A DONAGHMORE actor has revealed how he began his career with one of the strangest jobs in TV.
Successful playwright, TV presenter and comedian Conor Grimes got his big break after Home Secretary Douglas Hurd announced that anyone believed to be advocating paramilitary action during on-air interviews would be muted.
Grimes duly received a call from his agent, telling him to report to the BBC’s Belfast newsroom, where the corporation’s Ireland correspondent, Denis Murray, explained what he wanted Grimes to do the voiceover for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
The first challenge was achieving an approximation of Adams’s west Belfast brogue. “Gerry has a lot of teeth,” says Grimes, 45. “To do him properly, you had to keep your top lip still; just move your jaw. I had a TV in front of me showing him talking and had to synchronise my voice with his. I was really nervous.”
While providing the voice for Adams may seem risky during a period described by the actor as “bananas”, Grimes never felt at risk. “There is a real distinction made between combatants and non-combatants,” he explains.
However, an incident in 1991 left him struggling to deliver his “lines”.
“The UVF shot these lads in Cappagh and one of the dead was in my class at school. The BBC interviewed Adams and doing the voiceover was a struggle. I was choking up. I remember Denis Murray shouting at me: ‘No emotion. It’s a newsroom. You’re not on a stage!’”
These days, 20 years on from his last voiceover, Grimes has no doubts about the highlight of his stint as the voice of Sinn Fein.
“When Gerry Adams announced the ceasefire in 1994,” he says, “it was my voice that was heard.”