Saoirse Ronan is clear in her pursuit of meaningful, magnificent drama. The New York-born, Irish-raised actress’s embracing of new project See How They Run – an American mystery comedy in which a film producer visits London in the 1950s to adapt a play, but things go off the rails when crew members are murdered – only strengthens that perception.
The star of Atonement, Brooklyn, The Seagull, Lady Bird and Little Women is a great example of someone who won’t subscribe to the superhero sustenance that most actors turn to at some point during their careers. Meanwhile, off-screen, she is known for speaking her mind.
Ronan, 28, tells RSNG.com about speaking up for sustainability, how she handles praise and the value of self-confidence…
RSNG What do you look for, in choosing what films to work on?
SAOIRSE RONAN, IRISH ACTING ICON “I am most interested in fleshing out characters and really exploring what it’s like to be someone else. I want a character that’s going to capture my interest and hold my attention.
“In my new film See How They Run I play Constable Stalker, who aids Inspector Stoppard – who is played by the brilliant Sam Rockwell – in tracking down the culprit. This ticked so many boxes for me, but mostly in the sense of wanting to play characters who are well-rounded and interesting and smart, or who are intelligently written.
“It was also an opportunity to switch back into that murder mystery angle, but this is definitely more playful and funny. I love that conflict between serious and silly – it’s almost Shakespearean.”
I’ve always found that whole thing about using a platform a bit naff – I don’t think you should ever get above your station
RSNG You’re known for speaking up about sustainability, among other things. Do you feel it’s important people in the public eye use their voice?
SAOIRSE RONAN “It’s simple for me. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re going to nail your colors to the mast, be prepared to set sail at some point!
“That said, I’ve always found that whole thing about using a platform a bit naff. I don’t think you should ever get above your station; nor would I dare to be arrogant enough to suggest my view is any better than someone else’s, but in the case of me having a genuine interest in fashion and clothes and sustainability and the way we go about what we do… and for whatever reason, the media wanting to repeat those words – well, I’m kind of ok with that.”
RSNG Have you always been tenacious?
SAOIRSE RONAN “I was never very bold as a child. I was uncertain about a lot of things, and really relied very heavily on my parents for support, confidence and belief.
“Even now, my mother and I are like best friends. We're very close and she's always been a role model for me. The relationship with your mam is the most important relationship you’ll ever have in your life, and particularly in terms of those formative years. Your mam is your mam, and I have so much respect for her sense of dignity and integrity.
“I've tried to take after her – I’ve tried to bring that same kind of perspective to the way I live and how I treat people. Both my parents have taught me to be true to myself and to dedicate myself to pursuing the things that are truly meaningful to me, so I guess in a way that is also reflected in the way I conduct myself away from the big screen.”
RSNG How do you feel actors are regarded by the general public?
SAOIRSE RONAN “I think it’s mixed. I think we went through a phase where a few got above their station, but we’re not all like that.
“The thing is, when you’re inside the industry, you realize a lot of actors are disenchanted. I know other actors who are very cynical about this profession. In all honesty, I never want to become like that. I want to be positive and professional in what I do, but also put that same cautious energy into the messages I carry.”
I know how lazy or disposable the fashion industry is – I am exposed to a lot of it, and I would be a hypocrite if I said I wasn’t part of the problem
RSNG And one of those strong messages you put forward is on sustainability and the growing need to be eco-aware…
SAOIRSE RONAN “Well, I think what’s really emerged over the past decade or so is a feeling that we have targets to work to.
“In the past, if you were seen as green, or eco, or environmentally friendly, as it was called when I was growing up, that was about enough. Yet in recent times there is an extra layer that’s been added, an extra level of provenance and commitment, and I truly think this is how it will have to be going forward, because across so many different facets there is real potential to make real change. Yet we have to ensure that producers, distributors and retailers – of everything from coffee to cotton – are held accountable.
“Certainly I know how lazy or disposable the fashion industry is. I am exposed to a lot of it, and I would be a hypocrite if I said I wasn’t part of the problem; but I do see genuine engagement and commitment, and I really have faith we can make the industry better.”
RSNG Do you accept the praise that comes your way, that you are a true champion for positivity and authenticity in entertainment and culture?
SAOIRSE RONAN “It’s nice when people speak of you like that, but I don’t expect it or invite it. I am just myself, nothing more.
“It’s funny, I remember being young and feeling worried about not finding people who were like me, and by that I just mean creative, and a bit nerdy. I knew they were out there, but I wasn’t really exposed to them in the way I am now.
“We all need to have faith that you will find people like you. If the internet has given us anything it’s the exposure to other folk. I really took comfort from looking around and realizing I wasn’t alone – there were other film nerds, and after a while, I found them!”
WHAT NEXT? Read the RSNG.com interview with Anya Taylor-Joy on her Netflix success…
Photos: Shutterstock/ Moviestilldb