'I like a little spat with a troll on Twitter," says Angela Scanlon. "Just the odd one," she explains, sipping peppermint tea in a room in RTE's Television Centre, the morning before the dry-run for her new Saturday-night chat show, Angela Scanlon's Ask Me Anything. "Just a quick kind of a put-down and then move on."
The type of troll who tips Angela over into a response is the one who has a go at something personal - her hair, her clothes, her shoes, her voice, that kind of thing - but it's not the personal criticism that really gets to her, it's when they want her to know what they think, to feel the jab; that pushes her buttons.
"It's stuff, frankly, that is none of their business," Angela says, "and I will usually reference that. And it's somebody who goes out of their way to include you in the tweet, so that you see it so, like, they're not just commenting on you, they want to engage.
"Sometimes I'm great with mute," she continues. "I love the block button. But sometimes I like to retweet them, and I usually go for killing with kindness, which then slightly enrages them. They're often really surprised when you answer, like they have an idea that your social is driven by, like agent-robot types, and they never actually really believe that it's you at the end of that phone. And so when you engage with them, they're like, 'Oh my god, I love you, actually I think those shoes were cool', and then it's fine. So, it's usually a very quick turnaround, but then, if it's not, I just get rid of them."
Is she capable of calling a halt to herself, I ask."It's a limit of two exchanges," Angela says with a laugh. "You have to make rules. I've got to have boundaries."
Before we settle in a room to talk, I meet Angela in RTE reception, freshly flown in from her home in London, from where she will commute every week for the eight-show run.
One suitcase is still in the airport in the UK, she says, so god knows what she'll be wearing for the dry-run that evening. With her Louis Vuitton carry-on with its monogrammed tag, her brightly patterned Docs, raw-hem jeans, chunky old-gold rings, necklaces and earrings, you can't help but notice that she's a million miles from Pat Kenny, who once had that seat, or from Ray D'Arcy, whose curtailed run made room for Tommy Tiernan after Christmas, and now, it's Angela's turn.
And not to just compare her to the men who've hosted Saturday nights, Angela Scanlon presents as an entirely different proposition to Miriam O'Callaghan, too.
Her show, with its premise that she can, as the name suggests, ask her guest anything and not just stick to an agreed brief, is something altogether new. She hopes.
"I'm excited," she says. "Excited-slash-terrified."
"The show is what it says it is," says Angela. "It's three guests each week and I can ask them anything. And we're just chatting. Really just chatting. On most shows, guests are briefed heavily on what's going to come up. I guess I kind of wanted to have a show where you're having a chinwag that's a bit less prepared."
"Is that lazy?" she says with the easy laugh that makes her so likeable, both on and off screen.
[Editor's note - the launch of Angela's new show has now been postponed.]
There are people who will want try to draw lines under what she can ask them, and some who will likely decline to submit, but the premise of the show is that everything is up for discussion. If they set a lot of no-go areas, then they're not for Angela, it seems.
"It's never putting somebody on a chair and then, like, bullying them into answering uncomfortable questions about periods of their life that they'd rather forget," Angela adds. It is about the reaching the slightly uncomfortable, though - the point at which people will go no further - and seeing how that plays out.
Usually, those lines are drawn in the preparation for a TV show. On Angela Scanlon's Ask Me Anything, the audience will be privy to that slightly squirm-inducing potential tipping point, and that, Angela hopes, will be the magic. "You know," she explains, "the slight tug-of-war and the conflict and the awkwardness is what makes that not quite enjoyable to watch, but kind of compelling."
It's a tricky balance to strike, we agree, because you don't want an interviewee to turn on the interviewer either, and suddenly shut down. Also, there is that human-nature element of not wanting someone to hate you.
"Yeah," says Angela. "I'll be sorry - like me, like me!"
"There can be an idea that what we're trying to do is groundbreaking," she says, "but actually I just want it to be kind of quite joyful as well. [I'd like] that you know there's an element of play, not just a list of questions that we have to go through. Hopefully [we will] show a different side of somebody who maybe gets really nervous sitting down being interviewed, but it's part of the gig, whether you're an author or you're a sportsperson or whatever. And, hopefully, we're making it feel a little looser, so that we can see that person, rather than the publicist kind of person."
Later in the conversation, Angela expresses surprise (I think pleasant surprise), that the PR for the show is not staying in the room for our interview, to protect her, as it were, from anything that might be asked. It's ironic that she should mention this, given the no-holds-barred conceit of her own show, but it's what Angela is used to now, after six years living and working in the UK.
