Brendan Is Perfect for the Look of the Irish; RUGBY ACTOR BRENDAN COYLE WORKED HARD TO MAKE THE ROLE OF A REBEL WITH A CAUSE AS AUTHENTIC AS POSSIBLE

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Byline: Marion McMullen

TV makers turned to the son of a Warwickshire butcher when it came to finding an actor capable of playing Irish republican fighter Michael Collins in controversial drama Rebel Heart. TV writer MARION McMULLEN finds out how a Midlander ended up as one of Ireland's most notorious figures.

HIS father ran a butcher's shop in Rugby and he grew up in the Midlands, but Brendan Coyle has no problem steeping himself in Irish history.

The son of an Irish father and a Scottish mother, he has enjoyed the luck of the Irish when it comes to acting.

His Celtic heritage has led to him playing Amanda Burton's Irish lover in Silent Witness, a maverick Irish cop in Thief Takers and an Irish rover in Catherine Cookson's The Glass Virgin.

He also won an Olivier Award for stage hit The Weir - playing an Irish publican.

These days Brendan even lives in Ireland and calls Dublin home, but says he often feels an outsider in both Britain and Ireland.

"In Ireland I'm a 'blow-in' and in England I'm a Paddy," he laughs, "but it doesn't bother me."

This particular Paddy was born in Corby and started out chopping meat at his late father's shop. Then the acting bug bit and he started training in Dublin before winning a scholarship to the Mountview Theatre School in London.

Now the Midlander is back bringing the past to life playing Irish republican fighter Michael Collins in BBC 1 epic new drama Rebel Heart.

The series, which starts on Sunday, looks at the struggle for Irish independence through the ideas of a young Dubliner, but the drama has already attracted criticism from some quarters for painting the English as baddies and giving a one-sided view of Irish history.

Writer Ronan Bennett, however, insists that his intention was not to comment on the recent Troubles. "I'm not trying to educate or persuade anyone," he insists. "If it clarifies issues or provokes discussion of Irish history, that's up to individuals. All I cared about was writing a moving story. …