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Emer Kenny: "I went to the Emmys with very dirty hair!"

Writer, actress and producer Emer Kenny on her new detective show Karen Pirie, her love of Stella McCartney and her hungover outing to the Emmys

Emer Kenny is a busy woman. Not only is she starring in the upcoming ITV crime drama Karen Pirie, Kenny has also written and executive produced the show as well.  

"It’s been everything to me for the past three years," says Kenny of the show. "I’m quite obsessive and a real perfectionist so every detail on this project mattered hugely." 

Going by the synopsis of the show – which Kenny shares below – it sounds like an absolute cracker and we can't wait to watch it. 

Enjoy the below interview in which Kenny discusses everything from her husband Rick Edwards' very romantic engagement ring (lad did good) to meeting a mate through her childhood cross-eye.  

Life

What upcoming project(s) are you most excited about?

Karen Pirie! A new crime drama for ITV that I have written, executive produced and also act in. Karen Pirie is a young female detective in her twenties who is assigned to an allegedly unsolvable cold case because it’s the subject of a new true crime podcast.

In 1996, Rosie Duff, a nineteen year old barmaid from the Scottish town of St Andrew’s, was found murdered in the Cathedral in the middle of the night, with three university students, covered in her blood, at the scene of the crime. The students were never charged but they have remained the chief suspects for the murder for the following twenty-five years. The Scottish Police Service know there is no new evidence so they put a young detective (who they massively underestimate) onto the case because she’s a woman, and they know that will look good.

It’s based on a Val McDermid novel, Lauren Lyle (of Outlander fame) plays Karen, and I play her best friend River.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

This series, and my first experience as a showrunner. It’s been everything to me for the past three years – I’m quite obsessive and a real perfectionist so every detail on this project mattered hugely.

From the scripts – of course – to the team, the casting, the shoot, the edit, everything all the way up until the poster and the trailers – I’ve been thinking each element non-stop since we began the journey, and I am so, so proud of what we’ve put together.

I think it’s a beautiful looking show with some incredible performances, and I think it really does have something to say. Also, it’s quite funny at times.

My other proudest accomplishment is playing Tash in the The Curse, a Channel 4 heist-comedy that came out this year. It’s from the team behind Murder in Successville and the creators of People Just Do Nothing. Tash is such a gangster, cool character and the show manages to be gripping, cinematic and hilariously funny all at once.

I’m so proud to have been involved and can’t wait to start shooting on Series 2, which I’m writing on this time as well.

If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?

I would have gotten all the parts I didn’t get! Especially the big ones! No – you can’t think like that. I’m not exactly grateful for every bump in the road – there have been many and a lot of them hurt – but they lead me here, and here is pretty good.

What do you hope to achieve that you haven’t yet?

I want to write a great role for myself next. Something ambitious and different to what I’ve done before. I’d like to do something action-y, something physically challenging… something that scares me. I’d also eventually like to direct – but I need to learn how to do that first - so that’s a longer-term plan!

Emer Kenny

Outside of your family, who is / was your biggest inspiration?

There are so many – Emma Thompson. Sharon Horgan. Pamela Adlon. Issa Rae. Greta Gerwig. Actresses who are writing, directing, producing, often all at the same time, to an exceptional level.

I have a list of them in my notes app that I look at when I feel hopeless, and like I can’t do it.

Tell us something nobody knows about you…

I was cross-eyed until I was eight, when I had an operation to fix it. I don’t think we’re supposed to use the word ‘cross-eyed’ anymore but it paints the most truthful picture.

Sometimes my eye strays back slightly when I’m really tired or really drunk. When I met one of my best mates I looked at him in a nightclub and realised his eye did the same – he’d had the same childhood problem!

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Emer Kenny

Style

What’s your favourite item of clothing – and what does it mean to you?

This changes a lot! I have so many. My current favourite is a Stella McCartney suit I bought for the The Curse launch. I really resent that traditionally men can dress up in the same simple suit and always look fresh and slick – and women feel like they have to change it up and never wear the same thing to events.

So, I found this perfectly cut Stella suit and I intend to wear it to death. It makes me feel confident and strong – but also relaxed. Is this how men have been feeling all this time?

Favourite accessory – watch / jewellery / etc – and why is it special to you?

My engagement ring. My husband Rick asked me to marry him after knowing each other for seven weeks – and he managed to find a beautiful vintage ring in that time!

I’d mentioned to him that Robin Hood – the fox in the 1970s Disney version – was my first crush, and that I loved the scene where he gets together with Maid Marian and puts a flower between her fingers.

My ring is a very old diamond with a petal pattern in the setting, to reflect that flower. We’ve been together for nine years now, so it was a good impulse buy from him!

What items do you take on holiday and why?

I am a huge over-packer, but I like to think with good reason. You never know what’s going to happen! Once I went on a trip to LA and I put a green Stella (can you tell I love her?) dress I’d got at Bicester Village into my suitcase – JUST in case I needed to go to something glamorous (which at that point was very unlikely).

Towards the end of the trip, I was extremely hungover and filling up my rental car with petrol when my friend who is a director called me. He had just opened his invitation for the Emmys and realised he had a plus one – could I be ready in half an hour? I put the green dress on and went to the Emmys with very dirty hair.

Emer Kenny

Is there an item you threw away – or lost – that you really miss?

My dad had an amazing collection of vintage t-shirts – band shirts, ones with weird slogans or cartoons on, one with a Ralph Steadman ‘Fear In Loathing In Las Vegas’ illustration, all sorts.

I borrowed and – tragically – stretched, tore or ruined a few of them during my teenage years. He’s very zen about it. I still feel terrible.

This is a good reminder. I need to start buying him amazing vintage t-shirts.

What’s next on your shopping list?

There are some chunky black Gucci sandals I have my eye on that I want to wear when we’re filming The Curse Series 2 abroad in the sun this autumn, but they are so pricey I can’t justify it.

I’m just going to dream about them and buy something more practical instead.

What would you buy if money was no object?

I’d front everyone’s energy bills for the whole year. And then pay someone very smart to reverse climate change. Your move, Musk and Bezos.

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Karen Pirie starts Sunday 25 September at 8pm on ITV

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