Coming back to Ireland to work again may be interesting. But Angela is game.
It all began for Meath-born Scanlon in RTE, when she contributed to Off the Rails, while also working as a fashion journalist. Her personality - which she once told me is described by her father as "a bit free-range" - came more to the fore with her documentary Oi Ginger, which was about being a redhead, which led to Angela Scanlon: Full Frontal and Close Encounters.
She began getting bits of work in the UK before committing to moving there with her husband, entrepreneur Roy Horgan, whom she married in 2014. Her documentaries had caught the attention of some programme-makers there, which led to bits and pieces of work and then a co-presenting role, with fellow Irish person Dara O Briain, of the BBC show, Robot Wars.
The decision to move wasn't difficult for her, she says, because, in an odd way, it felt more risky to stay in Ireland and throw her all into a television career, than it did to move to the bigger market in the UK.
"When I went to over to the UK," says Angela, "it was this kind of rogue fearlessness. I was totally ignorant. I didn't even know how the industry worked over here, never mind over there. I think a lot of people go, 'Well, you had an agent here [in Ireland] and you already had a career, and then you took the next step'. But it was never that. I couldn't get a job here, so I thought I may as well, you know, spread my bets. It was not deliberately attempting to progress from a sound footing. It was 'see what happens'. But it was so freeing, because I had absolutely nothing to lose.
Angela easily admits that she really threw herself into her work for several years in the UK, working regularly on the early evening The One Show on the BBC, and even undertaking full-time cover for its host, Alex Jones, when she took maternity leave.
The danger was, however, that work became everything, and that's something Angela has attempted to rebalance in recent years, particularly since the birth of her daughter, Ruby, in February 2018.
A turning point "I think I'm quite an extreme person in many ways," says Angela, "and I never really thought that, but I threw myself into work to an unhealthy degree, which, you know, has yielded fruit, but it was totally unsustainable, and I did it for a very long time."
A turning point, she says, came after Ruby was born, when she got word that a job had fallen through and it felt like the bottom had fallen out of her world. Work had been everything, her very definition of self, and now, in the maelstrom of new motherhood, it felt like it had been ripped away, along with everything else familiar.
She tells a story about herself and her husband, and a photo they took of themselves, immediately after returning home with newborn Ruby. They were all lying on the bed, the baby fast asleep, the proud parents toasting with Champagne. A family member to whom they sent the snap openly laughed at them, and Angela laughs now, too.
She berates herself, even two years later, for being so unprepared for the arrival of Ruby and the complete transformation that occurs when a baby arrives, but accepts, with a sort of hope, that no one is prepared. You can't be prepared, of course you can't, but matters weren't helped when she got the call to say she'd lost a broadcasting gig.
"I was sitting there with a brand-new baby," she recalls, "and suddenly my biggest job was gone, and it was like a grief, which, I suppose, highlighted my reliance on work for happiness. It was awful, but it was, in a way, exactly what I needed."
Her focus since has been on that elusive thing - balance. Someone told her early on that, particularly in a job that can take you away for long hours, and even for days, it was important that she never made a drama out of parting from the baby. Angela has practised that and, she says with a laugh, Ruby is nonchalant about mummy heading off, to the point of being insulting.
We both acknowledge, as soon as I start to ask the question, that I would never ask a man in the same position how the family was going to cope while he went away for three days each week to present a new TV chat show.
"Yes, well," Angela says, "it's not like it's far. I mean, it's quicker than going to Manchester. It's like a frustrating question, yeah, of course it is. But also, I get it. And Roy, thankfully, is a modern man. And so, you know, we share, so he's gonna be doing a bit of the heavy lifting for those few days for eight weeks. He's amazing with her, but I'm kind of, you know, it's the longest time that we've, you know, been apart. So yeah, that's one side of my head, while the other is, you know, 'You chose the job, deal with it, it's only a couple of days'. I'll come over on a Tuesday [to Dublin], record on a Wednesday and, ideal scenario, be back on a Thursday [to London]. It's three days, in the grand scheme of things."
Angela is honest about the frustration of being asked how the man and child will cope, but she's honest about her wobbly moments about being away from them, too. Further, she concedes that, maybe, it's actually a bit of an insult to men that one wouldn't ask, 'So, how's your new job going to impact the home life?' Partly that's because we assume the woman left at home will cope no bother, and she says with a laugh, he'll be cast as "poor Roy" and will no doubt get plenty of sympathy and offers of help.
"The truth is," she says, "that people interview for jobs every single day, whether they work in the civil service or in finance or in telly. And it's unfortunate that that interview process, if you want to call it that, was made public.
