Victoria Smurfit says her children don’t want to become actors

Victoria Smurfit’s children want to take their own career paths (Picture: Getty/

Actress Victoria Smurfit, 48, on her children not wanting to be in showbusiness, her daughter’s eyesight loss, why London beats Los Angeles, and coaching Leonardo DiCaprio on his Irish accent.

Why are you supporting the Institute of Cancer Research’s fundraising appeal?

We’re very lucky that my direct family hasn’t been touched by cancer at this stage but my best friend’s family has and I see the astonishing sudden pain, hopelessness and fear when you hear the big C-word. I also work with sight-loss charities because my daughter is losing her eyesight through a genetic condition and it’s a no-brainer for me to support any medical charitable institution that needs funds to continue their research to find cures.

That’s your daughter Evie, 18. She has macular retinal dystrophy…

She does. It was something we found out when she hit puberty and I had no idea that I and my ex-husband carry the gene and she got it from both of us. Thankfully, my other two children don’t have it but Evie’s incredibly resilient. If you want to irritate her, call her ‘brave’, because she’s just getting on with life. She’s an extremely talented artist and funny as hell. Everybody knows about cancer and there are other diseases such as macular dystrophy that people haven’t heard of. You have to talk about these things.

You took your daughter on The Late Late Show to talk about it…

Oh, wasn’t she brilliant? Part of the challenge as a parent was to say, ‘How do I make sure my daughter doesn’t think of herself as a victim being given such a gigantic curveball?’ You’re up at 3am every day thinking there must be a cure. And when there isn’t, the best thing I can do is empower her. So I asked what she wanted the most and she said, ‘I don’t want any other kid to find this out and have nowhere they can go.’

So she’s an ambassador for the Royal National Institute of Blind People and for Fighting Blindness and she talks at events. She’s in charge of it, rather than it being in charge of her. I’m eternally proud of that kid.

Victoria says it’s a ‘no-brainer’ for her to support sight-loss charities (Picture: Gregg DeGuire/Getty)

Do any of your kids want to follow in your footsteps?

None of them want to be actors. I think they’ve seen my life and thought there’s way too much rejection in that business! Ridley, my second daughter, is also very artistic and I can see her being a film director. My son is more traditional.

Which of your roles have they been most excited about?

Playing Cruella De Vil in Once Upon A Time was something Ridley really enjoyed because her friends were watching the show. When I’d pick her up at school – we were living in LA at the time – her friends would go mad. I think Ridley kind of liked that for a couple of days and then she was just embarrassed. She was like, ‘I’ll meet you at the end of the road!’ But my children don’t watch anything I do. Quite rightly, I’m just the woman that pays their bills and cooks their dinner.

Victoria as Cruella De Vil (Picture: Eike Schroter/Walt Disney Television)

Did you enjoy life in LA?

It had its ups and downs, as life does, but it was a fantastic place to raise kids. We were there for nine years and they grew up going to the beach. And the American big-sky thinking meant they always leant into the ‘yes we can do it’, rather than ‘no you can’t’. It was really good for them.

Now you’re back in the UK…

Yes. And now the kids are teenagers they love being in London. You couldn’t drag them back to LA. I think with the Irish DNA in them all, they prefer the weather here too! We came back for a multitude of reasons. One was so Evie could have an independent life, because you can’t do anything in LA without being able to drive and you can’t if you have macular dystrophy, so you’re reliant on everyone else. She’s able to navigate public transport in London.

Driving is near enough a necessity while in Los Angeles (Picture: Getty)

How much did Ballykissangel change your life?

Oh, quite considerably. By then I’d done The Run Of The Country, which was pretty incredible being taught by Albert Finney how to hit your marks and not take it too seriously. Ballykissangel changed things because everyone on the streets knew me as Orla, which was exciting. I regularly bump into people from Bally K.

And you’ve worked with James Nesbitt a few times…

Yes, and he’s an absolute joy, I love him to death. It was lovely because Mum passed from a stroke last year and three days later I went to Belfast to film Bloodlands. I was so lucky that I was going to such a friendly set with people I knew when I was trying to batten down the hatches and not fall apart. On Cold Feet I played Jimmy’s first love, Jane, in both series. Shortly after I went off to LA but we always kept in touch.

James Nesbitt is ‘an absolute joy’ (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

What was it like working with Leonardo DiCaprio on the film The Beach?

Oh, he is so fun. He’d talk to me about how to do an Irish accent as he was about to be in Gangs Of New York. So here am I coaching DiCaprio while in a bikini on a beach in Thailand but when they call action it’s like he’s got some magical light inside him.

Smurfit is supporting the Institute of Cancer Research’s fundraising appeal. Find out more at

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