Meet Megan Riordan
We talked to actress, singer/songwriter, musician, writer and producer Megan Riordan for our July issue, and she had so much to tell us, we wanted to share more …
How did you prepare for the piano aspect of the role in Once the Musical?
Piano was something I did as a child – music was woven into me in a very intuitive way. And then I went away from piano in my teens because I didn’t have enough time for everything I wanted to do, and I’ve regretted that. I picked it back up about a year ago, and it’s just so wonderful – it feels like being home. That was the most intimidating thing about the audition – getting the piano solid. I learned a few pieces and just knew I had to have that so deep in my muscle memory that I couldn’t be thrown by nerves.
You seem to be a natural risk-taker and tend to dive into things.
Everything is a matter of risk versus comfort. In certain ways, gambling and taking chances in life are inevitable, so it’s not whether or not you do it, it’s doing it well. And there’s a great freedom in losing everything – you don’t have to be afraid to lose things because something will always come back. I was a little risk averse for a long time because it doesn’t feel good, it feels uncomfortable, but that’s where the good stuff is, that’s where learning happens. You have to remind yourself that the work is hard – as great as music and being on stage is, it doesn’t always feel like it does when you go to a gig – it’s work, and you’re doing it for the audience.
You’re in a new TG4 production soon – do you speak Irish?
No! My new show, An Klondike, which airs in the autumn, focuses on the Irish immigrants to America in the 1890s, and so the Irish are speaking in Irish and the Americans and Canadians are speaking English. TG4 are doing wonderful original programming. The script is great, the actors are so good, and it’s a fascinating story. My character is cold and manipulative and miserable and trapped. And Girl (in Once) couldn’t be more different – she is just pure light.
Do you feel there are good roles and opportunities for women in theatre, TV, film and music?
I think we are seeing a great paradigm shift. In some ways, the answer is no – because there’s never going to be enough roles for everyone who deserves them. But the visibility of people articulating their experiences of encountering sexism or misogyny or the unconscious biases of not hiring women as writers or directors … The facts are out there, and I think it’s incredible. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Golden Globes speech really resonated about people saying it’s great she’s playing these complex women – we’re just playing women, and women are complex; and men are complex. There’s a book out called Difficult Men, and it’s about Tony Soprano, Walter White and Don Draper and the men who created them and the fact that these flawed, frequently violent men are held up as cultural icons, but the women in these programmes are bitches or shrews and people don’t like them – Skyler White was hated and people had strong feelings about Betty Draper. And we’re calling it out now. I’m very proud to be a feminist. We still need to address the inequality. Feminism helps men too. The same rules of society that lock women into a limited set of choices also lock men into a limited set of choices. It helps all of us to stop limiting how people can be, or what they can say, or what they can look like, or what jobs they can do, or how much money they can be paid.
Are there any other works you’re excited about that you’re not involved in?
Wayne Jordan’s The Shadow of a Gunman at the Abbey. And By the Bog of Cats – Marina Carr is one of my favourite playwrights. A lot of my colleagues will be in this year’s Dublin Fringe, so I want to see as much of that as I can. The Fleetwood Mac concert – they’re a huge influence on my work with James Walmsley. And Sufjan Stevens’ gig in The Helix.
What are you reading?
The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner; the Barrytown Trilogy for One City, One Book; a great book of essays by BJ Novak called One More Thing; and Powers of Two, which is about creative innovation in partnerships.
You were blonde, and went back to brown …
It was growing out when I went to do the photos for Once after I got cast and I asked whether I should go brown or blonde, and they said, “Well, what’s your natural colour?” and I said, “I don’t know – I haven’t seen it for 15 years!” I didn’t think I would like going back to brown, but I felt the need to change my hair.
Your go-to beauty products?
I’ve become a huge fan of Omorovicza – I had one of their facials last year and was like, “Where has this been all my life?” I love their Deep Cleansing Mask, €66.50, Queen of Hungary Mist, €53.50, and Refining Facial Polisher, €79; all at Harvey Nichols. And there are products I get in the States – I like Boscia’s Cool Cleansing Oil, and Rhonda Allison has a super-intense under-eye moisturiser. And I’m starting to really look at serums.
Your personal style?
It’s changing at the moment. I like things that are simple, classic, I love black, and I like things with a little bit of edge to them, like a black motorcycle jacket I got from a charity shop or big boots and stuff that’s a little bit fierce. For daily life, I keep it simple – jumper, jeans, boots – usually because I’m running around. I do love pops of colour. And I feel like my style changes according to where I am – last year, when I was in LA, I wore cute little dresses and sandals, but I think that’s just because of the weather – I can’t do that here. I love androgynous styles and women who play with that, but I don’t think that would look right on me. I’ve gone through periods of very feminine stuff too. Sometimes my mom pulls amazing things from the shop she works at – they get vintage stuff and crazy Vegas stuff; they got a dress and jacket combo that was featured in Mad Men – I was like, “Yeah, I’ll take that!” Love TK Maxx – not gonna lie – but I’ve been going to Folkster a lot lately and I’d think, “You need to invest in this”. I got a beautiful cape there that was white with black designs on it. I think sometimes in the interest of being on trend and on budget, you make purchases that are just fast fashion, but it doesn’t last, and I’m finding myself drawn to wanting to invest in stuff that’s more classic and stylish and well made, and so I’m investing in fewer things, rather than just buying.
Any other stores you like?
I love Designist and Industry. And I’m a vegan, so I shop the Asian markets for reasonably priced foods like tofu. There are a lot of great charity shops near my home in Stoneybatter, and I love the cafés and restaurants – like Slice, and Love Supreme for coffee.
Once the Musical runs at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin July 4 – August 22, oncemusical.ie
Follow Megan Riordan @meganriordan
Photograph by Anthony Woods
Meg Walker is Deputy Editor at IMAGE Magazine @MegWalkerDublin