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Leah arrives as Fair City says farewell to Rita

ALL eyes have been on Rita Doyle this week as she made her Fair City exit, but her funeral brings a young Trinity graduate to Carrigstown for the first time.

Leah Egan (25) is set to make her debut on the TV soap as Rita's youngest daughter, Louise.

The 25-year-old always dreamt of becoming an actress, but her parents insisted she hit the books first.

"I was a bit of a drama queen growing up, so I knew it was what I wanted to do," the Athlone native explains.

"But the rule in our house was get a proper degree first and then do the acting. So I studied Law and French at Trinity.

"It was great, it was interesting, and college life was a lot of fun. But it wasn't for me.

"I finished the BA and said to my parents: 'There. I've done it. Now can I be an actor?'."

Rita, played by Jean Costello, is leaving the RTE drama after 23 years. She quit the show while recovering from two strokes and cancer and now she has been written out, even though she would have liked to make a comeback.

"I'll try other things now. I'd love to do theatre," she said.

Louise reappeared in the series alongside her siblings Suzanne (Sarah Flood) and Darren (Niall O'Shea).



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The family reunited for Rita's funeral and Leah says joining the cast at such an emotionally charged time was a blessing.

"In a way, it was better. There was no easing in to it," she said.

"I was thrown into the deep end; it was a real baptism of fire," she said.

"I felt as if I knew all the cast already. I'd always seen them on the telly when I was growing up, so that was comforting. It was also a great way to finish off 2012."

Leah graduated from the Gaiety School of Acting last July and says she was couldn't believe it when she landed the part.

"There was a swamp of auditions. I came in and did the reading, but I didn't think I had got it.

"When my agent called, I thought he was going to give out to me for messing it up."

According to the rest of the Doyle family, Leah has taken to Carrigstown like a duck to water.

"She was like a glove," Jim Bartley, who plays Louise's dad, Bela, says. "A perfect fit."

"It's great that I've got this so quickly," Leah admits.

"Acting is really tough; the ups and downs are huge. But getting a job like this counters all the hard work and rejection."

But she was remaining tight-lipped about future story lines.

"You're going to have to watch this space to see what happens, but it's exciting being on the show.

"Louise has changed a lot, so it'll be interesting to see how she develops."

hnews@herald.ie