"You know, five men go for a job, there's no story. But a woman presenting a chat show, it's like, shock-horror. Bibi Baskin, Miriam O'Callaghan, Marian Finucane, Claire Byrne. It's not like this is the first time a woman has been given the chance to hold a microphone. It's so condescending.
"But this slot," Angela adds, "for a number of years, in this shape, has been dominated by men, and so, now, that's what's different."
A breath of fresh air
She hopes this show, with this format, will be a breath of fresh air. And she welcomes, not just from a personal point of view, that the eight-week run feels just long enough, both to establish it and to leave people wanting more.
Her parents are delighted to have her back in Ireland for a while, she says with a laugh, though she and Roy and Ruby are very rooted in London and have no plans to relocate home. Further, things remain in good shape for her on BBC TV, and also with her weekly show on BBC Radio 2.
"But of course," she says, "no matter what you do elsewhere, your parents are always, like, 'Ah yeah, but nobody really watches the BBC here'. They want you to be on the channel that their friends and the relatives and my great-gran-aunt in Clare Island is going to see. That's the dream gig for them, so they're thrilled."
Angela will not be staying at home with them in Ratoath when she's over to record the show, however.
"Ah no," she explains. "It's an hour in and out to their house, and I'm a novelty for 10 minutes and then, you know, I'm doing the washing up, so I think I'll go for a hotel and room service, thanks.
"Anyway," says Angela, "that's the other thing about coming back to do a show, I couldn't cope with the, 'Oh, I don't like that guest', or, 'What's that your wearing?' If there was ever any chance that I might get ideas above my station, they'd be quickly knocked out of me."
Who needs Twitter trolls when you've got the home audience, Angela agrees with a laugh, and she's more than ready to have fun with the latter.
At the time of going to print, 'Angela Scanlon's Ask Me Anything' is scheduled to air in the coming months on RTE One
Photography by Kip Carroll
Coordinated by Chloe Brennan
RTE's Saturday-night line-up over the last 30-odd years often reads like a series of Cabinet reshuffles or furniture rearrangement.
Once upon a time, the Late Late Show lived on a Saturday night. When it migrated to Fridays, in the mid-1980s, the vacuum on Saturday was first filled by Pat Kenny with The Pat Kenny Show. That had a rocky start, and soon gave way to Saturday Live, from October 1986.
This show had a series of rotating presenters, including Eamon Dunphy, then making his transition from soccer pundit to man-for-all-seasons; then-leader of Fine Gael Alan Dukes; Rhonda Paisley (daughter of the Rev Ian); and Dr Tiede Herrema, a Dutch businessman who ran a wire factory in Limerick and had been kidnapped by the IRA, who demanded, in exchange for his safe return, the release of three prisoners, including English debutante Rose Dugdale, a kind of Patty Hearst character who had become radicalised and joined the IRA.
Pat Kenny was also given his shot at hosting Saturday Live, and was successful enough that his own 2.0 show, Kenny Live, followed.
Kenny Live ran from 1988 to 1999, but could never escape comparisons with the Late Late. Small wonder, then, that Kenny took the chance to make the switch to Friday nights in 1999.
At that stage, RTE reverted to the Saturday Live format, with, again, a changing guard of presenters. When that failed to set the world on fire, they opted to show films on Saturday nights instead. Then, in 2004, came the announcement that Ryan Tubridy would step into the breach, with Tubridy Tonight.
The first episode featured Grainne and Sile Seoige, Hector O hEochagain and Royston Brady. Reviews were good - one reviewer said it got off "to a ropey start but improved as it went along", and the show brought an American-style edge, with a house band and an informal bantering style somewhat reminiscent of David Letterman or Conan O'Brien.
In 2009, the Late Late Show sent out a siren call to Tubridy, just as it had done with Pat Kenny, and he too switched over. At that stage, RTE proposed as a solution to Saturday nights, not one but two chat shows going head-to-head.
Brendan O'Connor presented The Saturday Night Show for eight weeks, then made way for Craig Doyle, who presented Tonight with Craig Doyle for a further eight weeks. The Saturday Night Show emerged as victor, with Peaches Geldof and Jim Corr as the first interviewees of the newly commissioned series that then ran until March 2015.
Ray D'Arcy was next in the hot seat, until this year, when Tommy Tiernan stepped in for a much-lauded run.
And in between, there was often Miriam O'Callaghan, bringing warmth and wit to the role. So, 30-odd years, upwards of 10 presenters, not nearly enough women. And now it's Angela's turn.