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I would like to audition for Love/Hate, but I am not sure how I feel about sex scenes


Vivienne Connolly.  Residence, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Vivienne Connolly. Residence, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

Joanna with Vivienne Connolly, right

Joanna with Vivienne Connolly, right

Vivienne Connolly. Residence, St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn

I'm not in competition with any of the younger girls, which I suppose takes away a lot of the pressure. I am in a completely different market. I am not trying to get their jobs and they certainly don't want my jobs," says model-turned-actor Vivienne Connolly (41). "There is a market for everybody."

We are sitting in the snug in Residence Members Club on St Stephen's Green and Vivienne has just arrived for our chat, perfectly presented in contrast to the sea of weary-looking faces caught out by the mucky November day outside.

Being constantly presentable, she later explains, is simply a force of habit at this stage.

"I don't feel the pressure any more, it's one of the few things that's really great about getting older," Vivienne tells me. "I did feel that pressure when I was young in the modelling scene and also because I was with Elite Premier in London at the same time as Kate Moss was really to the fore.

"But there was always a size 10 to 12 thing here, it was never really as bad as London and I was always a 10 and kept fit. The older I have got the more it has become a lifestyle thing. Of course some days you are not as motivated as others, but actually you appreciate everything you had and everything you took for granted in your 20s.

"For me now it is just about the maintenance of a lifestyle, there are no diets. It's just a part of who I am."

Following a break from her modelling career, after having her children Ben (10) and Katie (8) with her then husband Mark Dunne, son of businessman Ben Dunne, Vivienne returned to modelling in 2007.

"I left and had Ben and said 'Right, that's it!' but then my friend John Compton opened an agency and asked me to please join just so they would have a name and then clients just started asking for me," Vivienne says.

"That is the way the market has gone; it has changed - you see the likes of Kate Moss and the older models in the bigger markets still being used.

"When I was 24, I was being dressed up as a 40-year-old, ironically enough, so at least now I am wearing clothes that are for my age."

In 2010, Vivienne and Mark called time on their five-year marriage and in 2011 they were legally separated.

"We were very private for a while after and I still am because we have two kids and I respect Mark and I respect his family," Vivienne says. "Mark is a great father. He is always going to be in my life and I am always going to be in his life. I wish him the very best in the world and he is the same with me.

"Thanks be to God there were no betrayals or anything like that. He is getting on with his life and he deserves to be happy and I am doing the same.

"It's not exactly that Meryl Streep movie It's Complicated, but we actually had last Christmas Eve dinner together with the kids. We prioritise the kids and we're adults."

But with so many couples staying together these days out of convenience, would Vivienne consider their parting a brave move?

"There is a very fine line between brave and stupid," she answers immediately. "Come back to me in 20 years' time and we'll see how our kids are and how brave I am or how stupid I was because nobody can tell until down the road when you look back.

"It's brave in one way but it's terrifying. My parents are still together and it was a really tough decision, especially because Ben and Katie were so small, but I suppose it's about being true to yourself at the end of the day and we certainly didn't do it lightly.

"We did different things for a while before we broke up, marriage counselling and bits and pieces like that. It's about looking in the mirror and being really honest with yourself. I think everybody goes through a stage where you get lost a little bit."

Vivienne began modelling after being enrolled on a Geraldine Brand grooming course during her second year of a business degree in her local college in Carlow.

"A photographer used to keep saying to my mother 'You know your daughter should do modelling' and my mother was like 'No, absolutely not! She's going to finish college and do this, that and the other!'" Vivienne says.

"I ended up coming to Dublin and doing the course with Geraldine and she told me I had potential, so I started modelling and then fell into acting.

"Looking back, it was never a career choice that I really wanted to do either of these things. I really fell into them and did well, but I was always doing courses along the way because I never knew when they were going to stop. I had this fear all of the time.

"You never know when modelling is going to dry up and it's the same with acting, so I just kept doing courses.

"I used to call myself the course queen; I did Spanish, I did a fitness instructor's course. I have always been working on something just in case."

Luckily, Vivienne's back-up plans have yet to be called upon.

"I'm still here even though honestly sometimes I just think 'What the hell?' I am working with the younger girls, which is lovely, but I never expected it," she says.

"I hear all the girls talking and they plan to be in it for maybe five or 10 years and they'll maybe break out and do other things, but you don't know where it will take you or what you will do and you can never say never."

For Vivienne, acting and modelling are two complementary professions. She does not have a preference between them.

"I can't say I'm focused on my modelling career because it could be over next year," she says.

"I'll just keep doing what I do. I can't say I want to model for the next 10 or 15 years because there was never a plan with me. Both really suit me with the kids too."

Few people realise that Vivienne, who recently enjoyed playing scheming Ingrid in Fair City, has been acting for decades. In fact, she got her first big break from actor and comedian Brendan O'Carroll.

"I was only 25 and he needed somebody for one of his plays and I auditioned and I got it and nobody really knew because there wasn't as much media coverage around at that time," Vivienne says.

"We played in the Olympia and the Everyman in Cork and toured. Then Brendan asked me to tour Liverpool and London with him, but at the time my modelling career was taking off so I said, 'No I'll stick at this and see what happens'. And look how Brendan turned out! Fair play to him!"

While Vivienne is quite laid-back about both her modelling and her acting work, there are certain roles she would love to play should the offers come her way.

"If they asked me to audition for Love/Hate I would love that because I'd love to try that kind of a character. I think it's really fun playing a bitch," Vivienne says.

"I love playing very strong women, inspiring women, like all of Meryl Streep's roles. There isn't one in particular, but I like roles that I relate to. I like meaty stuff."

Vivienne draws the line, however, at sex scenes - for the moment at least.

"I'll try anything. I suppose sex scenes and stuff like that are becoming a little bit out of the way," she says.

"I wouldn't be into nudity, but if it was suitable, if it was something when I got the script and related to it, then yeah, I would do it!"

Vivienne is taking part in Strictly Against Breast Cancer in which celebrities and survivors will take to the dance floor to raise funds for Breast Cancer Ireland at the Convention Centre this Saturday, November 29. To donate go to www.breastcancerireland.ie