Greenisland actor Stephen Hagan certainly seems to have luck on his side this year as he not only continues his role in the hit Sky One show ‘Lucky Man’ alongside fellow Northern Irish actor Jimmy Nesbitt, but has also starred in the acclaimed Belfast film ‘Zoo’, which was released earlier this month.
As a student at Carrickfergus Grammar, Stephen loved being on the stage but he never imagined that he would make a career out of it. However, despite plans to study accountancy at university and join his father’s business Hagan Homes, Stephen pursued his acting dreams thanks to the encouragement of his mother.
“Acting was always something I did outside school,” explained Stephen. “I went to Youth Lyric when I was a teenager, as well as White Lights in Whitehead and I did a few pantos. I loved doing it but never thought about a career. After my A Levels I had a place at Northumbria to do accountancy but mum encouraged me to audition for drama schools. She has been very supportive. She was the first person to take me to the theatre. I spoke to her recently about it and asked her what she thought was going to happen after drama school and she said she always knew I would make it.”
Just before graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in 2007 Stephen landed a part Antony Sher’s play, The Giant, in which he became the inspiration for Michelangelo’s David. “It was a pretty big deal,” admitted Stephen, ”because the cast were all old school RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) and I was straight out of drama school and didn’t know what was going on. I was also fully naked on stage so after that anything was easier.”
Stephen also landed a part in an action film with Stephen Seagal but it wasn’t all plain sailing and he struggled for a year to find work. “I didn’t feel I could complain to friends from drama school because they hadn’t had a job at all, but I found it really difficult,” Stephen admitted. “It is one of the biggest challenges in this profession. You have to still be productive and do your best.”
However, during one of the toughest years in his career, there was a silver lining, as it was then that he met his now wife, Wendy Wason. “I spent the year falling in love with her, which was nice,” he confessed.
“It was a pretty good time. I am a big believer in everything happening for a reason but when you go through the dark bits it is very hard to see that.”
Stephen’s career drought didn’t last for long though and soon the acting jobs came thick and fast. And three years ago he landed a role in the hit Sky series Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, which sees him play Rich, the brother of Jimmy Nesbitt’s DI Harry Clayton.
The show proved to be a runaway success, with series three kicking off last Friday (July 20). much to the delight of its legions of dedicated fans.
However, this is not the first time that Stephen has crossed paths with Jimmy. “It was about 14 years ago when I was 19,” he revealed. “At a charity auction my dad won the chance to spend the day on the set of Murphy’s Law with Jimmy. I went with him and ended up getting a ‘blink and you missed it’ part on the show. Jimmy was brilliant even then. It ended up that his parents are friendly with my grandparents. Typical of Northern Ireland, everyone knows everyone.”
So when he landed the part playing opposite Jimmy in the new show, Stephen was delighted to be acting with someone who had inspired him as a young man. “They had already cast someone else in the role but the guy had got a part in the Crown so he pulled out,” he explained. “He was also English but they decided they wanted someone Northern Irish instead. I auditioned on the Wednesday, was called back the next day, got the call on the Friday that I had got the role and we started shooting on the Monday.
“Sometimes you wait for jobs for months on end and some jobs come up all of a sudden.
“I would say I enjoy it even more than I did when I started three years ago. This is my first regular character and I have learnt so much. You become more and more confident with the character. I feel in season three Rich has really found his place in the show.”
This month has also seen Stephen star in ‘Zoo’, a film based on the true story of Denise Austin, the ‘elephant angel’ who looked after a baby elephant from Belfast Zoo during World War II. “I loved going home to work,” continued Stephen. “It was an absolute pleasure. The cast and crew in Northern Ireland were fantastic.” Stephen has come a long way since he was a child dreaming of being on the stage, but it is a journey that he has thoroughly enjoyed and no doubt there will be much more to come from the Greenisland man. “It is very easy to sit and look up to see what everyone else is doing, but if you look down you can see where you came from - and it has been a long journey,” he added.