We have lift off - Aaron takes on Brazil then ends up in space

Football crazy: Aaron with his boys Cory and Sam, all rooting for a league title win for Liverpool for the first time in 24 years.
Football crazy: Aaron with his boys Cory and Sam, all rooting for a league title win for Liverpool for the first time in 24 years.

Portadown actor Aaron McCusker is experiencing the best year of his life though that could all change if his beloved Liverpool Football Club fail to win their first Premier League title in 24 years.

Hot off the back of roles in Dexter and Silent Witness, football mad Aaron is due to appear in a film celebrating Northern Ireland’s last appearance at the World Cup and a big budget Sky Atlantic drama set in Iceland. He’s also landed a role in an ABC mini-series as a US astronaut at the height of the space race.

Aaron (35) told the Times, “I found out just before Christmas that I’d got the role in Shooting For Socrates. I got offered the role of Gerry Armstrong, but before the contracts were signed they took us to Seaview to see if we could play.

“After the training and drills they put us through I’ll never slag footballers off again.”

Shooting for Socrates is a David versus Goliath story set in Belfast against the backdrop of the Mexico World Cup in 1986 where Northern Ireland were drawn against Brazil. It stars John Hannah as Billy Bingham, Conleth Hill as Jackie Fullerton and also features Richard Dormer, Bronagh Gallagher and Ciaran McMenamin and a host of other actors from Northern Ireland.

Aaron said, “I don’t remember the Mexico World Cup, I was only six then. The first one I really remember was Italia 90.

“I spoke to Gerry Armstrong and got an account of the Mexico World Cup straight from the horse’s mouth.

“What he failed to mention was that he played so badly in the first game that he got dropped to the bench for the Brazil match. After all the training I was looking forward to playing against Brazil until I found out I’m sat on the bench beside Billy Bingham the whole time.”

The filming on Shooting For Socrates was done over two weeks in Belfast and two weeks in Alicante.

Aaron said, “Sometimes you have to remind yourself this is a job. Like when you have this bunch of Northern Irish actors together out in Spain, playing football during the day and having a drink and a bit of craic at night. We’d the whole resort to ourselves.”

He continued, “The match footage was filmed in Hercules’ stadium.

“Paul Kennedy was in the role of Pat Jennings. He really got into the part. By the end of it we couldn’t put a ball past him.

“There were some great young Spanish footballers who were playing as the Brazil team. I’ll have to keep tabs on them.”

Although Aaron didn’t get to work directly with Richard Dormer on Shooting For Socrates, he caught up with him on his next project.

He said, “I never worked with Richard on Socrates. His bits are all in Belfast and mine where in Spain so we never filmed together. That changed when we both got parts in Fortitude.”

Forthcoming Sky Atlantic series Fortitude is set in Iceland, in a location surrounded by the savage beauty of the polar landscape. Up until recently it had been the safest place on earth.

Alongside Aaron and Richard, flying the flag for Northern Ireland, is Jonjo O’Neill. They line up as part of a cast including the likes of Christopher Eccleston and Michael Gambon.

Aaron said, “I’d describe it as Twin Peaks on Ice. It’s Sky Atlantic’s biggest budget series yet.”

He added, “Iceland was great. There’s not much to do except relax and admire the beauty. You could look out of the window and see the Northern Lights.”

Fortitude will be on Sky Atlantic later this year while Shooting for Socrates is out at the start of June to coincide with the World Cup.

Aaron said, “It would be good if they had a Northern Ireland premiere, but I’ve heard nothing as to whether they will be.”

A busy man, Aaron has also landed a major role in a 10-part mini-series for ABC in America called Astronaut Wives’ Club. He described it as Desperate Housewives meets Mad Men.

It’s based on Lily Koppel’s best-selling novel, which tells the story of the women who stood beside some of the biggest heroes in American history during the height of the space race.

Aaron plays Wally Schirra and will be reunited with Desmond Harrington, who he starred alongside in Dexter last year.

The Portadown actor commented, “Without a doubt this has been the best year of my life.

“A year and a half ago I was moaning that I’d never filmed outside the UK. Now I’ve been to America, Spain and Iceland.

“I’ll be over in LA for pilot season again this year and with Dexter and Astronaut Wives’ Club on my CV I’ve a good chance of landing a few more roles.”

He added, “Even my football teams are going well, Celtic have won the league for the third year in a row and Liverpool are looking good for the title as well. I’m trying to get a ticket for the last game of the season but they’re like gold dust.”