becomes poignant. We see these women continue to get knocks, but they get back up. Women have been doing this for years and we keep getting back up. Also, that Derry is class and Derry people are class. They have so much hope, just like this film.

Words – Cara O’Doherty

A BUMP ALONG THE WAY – Irish release date is October 11th