Born in California and trained at the Julliard School in New York City, American actress Megan Dodds moved to London in 1997 to make her West End debut playing starlet Brook Daniels in Ben Elton’s Popcorn.
Since then, she has played Ophelia opposite Paul Rhys’s Danish prince in the Young Vic’s 1999 production of Hamlet, and back in the West End, shared the Wyndham’s stage with Madonna in 2002’s Up for Grabs.
On screen, Dodds’ credits have included Sword of Honour, Poirot, Love in a Cold Climate, The Rat Pack, Urban Folk Tales and Ever After: A Cinderella Story, as well as the BBC spy drama Spooks, in which she played CIA liaison officer Christine Dale.
This year, Dodds has made a big impact back on stage. First, she starred in the one-woman show My Name Is Rachel Corrie at the Royal Court. Devised and directed by actor Alan Rickman, the play tells the true story of the 23-year-old American woman of the title who died while trying to defend a Palestinian home from a bulldozer. Critically acclaimed when it premiered in April, it returns to the Royal Court, moving from the Upstairs studio to the Downstairs main house, in October (See News, 3 May 2005).
Dodds is now starring in the UK premiere of Neil LaBute’s This Is How It Goes, which is at London’s Donmar Warehouse ahead of a brief regional tour. Set in small-town America, the three-hander puts race and infidelity under the microscope by dissecting an inter-racial love triangle.
Date & place of birth
I was born on 15 February 1970, in Sacramento, California. I came over to do Popcorn in the West End in 1997, and I’ve been in London pretty much ever since.
First big break
Getting into drama school was a really big deal to me at the time. I went to Julliard and it was great to be meeting so many new people. It was a good training ground. I have stayed friends with many of the people I met there. It was a fantastic experience to be in New York and I see that as the start of my career.
Career highlights to date
My Name Is Rachel Corrie is definitely my career highlight. It was a new thing for me to do a one-woman show, and something I hadn’t really considered before, but it was amazing and I am so glad that it has gone so well.
Favourite productions you’ve ever worked on
I always have a good time with whatever I do really, so I can’t think of any specific productions because I have enjoyed almost all of them.
This is a difficult one. I always seem to be most in love with and enthusiastic about the production I am working on at the moment! I really do think the guys in This Is How it Goes - Ben Chaplin and Idris Elba - are wonderful. We’re getting along really well and having a fantastic time.
Alan Rickman is my favourite director for what he has done with Rachel Corrie. He really inspired me and made me think ‘yes, I can do this’. Other than him, the same applies with directors as it does with cast members - I love the people I am working with at the time!
What roles would you most like to play still?
I don’t have anything specifically in mind that I particularly want to do, but my experience with Rachel Corrie has made me decide I definitely want to do more plays (as opposed to film). The reaction you get from a live audience is just incredible. Rachel Corrie was very intimate and being aware of the audience’s reaction was very moving and intense.
How did My Name Is Rachel Corrie initially come about?
Alan Rickman approached me with the idea a couple of years ago and, being a true story, the material wasn’t made available to us until the family was ready to release it. But then we spent a lot of time looking at all the information we could lay our hands on to build up a picture of the life of this amazing woman.
How would you describe My Name Is Rachel Corrie?
It’s all about growing up and the things that happen to this young American woman during her everyday life as well as in the more extraordinary part of her life. I think that is why it works so well, because it is so human and so personal. It shows that, during all sorts of conflicts and major events, people’s lives still go on. They still have their own little dramas, as well as the big ones, to contend with.
Why do you think it was such a hit with audiences?
It is just so moving and it really affects people. It is about one girl’s really human story, and there are a lot of issues in there that make it really vibrant and also heartbreaking.
What's the best thing you've seen on stage recently?
Primo with Antony Sher at the NT Cottesloe. When I saw it, I was worrying about whether or not I could do Rachel Corrie and it was a great boost. It was so reassuring to see that a much wider issue (in Primo, the Holocaust) could be adapted into a very moving story of one person’s life, which is what we were trying to do with Rachel Corrie.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is my favourite. It’s so well written and it’s a classic.
Favourite holiday destinations
Tuscany is very hard to beat, I really love it there. I also enjoy it when I go home, back to the States. Last summer a group of us friends went to Connecticut. We all brought our babies with us and it was such a relaxed, fun holiday.
Favourite after-show haunts
We normally seem to end up just closing the theatre bar because we have friends coming to see us every so often and they stay to chat. It’s a great way to get to know the theatre you’re in even better!
What made you want to accept your part in This Is How It Goes?
I really like the play. I thought it was provocative and interesting for a woman to be doing the kinds of things my character (Woman) does. I just thought the script was great, and I’m enjoying doing theatre at the moment so I was glad to accept the part.
How did you research the role of Woman?
I just thought really hard about the play and the type of situations she gets into. She could turn out to be a big victim and I didn’t want to play her like that.
Do you identify with the role in any way?
I had that same kind of small town experience when I grew up so I know how it feels to live in that kind of community.
What do you like the most about This Is How It Goes?
It gets you to question your own ideas about life, about issues the play deals with, and everything really. The characters are engaging and the audience really gets drawn into their stories.
What are your future plans?
I am going to be in a film called The Contract starring Morgan Freeman, so that is my next project straight after This Is How It Goes, and then after that I am doing Rachel Corrie again, which will be absolutely wonderful.
Are you looking forward to reprising your role as Rachel?
Yes, definitely! It is the most fantastically written play and I enjoyed it so much the first time round.
This Is How It Goes finishes its run at London’s Donmar Warehouse on 9 July 2005 and then continues to Bristol Old Vic (12-16 July) and the Lowry, Salford Quays (19-23 July). My Name Is Rachel Corrie returns to the Royal Court this autumn, playing in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 11 to 29 October 2005.