Brendan O’Carroll, the genius behind the phenomenal hit BBC sitcom, Mrs Browns Boys, has revealed that the show saved his life!
O’Carroll who wrote the series, as well as staring as the main character, Mrs Brown, had found himself in a deep depression after falling into £2.2million pounds worth of debt after a film which he had invested in was a flop. He was so down, and penniless, that he begged god to let him die!
O’Carroll stars as the now iconic Irish housewife, Mrs Brown, and with a supporting cast of mainly friends and family – Mrs Brown’s daughter Cathy is played by O’Carroll’s real life wife, Jennifer Gibney, Mrs Browns best friend and neighbour, Winnie is played by O’Carroll’s real life sister, Eilish O’Carroll. Family friend Buster Brady is played by O’Carroll’s son, Danny O’Carroll and his best friend Paddy Houlihan plays Mrs Brown’s son Dermot. Mrs Brown’s daughters in law are played by O’Carroll’s daughter Fiona O’Carroll (Maria) and real life daughter-in-law, Danny’s wife Amanda Woods (Betty). Mrs Brown’s religious son, Trevor is played by O’Carroll’s real life son-in-law, Fiona’s husband Martin Delany and finally Winnie’s daughter, Sharon, is played by O’Carroll’s real life sister-in-law, Jennifer’s sister Fiona Gibney and the boy who plays Mrs Brown’s grandson Bono is played by O’Carroll’s real life grandson Jamie O’Carroll – got all that?
The show is one of the most successful sitcoms in recent times, earning it the 2012 BAFTA award for Best Situation Comedy, however things weren’t always so rosy in the O’Carroll house.
Speaking to TV Biz, O’Carroll explained: “It was the first time I’d felt depression like that.
“I sat in my house with the curtains drawn for days, thinking, ‘God, just take me now. I’m f****d.’
“I just could not see a way out of it. I was absolutely screwed.
“The thought of going back and starting from scratch after all that was devastating.”
The situation occurred back in 1998 when O’Carroll borrowed a small fortune to fund the movie Sparrow’s Trap after a film company pulled out of its financial commitment just two days before filming was due to commence.
The film, about a Boxer from Dublin, was never released leaving O’Carroll the huge debt, and with only £30,000 left in the bank, no way to repay it.
He recalled: “I had no one to blame. I couldn’t point the finger at anybody. I was out in a desert — but I hadn’t been put there, I’d walked there myself.
“A lot of people I was close to abandoned me and I watched their backs as they walked away thinking, ‘I never thought you would walk away.’
“That was the worst thing, feeling so totally alone. A perfect dream had turned into a f***ing nightmare. I was broke and felt like a loser.
“But eventually I realised I had to get up and get back out there. Mrs Brown saved me because coming up with a play about her helped me to start paying the money back.”
“I finally paid my debts off last year.”
This wasn’t the first time that O’Carroll had found himself in hot water financially. At the slender age of just 25 he found himself in £96,000 debt when a friend ran off with cash from a shared investment, of which he commented: “I owned a pub with a friend and one day he was just gone with all the cash, the stock, the bank account. I was scared s***less.
“I literally had nothing. I lived by borrowing and doing odd jobs.
“It took me weeks to understand that this was real, that it was actually happening to me.
“I can remember sitting outside my friend’s house on Christmas Day in the pouring rain, just thinking to myself — he has to come home. But he didn’t.
“Back then I was so angry. If I’d seen him I’d have f***ing killed him. But now I believe that everything happens for a reason.
“That situation was the reason I ended up in comedy. I was desperate for money and I begged a friend to let me go on stage at a club he owned.
“It was a success and it made good money, so I decided to keep going.”
The answer to his prayers, Mrs Browns Boys, had begun as just the single character, foul mouthed Agnes Brown, who O’Carroll had developed for an Irish radio series, before using her in a series of hit plays. The character, who O’Carroll plays in drag was then transformed into the international hit we know and love today when the BBC commissioned him to turn the character into a sitcom in 2011.
Since then the show has received high accreditation and phenomenal success, and is up for the Best Situation Comedy in tomorrow night’s National Television Awards, but O’Carroll will never forget where he has come from, or what he has had to endure to get this far:
“I can remember being so broke that I celebrated finding two 50p pieces in a coffee jar because it meant I could buy fish and chips.
“There were probably about 30, 40 times when I thought: ‘This is it,’ and then had the carpet pulled out from under my feet and everything collapsed.
“But I’m glad now that I didn’t have success when I was younger. I think I would have gone off the rails and ended up a drug addict — probably in prison.
“I’m not a superstar — but I’m doing well. All those failures mean I’ll never let money go to my head.”
To vote for Mrs Browns Boys at tomorrow night’s National Television Awards click here or vote by phone on 0901 888 2013.
The National Television Awards can be seen on Wednesday 23rd January 2013 at 7.30pm on ITV1/ITV1 HD
Watch the first episode of the current series of Mrs Brown’s Boys in the clip below: