SC: At what age did you know that you wanted to act? What drew you toward this as a career?
MO: I started doing theater when I was about five. I did my first play, and it was actually in French because I was in French immersion in Canada. I just kinda got the bug and did theater until I was a teenager. Then I saved up all my money from babysitting to get headshots and my mom made me pay for them myself. I was very bitter about it at the time, but it was probably a good idea to make sure I was actually serious about it, and yeah, the rest is history.
SC: Do you still speak French, or was it just while you were growing up?
MO: Un petit peu. I was fluent for a while when I lived in Montreal. I was there for a year and also did a series there when I was 18 or 19.
SC: Have you ever had the opportunity to do a role in French?
MO: I actually remember one of my first auditions in high school was for one of those “Heritage Moments” commercials, of famous things that happened in history. I can’t remember what moment it was for, but you had to do it in French and English. I got an audition for it because I spoke French, but in the end, I didn’t get it.
SC: Having grown up in Victoria, where is your favourite place on Vancouver Island?
MO: I love Victoria and it’s been fun filming Chesapeake Shores on the Island because I’ve never really spent much time there. It was a long drive when you are a kid, but they used to have a train, so a few times I took a train up the Island to Parksville and Courtenay area, which is beautiful. I have to say Victoria is where my heart is.
SC: Did you initially audition for Abby? What was it about this character that drew you to her?
MO: I did. I had just come off a doing a show on CBS called Intelligence with Josh Holloway and it was a cop show and really fun. It was more procedural, so it was a lot of storytelling about a story that you’re not involved in, you’re sort of explaining what’s happening as opposed to actually living the story. I really was trying to find something that had an ensemble cast and a story that I felt connected to. I’d also just finished watching the show Parenthood and had never seen it before, so I was really into family shows, and specifically looking for something like that. I met with Dan [Paulson], our executive producer and director of the movie, and they actually pitched it to me as Parenthood, and I was sold immediately. The first one was a movie, and I loved the idea of Abby being a single mother and moving home from pursuing an aggressive career path in a big city. I just was really curious about what her story was going to become and seeing where they were going to take that progression of adjusting to being back in her hometown. We shot the pilot in Vancouver and then the show ended up shooting on the Island, which I was like, “this is so weird. I’m doing this show about a woman going to her hometown and I’m shooting in my hometown.” I had never worked on the Island before, so it was pretty funny and came full circle.
SC: Coming back to set a couple years later, what was it like to see Abbie & Kayden so grown up?
MO: It's pretty funny cause we pick up like three months later and they're a foot taller. They've grown so much, and it's been so fun. I think Abby was six when we started, and Kayden was eight or nine. They are such great girls. Their mom gave me grounding rights when they were really little in case they would be fighting in the back seat when we were filming, but I never had to use them because they’re awesome.
SC: What is your favourite item in Abby’s wardrobe?
MO: My chunky sweaters. Everyone always fights me on them and they're like “don't wear them, you look pregnant” and I’m like “I don't care. I'm so comfortable.”
SC: If Abby could pause and reflect back on the past 5 years, what advice do you feel she would give to her daughters?
MO: Your parents are trying as hard as they can and are really tired. Now that I have kids too, I can really relate, but Abby’s been doing her best.
SC: How has being a mom changed you as an actor?
MO: I definitely found that I related to Abby in a different way once I became a mom. I also really understood the desire to go home and be near family, especially with her being a single mom because I don't know how single mothers do it, especially if they don't have a community around them. Parenting is so tough and it’s really a lot better when you have a big community around you. I feel for her being in a big city, New York especially, where everything is busy and getting your kids to their classes and stuff would be so difficult. There's things that I never would have thought about before having kids like getting them to their doctors’ appointments and all little details that you just don't think about. I think it definitely changed the way I looked at the little things that she would have had to deal with.
SC: How has it been different with the other actresses becoming moms?
MO: Emilie and I were still breastfeeding, so there was a lot of “we gotta go.” There was also a lot of mom chat and lots of kids getting to play together on set, which was fun too. We always joked that Covid probably really was a lucky thing for Chesapeake Shores because last year we all had brand new babies that were between eight months and a month old, and we would have been filming last season during Covid with all having brand new babies. There were four of us, because Jessica [Sipos], who plays Kevin’s wife, she had a baby as well. It would have been funny and probably pretty fun, but filming would have gone pretty slowly.
SC: How has it been filming during Covid, especially with having your kids with you on set this season?
