By Kelley Duron
CNews Special Writer
A handsome Irish doctor flees to Brazil to avoid a murder conviction for euthanizing his wife’s lover/brother who was suffering an agonizing brain tumor. The doctor then moves to the United States where he lives in New York, Los Angeles, and finally opens a successful pub in northeast Portland. Seven years later, the doctor returns to Dublin despite facing prison time.
Sound like a soap opera plot? Well, most of it is just that.
Tom “T.C” O’Leary spent seven seasons playing the charismatic but flawed Brendan Daly M.D. on the highly-rated prime time Irish soap “Fair City” Although complex, the plots of this series are more HBO than American daytime TV, Tom explained.
The doctor wasn’t all good guy. He was an alcoholic with a child from his own affair. His wife in the show had an affair with her brother, broke it off, then rekindled it before the brother asked Tom’s character to help him die.
“Assisted suicide is a huge, controversial topic in Ireland,” Tom pointed out. “Our show pushed boundaries, and it has been very progressive in the issues we’ve taken on.”
The draw to acting started long before he landed the role on “Fair City.” As the youngest of four kids living in the small port town of Killiney, just south of Dublin, he loved attention and began playacting by himself around the house.
“We had a lot of freedom in those days, lots of open spaces to play in,” Tom recalled. “But I wasn’t into team sports. I’d rather make up stories and act them out.”
In school, he was convinced to join a talent show in which he had to dress as a woman in a skit. “I realized that people were really enjoying the show and I was very comfortable being up in front of them.”
Later, after a successful part in the school musical, he recalled, a teacher kissed his cheek and told him he was wonderful in the role.
“She was a beautiful woman and that did it for me,” he recounted with a smile.
Although his mother convinced Tom to take accounting courses in college as a back up to acting, and he worked for an accounting firm for several years, the performance bug drew him back to the stage. His first play was in Prague.
“The country was anglicizing its language, so an Irish play made sense,” he explained. From there Tom returned to Ireland and landed a gig as what he called “a geeky mathematician” in the play “Proof,” adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book written by David Auburn.
“It had a six-month run, which is almost unheard of,” Tom reported.
The producers of “Fair City” spotted him in “Proof,” and offered him the doctor’s role without an audition.
While working on the soap, he fell in love with his real-life wife, Siobhan, who was studying in Dublin. Siobhan moved to New York City after her year in Ireland, and they had a long-distance relationship until she returned to Tom’s homeland and they married in the dead of winter
“Why not? The weather there is hard to predict anyway. We might as well have it then,” Tom’s eyes twinkled with mischief as he remembered the day.
After giving “Fair City” producers a year’s notice that the couple was headed to the U.S., “They wrote a great storyline for my exit,” he said. “Dr. Daly was convicted of murder for the assisted suicide but, in Ireland, they allow you to go home before your sentence starts. My character disguised himself and fled to Brazil.”
The real-life couple spent several years in New York – Siobhan studied for her master’s in education while Tom did voice overs, acted in a few plays and tended bar. Los Angeles was next, but Siobhan worked days teaching special education while Tom worked nights bartending.
“We just never saw each other” he explained. “Plus, I always had a dream of opening a bar, so we decided to move to Portland, where my wife’s family lives.”
TC O’Leary’s opened in November 2016. Since then, Tom said, it has started to build a consistent crowd. “Last year on New Year’s, we had a crowd of maybe a couple dozen,” he said. “This year, we had about 90.”
Shortly after the bar opened, “Fair City” producers approached Tom to reprise his character.
“My return fit the storyline well,” Tom said. “My TV family had joined me in Brazil and, after seven years, we returned to Ireland where Dr. Daly remains in hiding. It was just a two-week part.”
He said the return was great fun and left open the option of continuing the role in the future if they want him.
In Portland, once the bar gets its legs under it, Tom said, he may look around at local playhouses to get back into theater. For now, he’s a happy publican.