Big Interview: ‘‘Am I ambitious? Oh, f**k yeah! For a long time that was to my detriment’’ – Angela Scanlon on TV, a temporary move to Dublin and baby number two

There’s a saying that’s knocking around online: “You have the same 24 hours in the day as Beyoncé.” Well, Angela Scanlon must have found some sort of glitch in the time-space continuum that gives her twice as many hours as everyone else. Starting her professional life as a stylist and fashion journalist (and before that, an Irish dancer), the Meath-born broadcaster now has the sort of career that makes Beyoncé look like she’s in retirement. The 37-year-old is proving to be a rising star at the Beeb: in addition to fronting documentaries on BBC Three and presenting the interior series Your Home Made Perfect, Scanlon also presented a BBC Radio 2 show until recently, and has enjoyed stints on The One Show. Add in (deep breath) her hugely popular podcast Thanks A Million, various collaborations with brands like Olay and Garnier, her jewellery collection, the writing of a non-fiction book on gratitude (due in 2022), and Scanlon has had a busier time of it than most. There has also, somehow, been time for pottery and astrology classes amid it all.

s she ambitious? “Oh f**k, yeah,” she says. “I mean, that was to my detriment for a very long time. We have a complex relationship with the word ‘ambition’. I think it’s been seen as quite masculine; my approach and my kind of drive. I was always, ‘I can do that, yeah,’ even when I had no idea how to do it. I think I kind of lead with that, rather than always waiting for an opportunity. But then it would be thrown at me as a slight, like, ‘Oh, you’re really ambitious’.

“But I also realised, in recent years, that kind of hunger was coming from not an altogether healthy place,” Scanlon adds. “It became my identity: ‘Look, another shiny thing to show you!’ All of my time went into my work, and then I slightly hit a wall, in that I was doing [work] things that felt very bizarre and unlikely for me.”

What followed was a period of serious soul-searching for the broadcaster, involving therapy, meditation and a new-found focus on gratitude (hence, the new book).

“I was like, ‘OK, something is broken. Something is not connecting here.’ I was in my mid-30s and I really believed that, when I got to a certain place [in my career], I would feel happy and satisfied and content, or feel something. And I really felt nothing. Nothing is going to make you happy. It was horrendous to feel at this stage, ‘That’s it.’ I felt it wasn’t about the job, and I had to do a bit more digging around. There’s a good old tool bag there now [for coping].

“So the things I do now, I don’t do them just for the sake of doing them or to keep me busy. But now I don’t feel that if I stopped working or stopped doing these things, if I get off the wheel, I’m going to die, or cease to exist.”


Downtime: Angela Scanlon’s new show ‘Ask Me Anything’ has been delayed.
Photo: Justin Farrelly

Scanlon is back in Dublin prepping for Angela Scanlon’s Ask Me Anything, due to air on Saturday nights. The chat show invites celebrity guests to appear and talk with absolutely no topic off the table, which sounds like a sure-fire way to create a viral moment or two. Does she worry about any celeb storming off the set, Parkinson-style?

“I feel I’m OK with that,” Scanlon says. “I don’t know how I’ll deal with it if it happens. I know there have been suggestions that I’ll be interrogating people like the SAS, but I want it to be light and escapist and unexpected. When you’re being light and fun, that’s when the great televisual gold surfaces.”

Scanlon, who is the embodiment of ‘what you see is what you get’, will likely make for a pretty good mistress of ceremonies. She is more than aware of the responsibility of helming a chat show in Ireland. No stranger to the chat show circuit herself, Scanlon observes that the traditional format, where guests come on stage and dutifully plug their latest project without too much fuss, has been dismantled.

“I think Terry Wogan spoke about this 15 years ago or more,” Scanlon recalls. “He had a guest on and they said: ‘When are you going to ask me about the book?’ Now, there’s kind of a wild contrast with celebrities where we get absolute access. You get into their bathroom [on social media]. You see their underwear. I think we need to be aware that this is also a constructed version of them, but the contrast of that is they go on a shiny couch on TV and want to control everything that they say, and everything they’re asked.

