In March 2021, Dornan was isolating after arriving in Australia to film current BBC One hit thriller The Tourist, but with just four days to go in quarantine he received the devastating news that his father had died in Belfast.
The Fall star told The Sun: "It’s been a brutal time for lots of reasons and for lots of people. We’re all just trying to ride it out and come out the other side — and hope we’ve got our heads intact."
Dornan's father Jim, a renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist, had gone into hospital for a routine knee operation but contracted Covid, with the actor unable to get back to Belfast to be with his family because of travel restrictions.
He called 2021 “the worst year . . . and the hardest” of his life and also remembered how his father had supported him through his mother's death from cancer when he was just 16, telling him not to let it be "the thing that defines you".
Dornan said: "I’ve been subjected, early on in my life and now, to a lot of pain and loss."
The actor stars in Sir Kenneth Branagh's forthcoming film Belfast, where he plays a character based on Branagh's own father and his experiences during The Troubles in their home city.
He explained his family's link to the director, telling how his father Jim had a photo in his house of himself with Branagh when the star had come to open a maternity wing at the hospital where he worked and Dornan remembered thinking it was "a big thing" as a boy.
Belfast is released in cinemas on 21 January and The Tourist continues on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday.