Máiréad Tyers

The Extraordinary star and BAFTA Nominee on her inspirations and hopes for the future


Máiréad Tyers’ first role out of drama school was in Kenneth Brannagh’s Belfast, but she’s become known and loved as Jen in Disney+ series Extradordinary – a powerless twenty-something in a world where everyone else got a power by their 18th birthday. Following its second series, for which she’s won a BAFTA nomination, she talked to Port about what’s inspired her, her dream roles, and past sporting prowess

Is there anything you recall watching that made you want to act?

My mum was really good for bringing me to plays when I was younger. The Irish theatre scene is so rich – I didn’t see huge scale productions, but there was one production by a man called Mikel Murfi, The Man in the Woman’s Shoes. Basically it’s a one man show, where he inhabits a whole town and plays every character in the town in a way that is physically so real, but so characterful. I remember just feeling quite confused. I was like, how is this man doing this? how is he able to inhabit and tell a story about a whole town and village when it’s just one man on stage?

That was one thing that I thought: God, if I could reach a level of transformation like that, I think that that would feel like doing a good job. Being able to tell a story and it’s just you.

In terms of TV and films, I love Mrs. Doubtfire. Like when I was a kid, watching films that just made me laugh and loving the comedy of it all. Subconsciously, I think I was realizing that, oh my God, this is something I love so much and I would love to do myself. Rather than, you know, watching Sophie’s Choice, I think it was all the comedic actors and comedic parts that made me feel really excited about the possibility of acting, or drama.

So is comedy where you want to be and stay?

To be honest, I think realising that comedy is something I would love to do has only really come in the last few years, from doing Extraordinary. I look back now at these things I loved watching when I was younger and a lot of them are comedy. It’s no wonder then, that what my career started off being was largely comedy. when I was in drama school, comedy was not something that we focused on in any way, shape or form. It was really much more serious dramas and theatre… it didn’t feel like comedy was very important. So my desire to do it has grown more in the last couple of years, from having access to it through doing Extraordinary.

I’d love to carry on doing comedy, but also I’d love to do other things. I’d love to do a cop drama – that’s one of my dreams just to do, like, a Line of Duty where I get to wear a coat and have a clipboard.

Yeah, if you imagine RADA you imagine it being all very serious.

Absolutely. I think a lot of drama schools – from speaking to friends who’ve gone to other drama schools – don’t have a focus on comedy. I would hope that it’s changing. When you think of all the different modules and stuff we would have done, I think there’s absolutely space for comedy, because there’s so many comedic actors who come out of these drama schools and maybe don’t realize that they’re comedic or have that comedic timing and that flair for comedy until much later, when they go and find it themselves.

Like if you did a stand up course – because, also, stand up is probably one of the scariest things you could possibly do. I’ve never done it and the idea of it terrifies me – I think some drama schools do. I think that would be so beneficial, even if the actor didn’t want to go into comedy, just to have the experience of improvising or needing to deliver in that way.

I suppose it’s similar to a one-hander play, to entertain people in every capacity for a while.

Absolutely, and have a response, get used to their response or lack of response. I did a fringe show a couple of years ago and it was just two of us on stage and we were facing the audience the whole time. We didn’t ever look at each other. You can see everyone’s reactions. You can feel the reaction. If they’re not enjoying it, they’ll make you know about it. Like, falling asleep in the front row. You’re thinking, okay, well, how do I get through this?

Do you miss stage acting then?

I do. And I’m dying to – I’d love to do get back on stage. I say get back on stage, that was the only play I’ve done since graduating. I think that that’s what the basis of my training largely is, and it’s a skill that I haven’t had the chance yet to… I’d say develop because I feel I’ve got so much to learn. I’ve got so much to learn about everything.

I’ve learned so much doing Extraordinary. And that’s been a very specific experience of, you know, having to lead a show and it’s you’re in every day, like there’s different elements I’m learning there. I feel like I’m bursting to develop in the rest of my ways as well. Which I know I’m capable of, so I’m kind of excited for the chance to do that.

