North Belfast’s Rachel Tucker talks to Maureen Coleman about her seamless move from stage to screen in BBC drama Hope Street and how she’d love to land a musical theatre/movie role.   

As a prolific star of the West End and Broadway, Rachel Tucker’s name has long been synonymous with musical theatre. 

The north Belfast woman who rose to fame as a contestant in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV talent search, I’d Do Anything, has lit up the stage in multi award-winning shows like We Will Rock You, Wicked, The Last Ship and Come From Away, making her one of the industry’s best-known ambassadors. 

But when Covid hit and theatres across the globe were forced to close, the New York-based performer and mum-of-one had to re-evaluate her career. A lifelong advocate of hard work and persistence, Rachel – who had already landed a small part in the 2018 BBC One drama Informer – began to record self-tapes from her home for several TV auditions. To her delight, she picked up a part in Holby City and in a new BBC One/Britbox returning drama to be filmed in Donaghadee Northern Ireland – Hope Street. 

“It was almost like self-training at home, sitting in front of a camera, doing it again, doing it better next time, criticising myself, getting the angles right,” explains Rachel, ensconced in a café on New York’s 34th Street, where we chat via Zoom. 

“I got my husband Guy (Retallack, a director) to watch them and my actor friend Gerard McCarthy.  

“The pandemic had stopped all theatre as we know it and I was forcibly free to do television. I landed three jobs, Holby City, Hope Street and a commercial. 

“That’s how TV versus theatre happened. I was given time in my life and career to do it.” 

In Hope Street, currently airing its second series on BBC NI, BBC iPlayer and Britbox, Rachel plays Siobhan O’Hare, on/off wife of local police chief Finn O’Hare, played by Enniskillen’s Ciaran McMenamin. 

Siobhan has returned to the fictional seaside town of Port Devine after having a fling with her son Shay’s PE teacher and is desperate to try and repair her marriage and rebuild the family unit. 

Her entrance in series one was soap-worthy dramatic and as the series progressed, her character battled cancer, showed her softer side and allowed viewers to see her as a multi-dimensional woman on a mission to keep her family together. 

If Rachel found the transition from stage to screen daunting, it certainly didn’t show. She’s totally at home in front of the camera, with her on-screen husband praising her ‘natural’ acting talent in many Press interviews he’s given. 

“I’ll pay Ciaran later,” laughs Rachel. 

“Siobhan is an absolute joy to play. I read the part like me, close to how I’d say things in my own accent. I find the similarities and go with them. 

“It’s no Meryl Streep thing. There’s no rhyme or reason to how I play her, no theory. It just comes through me and I want people to see that she has a big heart and has made a mistake that she’s held her hands up for. 

“When I make a mistake with Guy – not for something like that thankfully – I hold up my hands and say I’m sorry. 

“Siobhan has crossed the line and wants her family back. I use what I know and what’s on the page in front of me.” 

Playing someone who’s had an extra-marital affair is such an ‘alien’ concept to the happily married Rachel but she says it’s fun to explore those feelings and step into the shoes of a complex woman starved of affection and attention from her workaholic husband. 

And although she can’t relate directly to Siobhan’s situation, she says she understands her motives. 

“These things happen in people’s everyday lives,” says Rachel. “It’s not perfection. I love how off the left she is.  

“It’s not black and white to her.” 

Fans of the series will know however that this series, Siobhan has found herself tempted again – this time with newcomer to Port Devine, DC Al Quinn, played by Carrickfergus man Stephen Hagan.  

What makes the situation even more complicated is that Al is one of her husband’s oldest friends. 

“Yep, Siobhan’s done it again so how can you call it a mistake?” Rachel muses. 

“What has led to this happening again? She’s still recovering. She’s trying her best to win back Finn but he’s showing all the signs of it being really over. 

“It’s a moment with Al. He’s held her in his arms metaphorically when she’s been at the end of her tether. 

“But she does love Finn and ultimately, I feel they should be a couple. There’s so much more to discover about them as a couple as opposed to them not being together but that’s just me and how I feel about them, not the writers.” 

Rachel says she loves being part of the Hope Street cast and relishes the chance to get back home to shoot and see her family in Belfast. 

She’s learned so much from watching legendary actress Brid Brennan (Concepta O’Hare) at work – a ‘true professional through and through’ and from the team’s ‘number one’ and all-round funny man, Ciaran. She’s also bonded with fellow north Belfast actress Kerri Quinn (Sergeant Marlene Pettigrew) as well as the rest of the cast and is keeping her fingers crossed for series three to be green lit – and many more beyond that. 

“I would be mad not to stay,” she replies, when asked if she could see herself part of the drama long-term. 

“I have been given this opportunity, which, coming from musical theatre, is rare. 

“If this wasn’t a Northern Irish drama, I wouldn’t be involved.  

“You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, so yes, I would love to see it through.” 

Then she laughs: “Unless of course Spielberg phones me up and says ‘I want Rachel Tucker to play a brassy red head in a Hollywood movie’ and I’d be like ‘Sorry, Hope Street, I’m awfully busy.” 

While series three of the popular drama is expected to be recommissioned over the coming months, Rachel has plenty to keep her busy in the meantime. She still coaches musical theatre for a new generation online, has international gigs lined up and an album of Broadway musical songs to be released. 

Her life involves a lot of travel and she says relocation is something she and Guy have talked about. But their nine-year-old son Ben is happy and settled in school in New York and for the time being, she wants to focus on the present and enjoy what she has. 

There’s always that spark though; that gritty determination from her early days gigging around Belfast with her sister and dad that spurs her on to go further. 

The older she gets, the more she raises the bar for herself. The 41-year-old has conquered the West End and Broadway, performed concerts in front of large crowds, released albums and secured a role in a BBC One returning drama. 

So what’s next for the ever-evolving Rachel? 

“I’d love to do a hybrid of musical theatre and movies,” she replies. 

“You know, you get to a certain point where you expect a certain amount of yourself, from yourself, for yourself and I’d love to do a film. 

“Everything seems far away to begin with, like it will never happen then it starts to get closer and closer and you’re thinking ‘Wow, this could actually really happen’.”

Hollywood, watch out! 

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