Catherine McAteer is a former student of Down High School, the same school attended by the author of "Popular," Gareth Russell, and her on-stage best friend, Robbie Dagher. Catherine is a classically-trained musician, who is also a member of the acoustic folk band, "Ellipsis". Catherine has also modeled professionally and this year competed in the Miss Northern Ireland pageant and featured prominently in the 2010 Belfast Tourism Ad campaign. She has worked with Gareth before, playing Saint Veronica of the Veil in the Northern Irish production of his play "Magdalene", and her other on-stage works include versions of "Agnes of God", "Blood Brothers" and "Steel Magnolias". Next week, Catherine will be back on the stage playing Meredith Elisabeth Anne Harper, the queen-bee of south Belfast and the lead character in "Popular."
Catherine, your character of Meredith often divides reviewers and readers of "Popular." How much of a villain do you think she really is?
Catherine: Give me the names and numbers of these people who refer to her as a "villain," please. They need to be punished. Meredith Harper is an extremely complex character and I think "villain" is definitely an unnecessary and potentially evil description of such a beau young lady. I can admit that some of the things she says are rather blunt and maybe some times (very rarely, of course) a little harsh, but I think it's evened out by the way she says them. She's an incredibly humorous and witty character and she says a lot of things many people secretly think, but don't have the guts to actually say out loud. And despite her wealth, beauty and overall amazingness (definitely a real word, by the way), Meredith has actually had to deal with a quite a few issues in her life, which may be why her exterior can appear so cold at times.
You auditioned for the parts of Meredith and her dizzy hanger-on, Catherine O'Rourke. What made you prefer the part of Meredith over Catherine?
Catherine: I think the main reason as to why I preferred the part of Meredith is because I have played parts similar to Catherine in other productions in the past, and I wanted to challenge myself in a role that I haven't had much previous experience of. Of course, also after reading more extracts from the play, I just loved every word that came out of Meredith's mouth and I was extremely drawn towards her character and thought it would be so interesting and really fun to play her.
Meredith has a very complicated attitude towards feelings and friendship, but her posse repeatedly defend her to outsiders as being a genuinely good friend. Who do you think her closest friend really is and how deep do her feelings for them run?
Catherine: I think without a doubt, Meredith's closest friend would be Cameron Matthews (played by Robbie Dagher.) Her feelings for him run exceptionally deep, both in comparison to her feelings towards the rest of the group and other characters in her life. She and Cameron have an almost unnaturally perfect connection with each other - they truly understand how each other work and they generally have the same feelings and attitudes towards things in life. When you get to know more about Meredith, you realise that despite the way things may look on the surface, she is extremely loyal and protective over the people she loves - and Cameron is one of these very lucky few!
Tell us a little about acting opposite Robbie, Emma, Claire and Lucy, who play your on-stage clique.
Catherine: I feel very fortunate that my on-stage clique is just as fabulous in real life as they are in the play. On-stage, it's extremely refreshing having such a diverse range of personalities to work with. I think it brings an edge to the play, as the audience get to see five very different characters on all gel together because of one connecting factor - fabulousness. Off-stage, working with Robbie, Emma, Claire and Lucy is just as fun and we all get on extremely well. I think that's definitely contributed to the closeness of the group when they perform. We laugh constantly, whether it's at ourselves or at someone else (more likely) and that element of humour is definitely brought through on stage.
Favourite line as Meredith?
Catherine: Now that's a very difficult question, Gareth! Everything Meredith says is fabulous. However, if I had to pick one line that always stands out to me, it's when Meredith responds to Pip's (played by Daniel Steele) awful flirting with the line, "You make me pro-choice."
One reason why people should come and see "Popular" next week?
Catherine: Because your lives will then be complete.