Amy De Bhrún likes to keep busy.
Over the past year the actor, writer, and recent Line of Duty star has appeared in the biggest TV series of the decade, graced the cover of many a magazine, voiced characters for film and video games, and written a screenplay.
The Dublin native has always got several projects in the pipeline – the most imminent being the arrival of her second child. “When I say I don’t like to slow down, I really wasn’t lying!” she tells Her.
Amy has spent a lot of the past year concerned with the arts, but recently she’s been using her platform for something else: speaking out on Ireland’s Covid maternity restrictions.
Her video denouncing the country’s harsh restrictions went viral this summer, as she detailed her own past experience of childbirth and how crucial her partner’s presence had been. “Irish women tend to get on with things,” she says, but this wasn’t something she could stay silent on.
“There’s been such a disconnect between restrictions being lifted elsewhere and nothing happening for maternity hospitals,” Amy says. “It made me think of all the campaigning we’d done for bodily autonomy in this country, and I thought ‘why am I not speaking out about this?’
“People were flying out on holidays, GAA matches were being organised, I was in the cinema with my husband and I was like ‘sorry, we can sit in the cinema together but you can’t be there for the birth of our child?’ which is what the restrictions still were for a lot of places at the time.”
At the time of writing, the HSE is “hopeful” that most of Ireland’s 19 maternity units are ‘compliant’ with the guidelines set out for them, yet the stories of women labouring alone and men sitting outside in cars for hours remain.
Due to meet with officials to discuss a roadmap this week, campaigners are determined to achieve #BetterMaternityCare during the pandemic; one that understands the needs of a pregnant person and how crucial their partner’s presence is throughout the entire labouring process.
“The experience of giving birth can be very overwhelming,” Amy says, “you can feel very powerless. Partners are often seen as visitors and they’re so not. They’re so central. Labour is an entire process and hospitals are already understaffed. A partner needs to be there the entire time to advocate for you, to help you.
“We need to keep banging the drum and being vocal. I generally didn’t say too much about being pregnant in the past in case it affected my work flow, but in this case, I had to.”
Amy kept her pregnancy quiet when she was expecting her first child, daughter Billie, and did the same with her second – until recently. While many expectant mothers choose to keep their pregnancies off social media to enjoy the experience in private, Amy did so to keep working.
Pregnancy in the entertainment industry, she says, is another case of society “not quite being there yet.”
“There’s often a misconception that if a person is pregnant, that person won’t be available,” she says. “Sometimes they’re not even asked to audition for roles. There’s an assumption that if you’re an actor and you’re going to have a baby you’re not interested in working again. That isn’t the case for a lot of people.”
It certainly isn’t the case for Amy. The past year may have been busy, but really, so has her entire career.
After moving to London to pursue her dream of studying acting, Amy began writing and producing her own one woman shows. It wasn’t long before she had an impressive and varied list of credits under her name including Vikings, Coronation Street, the Jason Bourne franchise, and of course, Line of Duty.
But before all of that, Amy was a toddler acting out scenes from Annie: The Musical in her back garden. Even at that age, she knew the stage was where she wanted to be.
“In Junior Infants we did a play where I was the witch. I had to melt, and I was so in character. I fully believed this was happening, like it was the performance of my life,” she says.
“Even then I loved getting lost in a performance. When I was seven I played the wicked witch in Snow White and I was improv-ing and ad-libbing to add something to the character. It was just in me. There was never any question of me doing anything else, it was always acting. I never planned to be famous, just to be an actress.”
Amy has always been a working actor, but it wasn’t until Line of Duty that she became identifiably known for a role. As Liverpudlian Steph, she emerged as one of the series’ most speculated on characters, as theories around the identity of ‘H’ were rife and viewers dissected every single scene with relish.
With a reported finale viewership of 12.8 million, the drama became the UK’s most watch series of the century. But with such notoriety, must come pressure. Or so one would think.
“People were watching so intently every week, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed,” Amy says. “Being experienced in my industry really helped from a mental health point of view. When Line of Duty came along, I felt grounded. I knew I’d be doing this whether four or four million people were watching.
“It was a blessing [Line of Duty] happened later for me because I had years of gigging away anonymously, doing things I was passionate about, so by the time I was known for something I was always confident in myself. I knew who I was, and that’s a huge thing.”
For all the interviews, fan theories, and Twitter memes (of which there were many), Amy says that Line of Duty was no more nerve-racking than the shows she wrote and performed in her early career. In fact, it was less so.
“When you’re performing your work to a small room, you’re putting yourself out there,” she says. “You’re more vulnerable than if you’re in a massive show with incredible actors and great writing. Once that happens and you’ve done all the other stuff, you sort of just go ‘oh this’ll be fine!'”
If nerves were going to show themselves anywhere, it was bound to be during the filming of Paul Greengrass’s Jason Bourne. On hold for over a month ahead of filming in 2015, Amy won the hub tech role and worked her first big budget Hollywood production – one starring Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, and Tommy Lee Jones.
Yet despite the sheer scale of celebrity and budget on the London set, the hard bit, Amy says, was getting the part. “The work is getting the roles, once you’re on set that’s the fun bit,” she says.
“I was told I had the role but I was on hold, and that was a month to six weeks before I knew for sure, which is really hard to keep to yourself and be chill about. It felt like an endless time waiting to hear.
“The level of celebrity and budget was crazy. You’re just like, ‘I’m going to soak every bit of this in and learn as much as I can.'”
Right now, Amy is gearing up for the arrival of her baby, awaiting the release of her latest projects, Dublin mystery series Harry Wild and upcoming RTÉ drama, Hidden Assets. After that, she’s going to see where the land lies following her recent surge in popularity.
“I’m loving TV at the moment, and I’d love to do more film,” she says. “TV has been such an accepting industry and a land of opportunity for me. I just get such a buzz out of it.”