BRENDAN O’Carroll is delighted to have signed a massive new deal with the BBC — but he has also told the Irish Sun of his sadness at facing his first Christmas without his beloved sister.
The 65-year-old has put pen to paper on a deal that will see him create Mrs Brown’s Boys festive specials for the channel until 2026.
There’s even a clause which guarantees the BBC must show the Irish comedy at 10pm on Christmas Day — the most coveted slot on British TV.
And Brendan told how he’s thrilled to be bringing laughter to homes all over the UK and Ireland with his foul-mouthed comedy series, particularly after a difficult 2020.
The star faced his own hardships after he lost his sister Fiona in March, days before the Covid-19 pandemic swept the world, but says he’s delighted to end the year on a positive note.
Brendan told the Irish Sun: “It’s incredible that the BBC have nailed down such a special slot for Mrs Brown.
“We’ve been doing it in for nine years already — which is six more than the Royale Family had and more than Morecambe and Wise.
“This new deal we signed last week goes all the way to 2026, which means I will be able to grow into the part, and we’ve a clause in which guarantees Mrs Brown is aired at 10pm on Christmas night, or else we don’t have to make it.
“I wanted that because if it’s not good enough for Christmas Day, then we shouldn’t be making it.”
Not even Covid-19 could stop Agnes Brown this year with the show’s cast reuniting to film two Christmas specials in BBC Glasgow during October.
The popular cast — which includes Brendan’s son Danny and daughter Fiona — did run-throughs on Zoom before daily Covid checks allowed them to film together before the cameras.
Brendan said: “When we arrive in Pacific Quay, the HQ of BBC Scotland, we light up the whole place.
“They let us take the place over. We just get on with everybody. Not just our crew but the people working in the offices. It goes back to when we made the very first Mrs Brown series, we connected with everyone at BBC Scotland.
“Then when we came back the following year, the show was a massive hit and the BBC people were a bit stand-offish, wondering if we were going to act like we were big stars.
“They were surprised and delighted to see we were exactly the same people. That’s never changed.
“So much so that there are two security men in BBC Scotland who have retired during our run but come back every year to work on the show, they like it so much and we’re glad to have them.”
The Finglas man admits it was very emotional meeting up with his cast, who he hadn’t seen in nearly a year.
Normally the crew travel the world performing live shows for fans, but the pandemic meant dates in Australia, the UK and Ireland had to be cancelled.
Bren said: “They’re all family — cast, crew, the merchandise people, and we belong on the road together.
“So seeing their faces, walking into the ferryport in Belfast was so fing good. I was so happy”.
As well as being kept off the road with the Mrs Brown’s Boys crew, Brendan sadly suffered the loss of his much loved older sister Fiona.
The pair were so close that Brendan decided her passing last May will be the opening chapter in the new memoir he is writing for Penguin Books.
Brendan told us: “If you didn’t like Fiona, there had to be something wrong with you! She was an exceptionally, kind generous, person. Any of my good points come from her. She was an exceptional person, a beautiful person.”
The father-of-four and wife Jenny had just returned to their home in Florida after filming chat show All Round To Mrs Brown’s in the UK when they got a message from Fiona’s husband Larry to say she was unwell.
Fiona, who often spent the winters with him in Florida but was based in Toronto, Canada, had been suffering from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in recent years and had contracted pneumonia.
Brendan said: “I’d already booked a flight to go up and see Fiona in Toronto on March 8 — but Larry told us not to leave it that late.
“I immediately booked a flight that night to Toronto. We flew right through the night. Fiona and Larry live about three hours from Toronto so I’d rented a car at the airport.
“But we landed in Toronto at 3am, and the car hire place didn’t open until 6am so we had to hang around for three hours waiting for it to open.
“We’d come from sunny Florida and here we are driving through four feet of snow in Canada.
“Eventually we got to her house. Larry her husband, met me in the hallway and warned me not to expect too much because she had been out of it.
“So I go in to see her and within minutes of me arriving, Fiona is laughing her head off, and we’re singing ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ together.
"We laughed, we told stories, then her nurse arrived so I went into the kitchen for a coffee with Larry, who I was concerned about too.
“I said to Larry, ‘What happens now?’ He said that Fiona would probably have a sleep after the nurse left. So I went back in after the nurse left, to tell her I was going to head to the hotel and drop my bags off.
“Fiona nodded, and then I took her hand. We had this little ritual where I would say ‘I love you’ and she would reply ‘I love you more’ and then I’d say ‘I love you the most’. But this time Fiona said ‘I love you the most, forever and ever’ and then she died.”
Speaking to the Irish Sun from Florida, Brendan is overwhelmed by emotion as he recalls this final moment with his loving sister.
Brendan said: “I wouldn’t regard myself as a Bible-thumping Catholic but I do believe in life after death.
"I firmly believe I’m going to see Fiona again, and my mother and my son, (Brendan’s son, also named Brendan, died in 1979 days after his birth from spina bifida).
“If I didn’t believe that I would shoot myself. What’s the point?”
Fiona, who had been in her 70s, had left word that she wanted as ‘little fuss' as possible over her funeral.
Brendan said: “We had a private cremation and planned a later service for her friends. That was supposed to happen in July but lockdown stopped that, so it will probably happen next year.”
Asked how he copes with the grief, Brendan said the best thing was to “keep talking about it”.
He said that the loss of mother Maureen, in 1984, a campaigning politician and mother of eight, had also been a huge blow.
Brendan said: “My mother asked me to make two promises about how she died. She said ‘I don’t want to die in a home, Brendan’ and then she said ‘And I want to die on a sunny day’.
“I said ‘Ma, I’ll make sure you die at home but there is f*** all I can do about the weather.”
Despite Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas shows being postponed at the 3Arena, Bren is still shelling out for 1,500 Christmas dinners for needy families.
- THE Mrs Brown’s Boys specials will air on BBC One at 10pm on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. RTE One viewers can watch both from 9.45pm.
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