MO: It was a little bit nerve wracking going back to work and I was still nursing my daughter, so I had to bring her to set because she won’t take a bottle and only wants mommy. I was a little bit nervous about having her come to set but we get tested a lot and I actually requested to be tested more often, just because I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t bringing anything home with me. So, my nose got very sore, but I felt more safe and secure with being at work and not bringing anything home because I was tested almost every day, and there’s less exposure with a more secluded set.
SC: You have portrayed a range of emotions as Abby, a character who typically maintains her composure, so which scene would you say challenged you most as an actor?
MO: The first season with all of the custody stuff with Abby's ex-husband was probably the hardest just because it was so sad and just so stressful for her. I didn’t have kids at the time, but putting in myself in that place was tough, and I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been to do that having had kids now. Those were definitely some pretty intense moments for her and pretty high stakes. She’s been through a lot, that girl.
SC: Abby is the one that her siblings seek out, often acting as the calm in the chaos, and willing to do the right thing such as with the Porter fund. Where does she draw that from?
MO: I think for sure her dad. This season is really special to me because you really get to see more of her and Mick’s relationship and they’re coming to understand each other more. Abby is understanding her father more and sort of why things were difficult for him when they were young and going through a lot of family drama. I just feel like there’s been a lot of healing for the family and they’ve all been working really hard to repair the family and gotten to a really great place. Megan (O’Brien), she’s got a lot of guilt that she carries with her and she’s working through that and working really hard to make amends. So, there’s a lot of really beautiful family moments in this season that I’m excited for people to see.
SC: With not seeing Wes & Ms. Marvel this season, how do you think that Abby finding herself will have shifted her relationship with them?
MO: I'd like to think that it would make it a lot better, as last season they sort of came to a good place with the kids and coparenting, and things like that. To me, Abby this season is really following her heart and trying to do what is best for the girls and for herself and making some hard decisions and trying to find what makes her happy. Because like you say, she’s the one that’s always been taking care of everybody and trying to be calm, cool, and collected, and maybe she doesn’t want to always be like that. She needs to let loose a little bit too.
SC: Abby is the one who doesn’t seem surprised by the connection between her parents. Why do you feel that she is so ready to offer her approval?
MO: I think probably because Megan and Abby were together in New York, so Abby is the only one that sort of maintained a relationship with her after she left. Some of the weight fell on Abby, but her way was to just deal with it, and because of that she had more empathy for her mom and wanting to understand where she was coming from. I feel like they repaired their relationship first over the years, and because of that, she probably knows more of what struggles Megan had been through. I think she probably just wants her to be happy and sees that her parents are happy.
SC: Since the O’Brien siblings are big on ice cream, what is your personal favourite flavour?
MO: I like anything that has chunks of stuff in it.
SC: Does it ever get confusing on set when they’re calling for Megan (O’Brien) or Abbie (Magnuson)?
MO: Yes, it does. It’s actually a running joke and hilarious because there are so many crossovers. There is also Jess and Jesse, and then there’s also Jessica Sipos. It’s a bit of a nightmare. Actually, in the first season I gave nicknames to everybody because I was getting Barbara Niven’s wardrobe all the time and I would be called to set. I would get there, and they’d be like “why are you here?” and I’d say “well, someone called me” and they would say, “oh no, we needed Barbara, like character Megan, not you.” So, I said, “okay, we’re all just gonna call me Spike from now on” and for awhile my chair said Spike on it which was pretty funny. My nickname is the only cool one and I give the nicknames to everybody and they’re all bad. Brendan Penny tried to change my nickname, but it’s not happening. He doesn’t have the power, he’s not the oldest.
SC: Do you think that Abby even thinks twice about Evan’s billions?
MO: Abby does pretty well for herself financially, and yes, she lives in her dad and grandmother's house, but I think that’s more for childcare convenience than anything else. The O’Briens are obviously a well off family, so I don’t think money has ever been something that has been a concern or stress for her, which I think is part of it, but also, she’s worked in finance for so long, lived in New York, and dealt with a lot of people with a lot of money, so I don’t think it’s something that is novel or interesting to her.
SC: What is it about Jay Ross that appeals to Abby?
MO: He’s very different from Evan, but they’re both great. That’s all I can say about that. Time will tell. We’ll see how things unfold.
SC: When this series eventually ends, what is the one prop that you would want to take from set?
