Celebrate Saint Patrick's Day on March 17, 2021 with a look at some of Wonderwall.com's favorite Irish and Northern Irish stars… starting with Nicola Coughlan. The "Derry Girls" actress, who catapulted to fame as loyal but gossipy Penelope Featherington on the sexy Netflix period drama "Bridgerton," was born in Galway, Ireland, and raised on the Emerald Isle's west coast. Keep reading for more of our favorite Irish and Northern Irish stars…
"Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar" actor Jamie Dornan — who won over critics with his performance as a serial killer on TV's "The Fall" in 2013 and made audiences' jaws drop in the "50 Shades of Grey" franchise — was born and raised in the suburbs of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He's married to English musician-actress Amelia Warner, with whom he has three daughters.
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Athlete-turned-actor Paul Mescal, whose performance as English scholar Connell on Hulu's "Normal People" — the acclaimed Ireland-set Hulu/BBC show that emerged as the must-see series of the early days of 2020 coronavirus lockdowns — drew raves for his work on the show, left many a viewer in their feelings and earned an Emmy nomination for his efforts. Paul hails from Maynooth, County Kildare.
Surprisingly, Saoirse Ronan was born on American soil — in the Bronx, to be exact. But when she was 3, her Irish parents returned to their native country and raised their only child in County Carlow. Saoirse ("It's pronounced either 'Sir-sha' — like 'inertia' — [or] a lot of Irish people would say 'Seer-sha,'" she told Yahoo! Movies) got her big international break in 2007's "Atonement," a performance that earned her Oscar, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award noms, and she's continued to make cool, interesting film choices ever since. She picked up another Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for her work in 2017's "Lady Bird" and more recently picked up best actress nominations for her work in 2019's "Little Women." Next up, catch her in 2021's "The French Dispatch."
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Dublin-born Andrew Scott has been acting since the '90s but enjoyed a huge career boost when he played the hot priest on season 2 of "Fleabag" in 2019. That Golden Globe-nominated performance came after he delighted audiences as Moriarty on the BBC series "Sherlock," which earned him a BAFTA Award for best supporting actor. Next up, he'll play Tom Ripley on the Showtime series "Ripley."
We're obsessed with Cillian Murphy — just watch the epic BBC/Netflix period gangster drama "Peaky Blinders" to see why. But before Cillian (say it like this: KILL-lee-an) — who hails from the suburbs of Cork, Ireland — made a name for himself as an actor with quirky indie parts as well as high-profile roles in films like "Batman Begins," he was a musician. Lucky for us, he turned down a record deal he and his band were offered back in the '90s and focused on acting instead.
She plays a time-traveling English nurse-turned-surgeon on Starz's action-packed historical drama "Outlander," which has its roots in Scotland. But in real life, leading lady Caitriona Balfe is Irish. Born in Dublin and raised in the village of Tydavnet near the Northern Ireland border, she left behind her old life as Ireland's most successful international model for a new one as an actress, and it's paying off: In addition to "Outlander," Cait starred in the Jodie Foster-directed 2016 drama "Money Monster" with George Clooney and Julia Roberts and 2019's "Ford v. Ferrari" alongside Christian Bale and Matt Damon. She married Scottish music manager-turned-bar owner Anthony McGill in 2019.
Like a fine wine, Pierce Brosnan just gets better looking with age. The former James Bond hails from Navan, Ireland, and these days calls Hawaii home.
If you love period pieces as much as we do, you already know Allen Leech. From his earlier work on "Rome" and "The Tudors" to his more recent roles in "Downton Abbey" and "The Imitation Game," he's clearly a great fit for historical drama. As for the most Irish thing about him? "I love the Irish culture in relation to music and song," Allen — who hails from the Dublin suburb of Killiney — told USA Today. "For that reason, I play the guitar. And I love traditional Irish music."
Sally Rooney, the award-winning author of the novel "Normal People" — who also co-wrote its critically acclaimed 2020 Hulu series adaptation — was born in Castlebar, Ireland, and was an English scholar at Trinity College in Dublin (just like Connell!). Her first novel, "Conversations With Friends," is now being adapted for television by the same creative team that brought "Normal People" to life.
Michael Fassbender might have been born in his father's homeland, Germany, but he was raised in his mother's — Ireland — from the age of 2. He grew up in Killarney in County Kerry where he served as an altar boy and his parents ran a restaurant. One of his earliest professional acting roles was the ultimate score for an Irishman: Michael starred in a Guinness commercial in 2004. He married actress Alicia Vikander in 2017.
