Even on a Zoom call, Amy Huberman is as warm, fun, and down-to-earth as you might expect. As we speak, two-year-old Ted – the youngest of the Dublin actor’s three children (along with nine-year-old Sadie and seven-year-old Billy) with husband Brian O’Driscoll, aka BOD, aka Irish Rugby God – shares a nap in the next room, while she frantically gives off-screen instructions to close doors and keep things quiet.
Huberman regularly shares scenes from her personal life with O’Driscoll on Instagram, many of whom gently poked fun at her husband of 11 years (who, for example, recently returned home from the groomer with the wrong dog). Still, she cackles at the idea of them being an Irish media “power couple”.
“Performance Torque?” she stutters. “I spend half the day going, ‘Oh god! I don’t want to do anything!’ and just lie on the couch – there is no force involved. But listen, the social media stuff is great for work, but a lot of it is the everyday stuff, the things we laugh about and enjoy, and yeah… I probably scold him more online than he scolds me. I feel like there’s a lot in the mail for his comeback with me – I’m dead,” she laughs.
“I think when we were all in lockdown with Covid it was just laughing at the everyday things that were challenging and trying to find some slight relief at how long and arduous the whole lockdown has been.
“But I definitely think a big part of our relationship is calling each other names, in a nice way. I take the important things in life seriously, but I could laugh at him. I mean, I do,” she says, grinning as she corrects herself. “Okay, and him.”
43-year-old Huberman’s comic timing is obviously well-refined, but life on screen or on stage was never really an early goal for young Amy. She majored in social sciences at UCD but spent more time with the Drama Society, of which Chris O’Dowd was a member at the time.
When her brother Mark, also an actor, took his agent to see her in a play, it led to an audition for RTÉ drama On Home Ground while she was completing her MA. Up to this point, she says, she saw acting as “kind of a ‘unicorn job’; an imaginative dream above all.”
“It seemed to happen very quickly,” she nods. “I remember thinking, ‘How do I do my thesis when I’m filming?’ But it’s literally like being bitten by a bug: I knew this was for me. I loved it. I always call myself an ‘accidental actor’ or an ‘accidental writer’ and I’ve been fueling it ever since.” Then she whispers, her eyes darting from side to side. “Don’t tell anyone.”
Huberman’s acting career has continued to evolve since then, including a stint at The Clinic, roles in everything from Cold Feet to Silent Witness and most recently on the detective series Harry Wild and as the title character on the self-penned sitcom Finding Joy.
She added another string to her bow with the publication of the novels Hello, Heartbreak (2010) and I Wished for You (2013), but recently published her first book for a younger audience, The Day I Got Trapped in My Brain”. It tells the story of Frankie, a young girl who must control her own mind and imagination in order to rediscover her “lost spark”.
Writing a children’s book was “always one of those ‘maybe mundane’ things,” she says, adding that writing has always been a way of “getting a little bit of control when things get out of hand”. In other words, the perfect activity for a pandemic. And as with everything she’s written in the past, incorporating humor into the story was important.
“It’s what my editor called it, a love letter to siblings — and I’ve talked about it [her brothers] Mark and Paul before,” she says. “I think I’ve been very nostalgic all this time of lockdown and my dad hasn’t been well and everyone felt this collective doubt about what was going on.
“And because we were stuck at the house and I was having another baby, so many different things connected for me — so I guess I just spilled my heart out. I never set out to write the story I wrote; it somehow turned out that way.
“I think it was because we were all kind of so disconnected and everyone was so scared and scared. It was like, “How can we reconnect and find each other again when everything is scary and upside down?” Loss in this regard is a big emotion that children have to deal with. But I wanted it to still be hopeful.”
We had our different traditions because my father was Jewish. His friends celebrated Hanukkah, so I always felt like we got a double gift. It was like a mini Christmas in early December
Her own children, she says, gave feedback in their own way. “My daughter is just the perfect age, she’s nine and a half. “Well that really helped with the writing because I could say, ‘Oh no, that’s too young.’
“My little fella is probably a little too young for this, but they’re my PR team in the schoolyard. It’s really cute – they say, “Why are you reading this book? Why don’t you read this. I should set them up a booth at the front gate and give them 10 percent commission.”
It’s no surprise to learn that the Huberman family is important, and this Christmas there will be some sadness mixed in with the celebrations. Her beloved father Harold died in May this year at the age of 84.
“It will be different,” she says, smiling sadly. “I think it was weird because the last few years with Covid have made things different anyway. But they always say first everything is hardest without them and you are so aware [of that]. But my dad always loved bagels, so somewhere in between we have a plate of smoked salmon bagels in his honor—it’s always been his thing. So we’re going to make sure that’s in the middle of the table.”
She fondly recalls the “simple joy” of her own childhood at Christmas.
“I remember my grandma was coming from Wexford and we didn’t have enough beds organized – so me and my older brother slept on the patio furniture at the top of the stairs,” she recalls, laughing. “I remember saying, ‘How does Santa Clause find us?!’ said.
“We had our different traditions because my father was Jewish – not that we didn’t have Christmas trees or anything like that, because he wasn’t religious – so we kind of had a mishmash. His friends were celebrating Hanukkah, so I always felt like we got a double gift, which was nice. It was like a mini Christmas in early December.”
She’s not a woman of resolutions – January is said to be “a bit bleak and miserable to punish us further” – but is optimistic about 2023.
“I guess this year we’ve been able to travel more than we’ve been able to travel in the past few years, so yeah… I’m just looking forward to more adventures,” she smiles. “I got away with my girlfriends twice this year and I loved that; no responsibilities other than having the chats and hanging out with each other. And hopefully more exciting work things.”
She stops, takes a deep breath and smiles. “But as long as the family is happy and healthy, that’s it.”
The Day I Got Stuck in My Brain is published by Scholastic and is available now.
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