Are you auditioning?

Yeah. I mean, luckily, with theatre, you’re not self taping as much, which makes sense. Usually the scenes are about five to 10 minutes long and it’s not ideal doing a self-tape in that set up. But yeah, meetings, been having some of those recently, and I’m trying to do some Irish plays. There’s so many amazing Irish plays and Irish playwrights that I want to get my teeth stuck into. So yeah, hopefully soon.

How close or not close do you feel to Jen?

 I mean, that time is quite just quite confusing. In the script, she’s 25. And I remember when I read it, for season one, I would have been 23. Reading the scripts and thinking, she’s 25,  I was like, I’m feeling this now. I don’t want to feel this for the next three years! I remember feeling it so much when I graduated drama school – you’ve kind of got your whole life ahead of you, and it’s your responsibility, what you do with it. Getting a normal day job or to choose your friends, your chosen family. There are so many things that felt overwhelming and I felt quite lost in that time.

I think if it’s a smaller city, sometimes your decisions can be made for you. Whereas in London, there’s so much possibility about what you can do that I remember feeling so overwhelmed and just being like, I just want to go home to my mum. That experience, what Jen is experiencing, I absolutely felt.

Not just in this industry, in a lot of industries, most industries, you look at other people who seem to be succeeding, and as a result of their success, you can feel inadequate as a result because you don’t think that you’re at a similar level. I think that’s why people have connected with the show so much. It’s quite a universal thing, that you don’t experience just in your mid 20s.

I watched it thinking it would be much more superhero-y and was pleasantly surprised how little it ends up mattering, in a way.

Superhero comedy, I guess that’s technically the genre it exists in, but it’s not in any way like following the origin story of a superhero, although I guess that’s what Kash believes that the show is about. The show could still exist without the powers, and I think that’s what’s so fantastic about it; it’s encouraged people who have no interest in superhero, you know, Marvel, DC or anything and similarly, people who love that kind of world are watching it and getting something out of it too.

It’s a great setup from Emma, the power kind of framework, because it’s a great metaphor for the different characters – and also just really funny. There’s so many opportunities for brilliant gags.

What’s your favorite minor power?

There was one day when they were, it was in season two when they were filming in Kash, well, Carrie’s office, which Kash then bombards – this is only a story that I heard from the others, but I just thought it was hilarious.

Some of the SAs just got really involved and they kind of were improvising, asking people, “what’s your superpower?” Some of the ones they came up with were fantastic. One of them, my favorite one, is human stapler. I just imagine their job just sitting in an office constantly requiring stapled things.

I liked the show even more because it’s a believable living situation.

Yeah, because of filming, they had to make the flat bigger than it would have been. I remember when I turned up and saw the flat and we were like – this is an unbelievable flat. They’re meant to have no money and they live in this amazing flat. But like that shows our standards for London. Absolutely falling apart, nothing works in it. But that set up – with season two, Carrie and Kash trying to figure out who’s going to move out and everything, it’s a very real problem. 

Is it quite a tight-knit show?

Yeah, we’re really close with Emma, which is fantastic. For all of us, it’s our first journey of going on a running show that has gone on to a season two, and hopefully we’ll go on for more.

I think all of us feel quite new to this world, feeling like there’s more pressure on you or you have more responsibility. I feel that’s Emma included. I think we’ve all stuck really by each other and stayed quite close in that. Which is great.

I think Emma takes all of it just so in her stride. She’s the most relaxed human I’ve ever met. It’s brilliant to feel like your writer is one so talented. I remember it used to blow my mind in season one – if a line had to change, Emma would just come back with something even funnier. It never felt like inany adjustment, you were losing something, It felt like it was just getting better and better. I don’t think she has any idea how good she is.

We’ve gotten close as a result, which is brilliant because that’s I think she then picks things up from us and realises what our humour is. I feel there’s a lot of instances maybe between me and Fia, who plays Carrie, or me and the lads, where an interaction would happen between us and we’re like, that is so Carrie and Jen. I think Emma probably picks up on those moments and writes them down.