"Poldark" star Aidan Turner might have played hunky Cornwall, England, antihero Ross Poldark on the popular BBC/PBS period drama, but he's actually Irish. The Clondalkin, Ireland-born actor also drew raves for playing Kíli in the successful "The Hobbit" film franchise.
U2 frontman and activist Bono was born in Dublin and raised in the city's suburbs.
Dublin-born actress Eve Hewson is the daughter of U2 frontman Bono, but she's also famous in her own right. Her most noteworthy roles to date include a run on the medical period drama "The Knick" and on the Netflix psychological thriller series "Behind Her Eyes." Dear old Da gave her some sage advice once: "[He said] if it isn't hard," Eve told Refinery29, "it isn't worth doing."
Daniel Day-Lewis was born and raised in England but in 1993, he became a citizen of Ireland, where he's lived full time since the late '90s. That — and the fact that he won his first of three best actor Oscars for playing an Irishman in "My Left Foot" (and nailed a Northern Irish accent when he starred in "In the Name of the Father") — make him pretty darn Irish in our book.
Shakespeare-loving actor Kenneth Branagh — who was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland — has made a name for himself behind the camera too. Kenneth, who was knighted in 2012, directed Disney's 2015 live-action version of "Cinderella." The Academy Award winner also starred in 2017's "Dunkirk" as well as "Murder on the Orient Express," which he also directed. He starred and directed 2018's "All Is True" in which he played — who else? — Shakespeare. More recently, he starred in Christopher Nolan's "Tenet."
There are a million reasons we love Liam Neeson and, yes, his lasting good looks are one of them. The bona fide movie star and Northern Ireland native has kept us entertained for more than four decades now.
Although Domhnall Gleeson's acting resume was initially dominated by cool indie-flavored fare and theater work, he's perhaps most recognizable now from his more mainstream roles as Ron Weasley's eldest brother, Bill, in the "Harry Potter" movies, Rachel McAdams' love interest in the rom-com "About Time" or the lead in the kids' flick "Peter Rabbit." The Dublin-born son of actor Brendan Gleeson also, of course, starred as the ruthless General Hux in the "Star Wars" franchise.
Colin Farrell has been killing it on screen since he got sober years ago — and he's never looked better. In recent years, he's drawn raves for his performances on the HBO hit "True Detective," in the indie "The Lobster" — which earned him a Golden Globe nod — and the blockbuster "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them." The Dublin-born star will next play the Penguin in the 2022 flick "The Batman."
Chris O'Dowd cannot be put in a box. He always kills it on screen, whether he's doing comedies like "Bridesmaids," period dramas like the BBC downer "The Crimson Petal and the White" or hip, hot fare (remember when he popped up as Jessa's finance-guy husband on HBO's "Girls" and when he starred on the British sitcom "The IT Crowd"?). But the Boyle, Ireland-raised actor's personal productions might be his best yet: He and wife Dawn O'Porter welcomed their first son, Art, in 2015, and second son, Valentine, in 2017.
Aidan Gillen — who we all loved to hate as Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish on "Game of Thrones" — is an Irishman. The father of two was born in the suburbs of Dublin and moved to London after high school to pursue acting. In addition to "Thrones," Aidan made a name for himself starring as Tommy Carcetti on the HBO series "The Wire," as Stuart Alan Jones on "Queer as Folk" and as Janson in the "Maze Runner" film series.
Luck of the Irish indeed! Niall Horan shot to superstardom with boy band One Direction after auditioning on "The X-Factor." The singer — who was born and raised in Mullingar, Ireland — released five successful albums, performed on four world tours and won a number of awards with One Direction before the group went on hiatus in 2016. Today, Niall is a successful solo artist.
Evanna Lynch, who hails from Termonfeckin, Ireland, beat out nearly 15,000 hopefuls to land the role of quirky Luna Lovegood in the "Harry Potter" film franchise. These days, she's focused on her work as an animal rights advocate.
Graham Norton, who's hosted his eponymous comedy chat show (one of Britain's best) for the BBC since 2007, was born in a suburb of Dublin and raised in County Cork.