MO: That’s a good question. Can I take the view? Actually, I will tell you what it is. There is a photo on the mantle that I think you are going to see this season, because I put it there on purpose in a shot, because it’s ridiculous. In the background there are these beautiful photos of the family members and cast from the past and growing up. Then there’s also photos from the past five years from set that they will print off and put on the mantle piece, including a photo of Emilie holding a bagel and she has the funniest look on her face. I was like, “why is this ridiculous picture of her on the mantle? Why did someone print this? Why is it here?” It has to be featured obviously, so it will be featured. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll see it, or you might have to go back and watch for it. I want to keep that picture. It’s not really a prop, but a piece of the set and a piece of my time there.
SC: With two actors in the family, what is your favourite way to unwind when not on set?
MO: Actually, since I’ve come to Newfoundland, I’ve discovered hiking. I hate hiking, but I really like getting to the top of mountains, so I’ve been doing that here which has been really nice, when the weather is nice.
SC: With being in Newfoundland for a lengthy period of time while your husband is filming, sounds like you would have quite a bit of time to hike too.
MO: Yes, we spend a lot of time here. Hudson & Rex is a very long running show and I’ve also joined the cast so I will be in it this year.
SC: Did you have any karate training prior to your scenes this year?
MO: What’s funny is I have, as I’ve actually done Krav Maga training for past jobs where I’ve played police officers. I don’t think anybody knew that, so they were expecting to teach me a lot of stuff, and they brought in the stunt double, but I have to say that the stunt double was not needed.
SC: With the obvious musical absence of the band, is there any chance you and/or the others will do more singing or musical aspects during filming?
MO: I really hope so, because Treat Williams is a Broadway musical star and he played Danny Zuko in Grease on Broadway, so I make him sing Grease songs all the time. Also, Gregory Harrison, who plays Mick’s brother and our uncle, he and Treat were on Broadway together and were roommates. We’ve all been petitioning to have them do some singing together, because why waste that talent that’s just sitting there?! They can jump on stage at The Bridge now and have a long hidden dream of being a rock star or something, or a karaoke night would be good too.
SC: While many Chessies may miss the Trace & Abby storylines, there seems to be an appreciation for knowing this part of their story in advance. Any thoughts that you would like to share about this season and that transition?
MO: I feel like from an Abby and Trace perspective, and Jesse and I talked about this too, that they just got to a point where they wanted different things. That happens in life, and for me it’s always been like my little sister is getting married and “where’s my ring, Trace?” Gotta put a ring on it or move on with your day.
I think it’s so hard to not just love the O’Briens and everyone else too. Yes, the Trabby story was central and a big draw, but I also think that everyone else is so great. There are lots of other great love stories to follow as well. Jess got married this season, and many wonderful things happen, so I hope that people stay with us and see what happens next. I think Phoef [Sutton] did an amazing job and I’m so impressed with how he adjusted everything and the direction he took the show. I hope the fans will also agree as we were all really excited with the direction that they went this year. There’s a lot of lightness and a lot more laughter than we’ve had before which has been really nice. I feel like it is a really safe escape this season while at the same time sort of having some interesting little things that you’re not expecting, but in a good way.
SC: Many Chessies will miss the band, but what will you miss most about Trace’s/Jesse’s involvement with the show?
MO: Trace and Abby had a long, long, very tumultuous history, and Jesse and I worked together for many years. We’ve worked together before Chesapeake as well, and we have a very good shorthand which makes things easy sometimes. It’ll be sad to not see where their story went, because I always thought from season one that they were going to get married and then their story would be about integrating into the family and seeing how that went with the kids, and everything like that. So, I think the fact that that’s not happening is a bit sad, but I’m just excited for Abby’s future. I think it’s nice too, especially in the year 2021, to have a female character that’s not tied to a male character or any sort of romantic interest in being her driving force. I think that it’s really cool that they did that, and Abby’s got a lot of balls up in the air and we’ll see where life takes her.
SC: What do the Chessies mean to you? How does interacting with the fans affect you in your role?
MO: I mean the Chessies are the reason we're still here after five years, just like the Hearties. I think it’s so nice to hear the immediate response from fans through social media, and how people feel about the characters and the path that they’re taking, and see people be excited for things or not excited for things. The Chessies are fantastic.
SC: The O’Brien home is where the Chessies hearts are, and for the past five seasons Meghan Ory has been a vital part of it all. Abby’s connection to her family, the closeness with her girls, and the focus on her career, have made her an interesting and relatable character who has continued to evolve. Abby’s focus has often been on helping others, but as Meghan mentioned, this is also a time for Abby to relax and find moments for herself too. If you would like to see more of Meghan Ory as Abby, be sure to share your thoughts on social, and then keep coming home to the Shores by enjoying Meghan’s photos and stories on Instagram.