Máiréad as Jen

I saw you say somewhere that Emma shows you the playlist before you see the script for a new season. How does that work?

A lot of it is Emma’s music that ends up in the show. Her music taste is phenomenal. It was quite embarrassing that my Spotify wrapped last year was just all songs from Extraordinary – I just listened to Emma’s playlist over and over.

I know Emma writes to that playlist and that’s how it kind of starts to form. The music, along with the production design, along with the costumes, feels like such an integral part of the show. People always comment on how great the music is – we’ve an amazing music supervisor as well, but Emma, she brings forward that indie rock, like Mitski.

She showed us the season two playlist before we had any of the scripts, and we were trying to do detective work and figure out, Oh my God, does that happen?. There’s Jolene in there, so that was quite helpful – we were trying to figure out about Nora and Jen.

Do you ever think about writing things? Does that side of it interest you?

I have ideas and I have things that I’ve written that I want to become something, I absolutely have that desire. I think there’s elements of Irishness in me that I want to write. I feel like there’s gaps, maybe, in not just Irish media, but UK media, every media, gaps of Irishness that could be filled. What’s brilliant is, you know, there’s so many amazing Irish actors and creators at the moment who are getting loads of recognition. But I feel like we can push it further and teach even more about our culture and our languages and our sports and stuff. Kind of along those lines.

I feel like that’s happening with more and more cultures. It’s fantastic to feel like there’s just more representation in the media because that is how we learn. You hope that people are also reading books and doing research, but when there are TV shows, or films about specific things in history, you learn so much about food and culture and an insight into people’s homes when it’s really well researched and well written and well thought and fully inhabited.

Do you have anything coming up soon?

My Lady Jane, a TV series that’s coming out in June. It’s going to be coming out on Amazon Prime and it’s a Tudor comedy drama. I think you could call it a dramedy. I play the maid and best friend of the main character, Lady Jane. It’s a retelling of Lady Jane Grey’s story, queen for nine days. It has a fantasy element to it as well, and amazing costumes, amazing cast.

It has Rob Brydon, Kate O’Flynn, Dominic Cooper, Edward Bluemel, Emily Bader is an American actor, who does a phenomenal English accent. It’s loads of horses and corsets and sword fighting, fire, all of that. Totally different.

Obviously I feel like Jen, that world and those costumes and stuff, I know so well. There was sometimes a crossover in filming as well. So one day I’d be living in East London with superpowers, and then the next day it’s like, oh, I’m in like an insane studio in West London where there’s like candlelight as the only light, and I’ve got a dagger in my side. It was amazing to go into a different world.

Who is your character?

Susanna, that’s her name. She’s the best friend of Lady Jane, but also her maid. So there’s a power dynamic there. But yeah, I’ve seen the first couple of episodes of it, fully finished and with all the grading and music and everything. I’m really excited for that to come out.

Is there anything people are surprised to learn about you?

I suppose I’ll go for it – I used to play Ultimate Frisbee.


Yeah, quite competitively. I played for Ireland, which is not as impressive as it sounds because, there weren’t many people who would try for Ireland. So basically, if you turned up to the trial, you got on the team. I love sports and my dream is to play some sort of sports figure in a film, whether it’s Camogie, which is an Irish sport, or football or something. I don’t think there’d be any films about Ultimate Frisbee, but you never know. It’s a very watchable sport.

It is incredible. People always take the piss out of me because they’re like, “how do you play it?” and I explain, if someone fouls you, you have to talk about it. So if you think that I fouled you, you stop the game and you go “I think you fouled me there” and then I go “I actually don’t think I did”, and then we have a bit of a chat about it, and I can contest it. I can’t remember what happens.

Is there a ref?

Well no, but you get marked on spirit. What’s quite good about it is that people who play it are quite respectful – you don’t want to foul someone because then you have to have a conversation about it. Good conflict resolution, I suppose.