Acting your way to an extra bounce out of life!

Working an extra for film and TV, and featuring in onscreen advertising campaigns can be a fun and financially rewarding pastime. Stalwarts Patrick Keeney and Rosaleen Carroll tell BERNIE Ní FHLATHARTA how they got involved in the business and how being retired has opened new doors into the world of drama.

For many people, retirement means slowing down, whether that’s playing golf, taking up a new hobby or ‘taking it easy’. But, instead of doing any of the above, imagine going into a whole new career.

That’s exactly what Donegal native, Patrick Keeney did when he moved to Ballyconneely 22 years ago after a 32-year career with a large food distribution company in London, where he worked as a dispatch manager in the bakery department.

Since his move to Connemara, he has worked as an extra for TG4’s long-running soap, Ros na Rún. In fact, he recently celebrated 21 years as a TV and movie extra.

Patrick, who could definitely be a Santa Claus stand-in with his mop of white hair and beard, loves every minute of his TV and film work and he is in great demand.

Possibly the trick to his re-invention is that he had dipped his toes into this new career while he was still working in London.

His CV is impressive – aside from his roles with TG4, he has worked on Eastenders, Holby City and The Bill, as well as alongside Liam Neeson in the star’s most recent film, In the Land of Saints and Sinners, which was filmed in Patrick’s home county in 2022 and released last year.

He has also been an extra in Bloody Sunday, as well as in Obituary, screened recently on RTÉ. And he featured in Normal People, the screen adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel, which was devoured by viewers during the pandemic.

Patrick, who left his native Ardara in south Donegal for London in the 1970s, started his working life in gilding. But the craft of covering items with thin sheets of gold wasn’t for him – although, at that time, he never would have guessed he had a career ahead of him on film sets!

In London, he worked for 32 years for the international Associate British Foods (ABF) company, owned by the Weston family, originally from Canada, whose global empire included retail interests in Ireland – Brown Thomas and Arnotts.

ABF now own Penneys and Tesco, as well as Selfridges in England.

Patrick, with his energetic and affable personality, worked his way up in the company, initially managing a group of supermarkets for them.

One of these, Fine Fare outlets, was used for a Channel 4 food programme and, one day, Patrick was asked to take part in a segment. That was the start of his TV career. It led to other opportunities for him in advertisements. And he was a natural.

He later worked as a dispatch manager in the bakery division of the company – 20,000 loaves an hour were produced, all delivered in 60 lorries before 6am – but he still found time to continue doing “bits and pieces” in the TV world.

“I liked the TV work so I joined an [actors’] agency and I remember thinking, it would be a nice thing to do when I retire,” he recalls. And that’ s what happened.

Pictured: Patrick Keeney…21 years as a TV and movie extra. Photos: Joe O’Shaughnessy. 


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