Au­to­cutie? Not me, I’m a work nerd

She had a se­ri­ous ca­reer and a head full of stats when TV fame beck­oned. But has Anna Daly’s suc­cess been as ef­fort­less as it looks, asks Nikki Walsh

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - COVER STORY -

Anna Daly is stand­ing on top of a ta­ble in the lobby of the Radis­son Blu Royal Ho­tel Dublin when I ar­rive for our in­ter­view. She is wear­ing a floor­length black dress and a pho­tog­ra­pher is snap­ping away. She catches sight of me and laughs. ‘You didn’t tell me I’d have to go up on this!’ I go up­stairs to wait for her and she ap­pears, min­utes later, dressed in a blue shift dress and a pair of Uggs. She apol­o­gises for her ap­pear­ance — ‘The state of me!’ — but she doesn’t have to. More beau­ti­ful than her pho­to­graphs might sug­gest, the 34-year-old could be an earth­ier ver­sion of Grace Kelly. She drops into a chair and sti­fles a yawn. It is mid­day but Anna has al­ready done a day’s work, pre­sent­ing TV3’S Ire­land AM.

‘The alarm goes off at 4am,’ she tells me in a faintly hor­ri­fied voice. ‘I get ev­ery­thing ready the night be­fore and I head straight to the make-up room where I have two or three cups of cof­fee.’ In the news­room, adren­a­line kicks in. ‘I al­ways com­pare it to get­ting on a flight. In the taxi you are ex­hausted, but once you get it in the ter­mi­nal, you re­alise you are in a fully func­tion­ing work­place and it kinds of rubs off on you. You snap out of it.’ On set, she loves the ban­ter. ‘We have so many giddy mo­ments. It re­minds me of all those times I was thrown out of class for laugh­ing too much. View­ers like that. A bit of slag­ging. They know you’re not on au­tocue.’

And there’s no in­fight­ing. ‘All the dra­mas that hap­pen off cam­era are per­sonal. You might burst into tears af­ter an in­ter­view, and you have 30 sec­onds to pull your­self to­gether be­fore you are on cam­era again, or you might be out­side Tem­ple Street Hospi­tal cry­ing on the steps be­cause you can’t cry in front of the kids and the cam­era man is hug­ging you…’

The el­dest of two chil­dren, Anna grew up in Tem­pleogue, Dublin. Her fa­ther is in the mo­tor trade and her brother is a me­chanic. ‘I know more about cars than the av­er­age girl,’ she says. ‘And I ab­so­lutely love them. They’ve been my big­gest waste of money though — I have a Mini Cooper with all the trim­mings that has bro­ken my heart!’

Grow­ing up, she never con­sid­ered a ca­reer in tele­vi­sion. ‘I can’t even say it didn’t ap­peal to me be­cause I never thought about it.’ With a flair for busi­ness, she went into mar­ket­ing. She landed a job in TV3, and quickly rose up the ranks to be­come mar­ket­ing man­ager. ‘I got stuck in. I put in the hard work. I think I have the right at­ti­tude to work.’

Then one of the pro­duc­ers sug­gested a screen test. ‘ I was flab­ber­gasted,’ she re­calls. ‘I loved mar­ket­ing; in fact, I was kind of nerdy about it, but I also thought, “I’m work­ing in a TV sta­tion and I am obliv­i­ous to the fact that they are churn­ing out mag­i­cal TV. I should ex­plore this.”’ More cau­tious than her ex­u­ber­ant per­son­al­ity might sug­gest — she uses the word ‘con­sid­ered’ a lot — she de­cided to do the Bill Keat­ing TV pro­duc­tion course in Mill­town, be­fore tak­ing up the sug­ges­tion. ‘If I had never worked in the com­pany, I might have been a bit more ballsy about it all and thought, “Yeah, I’ll give it a go,” but when you are work­ing there and that’s your ca­reer, you don’t want to make a fool of your­self.’ She loved the course. ‘It was my own pri­vate thing, my own pri­vate time, my own pri­vate money and no­body needed to know I was do­ing it. I drove from work to the night course and I was so ex­cited. And it gave me the con­fi­dence to go back to them and say, “You know what…”’

Six months of screen test­ing fol­lowed be­fore Anna be­came a pre­sen­ter on Ire­land AM. Four years later, she can­not re­mem­ber how many in­ter­views she had done, although her favourites are ‘ the mu­sic ones’, such as Slash, Kiss and Westlife. She gets a kick out of in­ter­view­ing sharp busi­ness­women too. ‘The other day, I in­ter­viewed Michel le Mone, the founder of Ul­timo un­der­wear,’ she says. ‘She is an amaz­ing busi­ness­woman, so sharp. And just my kind of girl — to­tally down to earth, de­spite her multi-mil­lions, and full of en­cour­age­ment for women. It was re­ally em­pow­er­ing and I was on a high af­ter it.’

Her best times on cam­era have been when she has thrown the notes away. ‘What I’ve learnt — and I have still have tonnes to learn — is that while you can go in with all the notes in the world, the best in­ter­views hap­pen when you throw the notes away and lis­ten to the an­swers. It’s so dis­mis­sive when the in­ter­viewer has the next ques­tion in their head — you are not pick­ing up on ob­vi­ous trig­gers. Some­times I think it’s good to read over the notes, and not have a fixed agenda.’ Her hero is Jonathan Ross. ‘He’s my num­ber- one per­son to go out for din­ner with, not be­cause I fancy him but be­cause I think he’s such a laugh. When Sinead [Des­mond] went to Eurodis­ney, she in­ter­viewed him. I was like, “How did you find him?” I was rag­ing!’

When she is not work­ing, she is in Dublin’s Stepa­side, in the house she shares with her hus­band, Ben Ward, and their eight-mon­thold son, James. The cou­ple met through mu­tual friends in their early 20s when they were both dat­ing other peo­ple. ‘Peo­ple of­ten say to me, “Did you fancy him when you met him?” and I say, “No, he had a girl­friend.” But then I met him again when we were both sin­gle and I looked at him and thought, “Oh right…!”’ If you haven’t guessed it al­ready, talk­ing to Anna is a lit­tle like talk­ing to an old friend. ‘Are you se­ri­ous?’ she says when I ad­mit that, like her, I have be­come en­fee­bled by my part­ner’s cook­ing skills. She smiles. ‘I just say, “Why would I do the cook­ing when you are just so good at it…?”’ We laugh, ex­cept Anna’s laugh goes on a lit­tle longer than mine, and it’s a wicked In­grid Bergman sort of laugh and be­fore I know it, I’m laugh­ing again.

The cou­ple got mar­ried in Por­tu­gal, where Ben’s fam­ily have a hol­i­day home, and had their first child, James, last year. ‘I re­ally en­joyed my preg­nancy,’ she says. ‘ For the first few months, I thought I had “I am preg­nant” all over my face, but once I could

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