“I mean, I’m kind of hoping that people are also a bit sick of that, including the celebrities themselves. I hope there’s a want within them to have a slightly more candid chat that may go somewhere more unusual.”

Ask Me Anything, featuring a live audience, was originally due to air in 2020, so no prizes for guessing what happened to that particular plan. I often wondered how Scanlon felt about this: the project would surely have brought her broadcasting career to a whole new level, and then the opportunity was being postponed.

“I don’t think I’d ever really given space to think about the alternative, as in, that it was never going to come back,” Scanlon reflects. “Also, there was so much stuff happening in the world that it felt like a small thing. The last thing anyone wanted to hear was me complaining about not working on a show. But it did hit home that, yeah, I really did want this. When it came back, I was just relieved and thrilled and, ‘Wow, I really want to do this show.’”


Leading man: Angela Scanlon with husband Roy Horgan. Photo: Kieran Harnett.

There’s yet another big ‘project’ on the slate for Scanlon. Already mum to three-year-old Ruby, Scanlon and her Cork-born entrepreneur husband Roy Horgan will welcome their second child early next year.

“I’m one of four and came from a really busy household, and I really wanted for Ruby to have a sibling — she’s been bloody canvassing for a while as well — and I feel ready for it now,” Scanlon notes.

“Maybe I’ll be shot back into the reality of motherhood and infancy. But I am excited, and I feel I’m in a different place, where I‘ll be able to enjoy and switch off — I mean, I say ‘enjoy’ with a realistic lens on.

“I think it’s really damaging, actually, the Instagram version of motherhood. The reality of being a brand new mother is hard. A lot of people feel embarrassed and ashamed to talk about the difficulties, because they feel people are looking at them, or they’ve failed on some level. We do ourselves a disservice. I’m acutely aware that, for some people, it’s the most natural and blissful experience of their lives, but there are an awful lot of women for whom it’s a massive shift, and a frightening time, actually. I think it’s important to remember that and speak about that.

“I’d loads of nieces and nephews and thought, ‘Ah yeah, I know the gig.’ I thought I had it covered,” Scanlon continues. “All of the mad emotions off the back of becoming a mother, and the changing the nappies and the tiny little things… I would hear Ruby grunting like a truffle pig beside me at night and I would literally feel the need to hold my breath for a very long time. I’m hoping the belief that they’re breakable will fade.”

Ruby makes an occasional cameo on Scanlon’s Instagram, although her 219,000 followers don’t see the three-year-old’s face, something that was a conscious decision on Scanlon’s part.

“There are so many people who share all of that happily and that’s grand, but I remember being on the street and seeing this child that I knew from Instagram and was a bit… I’m actually very private,” she admits. “I don’t share my family. I just feel quite protective, I suppose, because once you open that box, it’s open. I don’t think that it’s mine to open. It’s just a decision we made early on beforehand that were weren’t going to show her little mug.”

Although normally based in London, the family of three-and-a-half are now stationed in south Co Dublin during the filming of Ask Me Anything. Would Scanlon ever make a permanent move home to Ireland?

“We have a few pals canvassing locally [to get us to move home],” she laughs. “We’ll be in London for a bit, and I never thought I would ever really say that. Maybe because Ruby’s in nursery, but we’re more settled there than we’ve ever felt.

“That said, I love it [in Dublin]. It’s been easy, as it’s coming home, isn’t it? There’s a kind of natural ease that comes when you arrive in Dublin, but I do feel like we’re slightly on holiday, despite the fact I’m working literally every day. Plus, the sun has been out, which has helped. Roy has been like, ‘Yeah, when it’s pissing rain in November, you might not be so keen.’ Meanwhile, I’m down at the Forty Foot, having a swim with the rest of the d**kheads.”

The first episode of Angela Scanlon’s Ask Me Anything airs at 10pm on RTÉ One on Saturday, October 23

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