What kind of career’s advice did you get as a young woman?
My parents told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I don’t remember much else. I remember being in the back of a taxi on the way to an audition for a drama school and the taxi driver asked me what I was auditioning for. When I explained that I wanted to be an actor he spun around in his seat, looked me up and down and said ‘yes you’re pretty enough.’ The best piece of advice I got was from my voice teacher on the day I left drama school. She told me not to get lost in the quest for achievement but to remember to ‘enjoy the journey’.
What did you want to be when you left education?
Did your mother work?
Yes. She never stopped! She ran her own Drama school. She was always organising huge shows in the local theatre. Our house was full of costumes and scripts. I started working in her drama school as a dance teacher when I was thirteen.
Love & Relationships:
Do you think getting married is important?
To me it is. It wasn’t always. But two years in to my relationship with my fiancé it became important to me. I realised I wanted to make that commitment to him and vice-Versa. I want to celebrate the commitment we are making to each other. I place importance in the act of making that promise publicly in front of the people we love and care about. But I am not going to change my name. And the women will also make speeches at our wedding.
What did you dream your future partner would be like when you were a little girl?
Oh I don’t know Aladdin or something! Or the handsome animated fox version of Robin Hood. Or maybe my action man doll: ripped with interesting scars and immobile plastic hair. I didn’t think about it at all. I was too busy prancing around being a Pegasus.
Is your relationship with your partner the same as your parents’ relationship?
Not at all. My parents are divorced. I was always aware my parents made each other unhappy. I didn’t think it was really possible to be in a loving relationship. I always assumed I’d have a successful career instead. Love was a luxury or an afterthought. The fact I am in a great relationship is a huge and welcome surprise.
How like your mother are you?
Very. People used to mistake us for each other on the phone all the time. Same sense of humour. Same tenacious spirit. Same capacity for worrying.
What are your hopes for any daughters or young women you know?
My hopes for my daughter, if I have one in the future, are that she will grow up truly believing she can do anything. I would love for her to have the ability to stand up for herself if someone questions her ability to do something because she is female. One of my biggest frustrations as a woman is not feeling able to defend myself whenever a man has said something sexist or sexually inappropriate to me. I’ve been afraid of sounding like a ‘bitch’, or in some cases it’s been a boss so I felt unable to challenge him. My hope is that she will have the ability and confidence to stand up for herself in similar situations, and that these situations will be a lot rarer.
Do you bring your son up the same way as your daughter? Do you think boys and girls should be brought up differently?
I don’t have children but if I did I would want them to feel equal and equally nurtured. I think one of the most harmful things we can tell boys is ‘don’t cry’ as it potentially stops them from being able to honestly express their feelings. I’ve seen young boys made to channel their hurt and sadness into anger and aggression. Surely this will only lead to problems down the line. I also think we should stop telling confident, articulate young girls they are bossy. Instead I will tell my daughter she is a good leader. I would teach my daughter to be careful as she gets older and to avoid potentially unsafe situations. I would also teach my son the importance of respect for women. But if there’s something I’d really like my kids to learn; it’s respect for everyone.
If you don’t have children, what have you been able to do that having children would have prevented you doing? What has your focus been?
As I don’t have children my focus is on my career. It means I can travel for acting, go on tour, live in another country for awhile. This would be a lot more difficult if I had kids because I would want to be with them.
Expectations and Dreams:
Who are your heroines and why?
My Mum. She raised me pretty much singlehandedly while running a successful business. She is always there for me if I’m going through a hard time. She has taught me to be strong and compassionate in equal measures.
What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?
Be an actor! There are no certainties in the career I’ve chosen but I know nothing else would make me happy. I also moved from Dublin to Oxford to be with my partner. He was the only person I knew here but I knew it would be worth it and it is. I think the bravest things I’ve done have always been the pursuit of adventure and happiness in the face of uncertainty.
What drives you?
Art. Theatre. Being creative and telling stories. My way of expressing myself and processing difficult situations has always been through creativity. I write and paint and act and dance my way through life.
What are your values?
Be respectful of yourself and others.
What is your biggest achievement?
I’d have to say my relationship. I’m in a healthy, loving relationship. It takes constant work but it feels easy. I feel very lucky.
How old are you?
What has been your favourite age to be and why?
16. Everything was stretching out ahead of me. I felt powerful and beautiful. It may have been when I believed in myself most. Especially as an actor.
Do you think it’s better to be young now than when you were young? (Or better now than when your parents were young?)
As a woman yes. When my parents were young there was still stigma about pre-marital sex, pregnancy out of marriage, the pay gap was wider. There was more of an expectation that you would give up your career once you had a family. It was harder not to be heterosexual. I can say I’m a bisexual woman living in sin with her fiancé without anyone batting an eyelid. That would have been harder in the eighties.
What are the pros and cons of being a woman?
PROS: I hate to say that this is something I had to spend a few minutes thinking about. The cons came much easier to me. I think in my professional field it’s a good time to be a woman. Women’s voices are being heard at the moment in comedy, in new writing, in film, on TV.
Self expression: I love the range of options open to me in how I dress. I love wearing makeup and I love fashion. It feels like ‘who will I dress up as today.’
I’m looking forward to becoming a mother. My body can carry life inside it! Amazing!
Freedom of emotional expression. I think it must be hard for men sometimes. They are under such pressure not to appear weak.
CONS: I have been groped more times then I can count. I have been called ‘a dirty bitch’ by my boss. I’ve had men ask me whether I have played any ‘raunchy roles’ on TV. I’ve been sent porn by a co-worker. I’ve been sent sexual threats on Facebook for not responding to a message from a man I didn’t know. I used to work as a nude life model and I got more than one request for sexual services from male artists. I’ve had my opinion discounted then seconds later a man has offered the same suggestion and it has been validated. I’ve been called sweetie darling and honey when the men around me have been called by their name. I’ve had my appearance rated by men when I didn’t ask for it. And I have been told to smile by random men many, many, many times. Abortion is still not legal in my birth country and women who travel to the UK for abortions are still stigmatised. I could go on and on and on.
What have been the biggest challenges in your life?
Suffering from anxiety and depression. I have a very mean inner critic. Sometimes I have a very low feeling of self worth and that has stopped me putting myself forward for big opportunities. Battling that inner critic is a full time job.
Self-image – Body or Looks:
Why do you dress the way that you do?
Because I wish to appear effortlessly stylish (even though it took effort!). I like to feel powerful in the clothes I’m wearing. In my early twenties I was all about the cabaret / burlesque look. I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to look like a femme fatale. I wore red lipstick and corsets and had red hair. Now I’m more interested in feeling powerful so I wear shirts, jeans and boots. I also feel it’s worth mentioning I have seven wide brimmed hats in different colours. When I wear them (not all at once) I like to pretend I am a private detective. I think it’s the actor in me. Clothes feel like costumes, they open up a range of character options to me. Maybe it’s a bit of mask to hide behind but it makes me feel braver.
What would be your musical soundtrack?
Emmm… Sweeney Todd? Cabaret? Chicago? I like the darker musicals. I think it would be a musical that seems fun and sweet on the surface but has a layer of darkness and naughtiness underneath.
Do you have a life’s motto?
‘Don’t say I can’t. Say how can I?’
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have spent the last few years worrying a lot about getting older and not having achieved enough. I have just begun to let go of that worry and embrace getting older. There is beauty to be found in every age.