Interview with Jessica Gunning who plays Orla in the new BBC Two drama series White Heat.
Orla is a big girl with a big heart, often described by her friends as “hostess to the world” because she always puts others first.
The eldest of five children, she is a Catholic from an impoverished home in Belfast – a hotbed of IRA nationalist fervor. Desperate to leave the violent sectarian divisions of Belfast and the strictures of her life there, like the other two girls she knows getting to university in England will be her ticket out.
She also knows if she can nail a decent degree she will be in a position to financially help her poverty-struck family. Compared with the other flatmates she feels gauche and unsophisticated. She uses her homemaking skills to make herself not just indispensible but valued. In Jay, she senses another outsider – which is why she is so drawn to him.