Game Of Thrones actor JJ Murphy saw theatre as a labour of love, his funeral Mass has been told.
The 86-year-old was cast to portray Ser Denys Mallister, the oldest member of the Night’s Watch military order, and began filming scenes in the HBO series last week. He died on Friday at his home.
Friends and family attended the service at St Brigid’s Catholic church in his native city of Belfast. Fr Edward O’Donnell said he offered a helping hand and had real concern for others.
The priest said: “JJ knew from his earliest days in the old Group Theatre what his path in life was to be and so all he did in the theatre was a labour of love – that doesn’t mean that it was without its difficulties and frustrations.”
The thespian’s film credits include Cal (1984), Angela’s Ashes (1999) and Mickybo and Me (2004). He has a character role in the forthcoming film, Dracula Untold and, just days before his death, filmed his first scenes for Game of Thrones, also shot in Northern Ireland.
JJ Murphy is perhaps more familiar to Northern Ireland audiences through his wide range of stage work, including Sam Cree’s Don’t Tell the Wife (1967) at the Belfast Arts Theatre, Martin Lynch’s Lyric Theatre production of Dockers (1981), and Tinderbox Theatre Company’s production of Convictions (2000), a site-specific work at Crumlin Road Courthouse, Belfast.
He trained with the Ulster Group Theatre and worked for many years at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, where he helped mentor a younger generation of local actors including Ciaran Hinds and Liam Neeson.
Fr O’Donnell said he was a fixture at his parish and his sudden death came as a surprise.
“Last Friday morning JJ wasn’t feeling so well so he lay down on his bed, closed his eyes and didn’t waken.”
He said the actor had continued to play an active part in the life of the congregation.
“His sudden death, therefore, comes as a great shock to us all and even more so for the love of his life, Mary.
“She and JJ would have celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary in September.”
He had a son, Joe, daughter Jane and granddaughter Sarah-Jane.
Northern Ireland’s Arts Council has said his concern for his fellow actors was well-known and described him as a spirited and redoubtable advocate for improving the pay, conditions and career opportunities of actors in the country.