Northern Ireland

My Mother and Other Strangers: BBC drama reveals tensions when US airbase opens near Tyrone village

In My Mother and Other Strangers, the peace of a small Tyrone parish is disturbed when an American airbase opens nearby
Image caption The five-part series is set in the forties in a small Tyrone parish

It is a drama about what happens when two very different worlds collide in wartime.

In My Mother and Other Strangers, the peace of a small Tyrone parish is disturbed when an American airbase opens nearby.

The five-part series is set in the forties and was written by well-known musician and screenwriter Barry Devlin.

"It's like a big spaceship floating into this rural place," he said.

"It's set in a parish called Moybeg, which might or might not be something to do with a real parish called Ardboe.

Image caption The drama stars Aaron Staton, who plays American Captain Ronald Dreyfuss and Rose Coyne as Hattie Morahan

"In 1942 this enormous airbase was dropped right into the middle of it, which let all of these exotic creatures with ray-bans and proper uniforms out into the parish."

The series stars Hattie Morahan as Rose Coyne and Owen McDonnell as her husband Michael.

However, Hattie falls in love with the American Captain Ronald Dreyfuss, played by Aaron Staton, best known for his role as Ken Cosgrove in Mad Men.

'Experience'

According to Staton, playing Dreyfuss meant learning more about his own grandfather, who fought in the battle of the Bulge in 1944.

"I've always been very proud of his service and it made me think about my grandfather although his experience was probably very different," he said.

"But it certainly made me wonder about what he saw.

"This actually happened, these bases in Northern Ireland.

"You've got these kids who've left home to possibly go off and die, and they're coming and disturbing what was a peaceful community.

Image caption The drama reveals the tension that arises in a small village when an American airbase opens nearby

"They feel at times entitled to a bit of fun as part of their service, but it's disrupting what would have been a quiet parish.

"It's my character's position to try to help these two worlds understand one another."

'Different attitudes'

The character Rose is English, although she has lived in Moybeg for nearly two decades since marrying Michael.

According to Barry Devlin, that means she also has to confront different attitudes to the war and the Americans from some of the other villagers.

"There's a certain amount of resistance to the Americans coming in," he said.

"Some of that is just the kind of envy young men who don't have much money feel for young men who do.

Image caption Barry Devlin has previous written episodes of hit series like The Darling Buds of May and Ballykissangel

"That's a kind of a volatile and potent mix."

Devlin has previous written episodes of hit series like The Darling Buds of May and Ballykissangel.

'Universal story'

Did he have to change elements of Northern Irish life for a UK audience?

"It is a universal story but it's also very unique and is about a particular place," he said.

"I'm hoping that people will become part of Moybeg rather than Moybeg trying to simplify itself.

"I've slightly modified the language, but the quirks and uniqueness of a parish is something I've celebrated."

Image caption Actor Aaron Staton got some time to enjoy Northern Ireland with his family when he was not working

The BBC Northern Ireland production was filmed in early 2016, in locations around Strangford Lough.

For Aaron Staton it meant some time to enjoy Northern Ireland with his family when he was not working.

"I think it's maybe the most beautiful place that we've ever seen," he said.

"We went up to the Giant's Causeway and we drove down the coast.

"The people were refreshingly sweet and direct too."

'My Mother and Other Strangers' begins on Sunday 13 November at 21:00 GMT on BBC One

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