To its millions of fans, Mrs Brown’s Boys is an unmissable treat.
While some critics pan it as unfunny and an affront to good taste, the sitcom – which stars Brendan O’Carroll as foul-mouthed Irish matriarch Agnes Brown – is one of the BBC’s biggest success stories.
Part of the appeal lies in the knowledge that many of the cast are actually members of O’Carroll’s family. But according to one of its former stars, it is the O’Carroll clan’s domination of the show that he claims is causing a toxic atmosphere behind the scenes.
Gary Hollywood, who played hairdresser Dino Doyle, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘So much of the show, off screen, is about Brendan’s own family. It’s like jobs for the Browns.
Mammy’s clan: Cast members of Mrs Brown’s Boys and their relationship to Brendan O’Carroll – left to right – Fiona O’Carroll (daughter), Paddy Houlihan (no relation), Danny O’Carroll (son), Martin Delany (son-in-law), Jennifer O’Carroll (wife) Brendan O’Carroll, Rory Cowan (no relation), Gary Hollywood (circled, no relation), Dermot O’Neill (no relation), Pat Shields (no relation), Jamie O’Carroll (grandson), Amanda Woods (daughter-in-law)
While some critics pan it as unfunny and an affront to good taste, the sitcom – which stars Brendan O’Carroll as foul-mouthed Irish matriarch Agnes Brown – is one of the BBC’s biggest success stories
At times, as the years went on, it felt like it was a case of the Mrs Brown’s mafia, which was difficult if you weren’t in it. There is a fear of falling out with them, and of course that creates a tense atmosphere and I found myself walking on eggshells.’
The show was reportedly thrown into chaos last month when a bitter row broke out over Hollywood’s pay. Hollywood was furious after learning that he earns less than the rest of the cast.
Now he is taking legal action against O’Carroll, the BBC and the TV production company which makes the show, citing discrimination and unfair dismissal.
In papers lodged with an employment tribunal, the Glaswegian actor says he was paid 25 per cent less than his colleagues for his role in last year’s six-part chat show spin-off, All Round At Mrs Brown’s.
And he says he was dropped from one of the two Christmas specials just days before filming started. Hollywood says when he raised both issues with Dublin-born O’Carroll, 65, he was told that he should be ‘more grateful’.
‘I am so hurt by what Brendan has done to me,’ said the 41-year-old from his Lanzarote home.
‘The fame and fortune has gone to his head. I worked with him for 20 years… and this was not how I thought my time working on Mrs Brown’s Boys would end. I’m devastated. What I have learned is it is his way or the highway. In my opinion, Brendan has changed so much in recent years since becoming more rich, famous and powerful.
Gary Hollywood (pictured), who played hairdresser Dino Doyle, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘So much of the show, off screen, is about Brendan’s own family. It’s like jobs for the Browns’
Gary Hollywood pictured left with Rory Cowan, who is seen above as Rory Brown
Hollywood pictured above with Mrs Brown, who is played by Brendan O’Carroll
‘When I raised my problems with Brendan, I was met with hostility. I felt it was bullying… like you can’t say what you want to any more. I was told I should be grateful, that I’m lucky.’
Among the members of O’Carroll’s immediate family starring in the show are his wife Jennifer, who plays his on-screen daughter Cathy. His sister Eilish O’Carroll portrays next-door neighbour Winnie McGoogan, while son Danny O’Carroll appears as Buster Brady and daughter Fiona O’Carroll as daughter-in-law Maria.
Meanwhile, O’Carroll’s real life son-in-law Martin Delany and grandson Jamie O’Carroll are also regular characters. While it may seem inevitable that a family working together would form a close-knit group, Hollywood says it only recently made things difficult.
‘It used to be that we were all one,’ he explains, ‘but in later years as Brendan became such a star, things really changed. Previously, I used to be able to speak openly – but in later years I was scared I might say the wrong thing about someone and that would be it. Brendan’s family are close so I felt like an outsider with them.’
The show was reportedly thrown into chaos last month when a bitter row broke out over Hollywood’s pay. Hollywood was furious after learning that he earns less than the rest of the cast
Last September, Hollywood left Lanzarote, where he lives with his wife Cherylanne and ten-month-old son Olly, to quarantine at his parents’ home in Glasgow before filming for the Christmas specials.
Excited at the prospect of getting back to work after the pandemic, he waited for his contract. But days before filming began he was told he was only taking part in one show.
‘I messaged Brendan to ask what was going on, saying that it wasn’t good enough,’ said Hollywood.
‘I told him unless I was in for two then I wouldn’t be in either of them. I hadn’t earned anything since the previous February and the final message I got back said I would be ‘missed from everything’ and he wished me a ‘safe flight’.’
With fans learning that loveable hairdresser Dino would not be taking part in the show any longer, O’Carroll told interviewers that relations between the pair were ‘amicable’.
He also said Hollywood ‘decided he wanted to follow his own star and we are delighted for him’, which left Hollywood furious because he says that was the last thing he wanted.
In addition, he was still angry at having his pay slashed by a quarter for the fourth series of the chat show spin-off. He had previously received a text message explaining it was due to a reduction in the show’s running time.
Hollywood said: ‘The text said that it had been sent to the whole cast. I could see the logic in that and it wasn’t a problem for me. But then I established that it was only me who got it, the rest of the cast didn’t have their money reduced.’
O’Carroll, who left school at 11, is estimated to be worth at least £10 million and, in 2017, he and his family splashed out on seven homes in Florida. He first launched Mrs Brown as part of a radio soap opera based largely on his mother Maureen who raised 11 children on very little income.
Hollywood says he cannot understand why the BBC won’t intervene in the dispute. ‘I think the BBC are frightened of Brendan,’ he said.
The BBC, O’Carroll and his company, BOC Productions, all declined to comment but it is understood that a defence is yet to be filed.