"Once Upon a Time" fans loved Colin O'Donoghue as Captain Killian "Hook" Jones on the ABC fantasy series. Before that, the Drogheda, Ireland, native — who's married to an Irish school teacher (they have a son and a daughter) — most famously appeared on "The Tudors" and in the Anthony Hopkins-led horror flick "The Rite." More recently, fans have seen him on "Dolly Parton's Heartstrings" on Netflix.
Like countryman Colin O'Donoghue, Sarah Bolger also appeared on "Once Upon a Time" (she played Princess Aurora). But the Rathfarnham, Ireland-raised butcher's daughter — who starred as a college student opposite Olivia Wilde in the 2015 horror flick "The Lazarus Effect" — might be more familiar for her work as a child actress: Sarah and her real-life sister Emma wowed audiences as the immigrant siblings in Jim Sheridan's emotionally charged 2002 film festival darling "In America."
Gabriel Byrne is an Irish actor who has a long history in Hollywood. The Dublin-born star began his career in the late 1970s in the theater. He went on to notably star in "The Usual Suspects," "In the Name of the Father" and the HBO drama "In Treatment." Gabriel shares two children with ex-wife Ellen Barkin and a daughter with his current wife, Hannah King.
Stuart Townsend is perhaps best known for his portrayal of vampire Lestat de Lioncourt in the 2002 film "Queen of the Damned" and Dorian Gray in the 2003 movie "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." The Irish star, who split from Charlize Theron in 2010 after nearly a decade as a couple, was born and raised in Dublin but calls Costa Rica home now. Stuart reportedly quit his acting career and now owns a car garage in the Central American country, where he's raising two kids with a new love.
We know what you're thinking — "Olivia Wilde is Irish?!" But yes, it's true: The actress-director is actually an Irish citizen. Olivia was born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C., but spent her summers in Ardmore, Ireland. She also studied acting on the Emerald Isle after high school and eventually acquired an Irish passport.
Jack Gleeson — who's best known for playing sadistic King Joffrey on "Game of Thrones" — was born in Cork, Ireland, and raised in Dublin.
Like so many of his compatriots, crazy-eyed, Dublin-born Jonathan Rhys Meyers got a big leg up from "The Tudors" — he was its star, after all — but his struggles with alcohol addiction during filming and beyond almost derailed his career. "I was wild, I was as wild as you can get," he admitted to the Mirror in 2013. Thankfully, he cleaned up his act and came roaring back to star on NBC's "Dracula" and History's "Vikings." Does he mind playing so many villains? In a word, no. "I look like a bad guy!" he told the Mirror. He and wife Mara Lane welcomed their first child together, son Wolf, in 2016.
Dublin-raised Jason O'Mara is one of those actors you see on screen and go, "Oh yeah, him!" After getting his start in British theater, he got his big international break on HBO's acclaimed "Band of Brothers" miniseries and has appeared in dozens of TV shows and films ever since. But he's probably more recognizable these days for his work on "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," "The Good Wife," "Vegas" and as the voice of Batman and Bruce Wayne in the DC Universe's animated movies. In 2017, he split from actress wife Paige Turco, with whom he has a son.
Fiona Shaw is an Irish actress who has built quite the resume. The County Cork-born actress is perhaps best known for starring as Petunia Dursley in the "Harry Potter" films and as Marnie Stonebrook on HBO's "True Blood," though she's also achieved major success in the theater world. In 2018, she starred in "Lizzie" alongside Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart and she can currently be seen on "Killing Eve."
Katie McGrath never intended to be an actress. After graduating from Dublin's Trinity College with a degree in history, Katie — who grew up in Ashford, Ireland — started working as a fashion journalist before joining the wardrobe department on "The Tudors." There, the stunning green-eyed brunette was encouraged to get in front of the camera. Roles in TV's "Merlin," "Dracula" and the Hallmark holiday movie "A Princess for Christmas" quickly followed. She has since appeared in the big-budget films "Jurassic World" and "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword."
Who knew Dumbledore was Irish?! Michael Gambon, who's best known for playing Albus Dumbledore in the final six "Harry Potter" films, was born in the Dublin suburbs in 1940. The actor moved to London when he was 5 and became a British citizen (which explains his lack of an Irish accent).
Conor McGregor might not be a movie star, but he sure has achieved fame and fortune with his boxing and MMA careers. The athlete was born and raised in the suburbs of Dublin and began boxing when he was 12. The father of two is one of the biggest pay-per-view draws in MMA history, having headlined four of the six highest selling UFC pay-per-view events ever.