Four years after graduating with a degree in political science from University College Cork (UCC), Peter O’Riordan now finds himself scouting the hills of Hollywood for celebrity news for one of the world’s most popular gossip websites.
The two may seem worlds apart, but for this Irish man it was an organic transition. “It’s been an interesting journey,” O’Riordan told the Irish Voice by phone from the TMZ offices in Los Angeles on a recent Thursday afternoon.
It’s now just over a month since O’Riordan, from Ballincollig in Co. Cork, landed a coveted position in a company which has redefined celebrity news. As expected the 27-year-old describes it as a “dream job.”
“It’s an incredible organization and an incredible team,” he says. “I am very humbled by the whole thing”.
Launched in 2005, TMZ takes its name from Hollywood’s “Thirty Mile Zone,” a designated area movie studios established to monitor rules for filming.
The celebrity news organization was founded by Harvey Levin, a TV producer, lawyer, legal analyst and celebrity reporter. Since its inception TMZ has broken some of the biggest celebrity news stories, such as the death of Michael Jackson in 2009.
“TMZ is the number one news broadcasting agency in the world of celebrity news,” says O’Riordan, the site’s newest Irish employee.
“Aside from the TV show, we still are a news organization so it is important we are number one,” he adds.
But how does a Cork man end up working at TMZ?
“It’s a funny story,” he says.
Working in a grocery store in the same complex as TMZ, O’Riordan impressed the show’s producers with his easy going personality, and after initial recruitment talks managed to secure a job at the news organization.
“I would talk the hind legs off a donkey,” he laughs. “They took a risk and a chance with me. They didn’t have to do that and I am very grateful.”
Over the phone line from LA to New York, the enthusiasm in his voice is unmistakable. This is one LA resident who is not taking his existence for granted.
“My favorite thing about the job is everyone I work with,” O’Riordan says.
“It’s a joy to be in here. It's kind of like we are all vital cogs in the organization. I feel very lucky.”
Only a few weeks with the company, the Irishman has already sent tongues wagging on the Internet, with fans across social networking sites inquiring about the identity of the striking new Irish guy on TMZ. Regardless of his new found fame, O’Riordan seems to be maintaining a laid back approach.
When I inquire as to how he ended up in the U.S., his Irish sense of humor kicks in. “Well Molly, there are great things called planes nowadays,” he says before laughing.
“Love and a career drew me here,” he revealed, “there is lady involved.”
After graduating from University College Cork with a degree in political science, he made the move to Orange County in California in October 2007.
“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was still kind of figuring everything out.”
It was when he made the move to Los Angeles in May 2010 that he took his first step into the spotlight.
“You hear stories of people walking their dogs and getting noticed. I was one of these random stories,” he told the Irish Voice.
With the luck of the Irish, O’Riordan was in a dog park when a talent executive approached him.
“I got spotted by a man called Sheraton Kalouria,” the current senior vice president at Sony Pictures Entertainment.
This would lead him to small part on the iconic American soap opera All My Children, as the yacht club bartender.
“I recorded probably 15-20 episodes in a year time span. I got to talk twice, the rest of the time I was just in the frame serving the good people of Pine Valley fake bevies,” said O’Riordan, who also starred as the lead in a Super Bowl commercial, one of the most lucrative TV advertising slots of the year.
Committed to developing his skill, he enrolled in the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and testament to his talent, was granted a scholarship.
“You cannot just magically decide you want to become an actor,” he reflects.
After finishing his stint with All My Children and working in Trader Joe’s supermarket, the former rugby player managed to nab the job of his dreams.
With his work day beginning at 6 a.m., O’Riordan says the most difficult thing is staying on top of everything that is happening the celebrity world.
“We are producers and everything is leading through a bigger picture. The hardest thing is getting to grips with all the knowledge and who people are,” he said.
The celebrity who impressed him the most is funnyman Jack Black.
“He was really cool when I interviewed him. You have a fear that the funny ones on screen will be (jerks) in real life but Jack was hilarious and really cool polite and friendly,” he said, adding he is “a good role model for anyone.”
Living in the same neighborhood as the Irish soccer captain and LA’s Galaxy’s latest recruit, Robbie Keane, he admits the two Irishmen have yet to bump into each other.
“I have not met up with Robbie but if he wants to grab a pint at some stage I’d be more than happy to. He knows how to find me,” he jokes.
When I ask him about the invasive aspect of being a celebrity reporter he admits he agrees with Colin Farrell’s sentiment on being a well-known figure.
“People that say my job is an invasive way of getting information. Really have no scope or idea how media outlets run as a whole.
“I agree with Colin Farrell, if you embark on a career in entertainment you are always going to be in the public eye, you know exactly what you are signing up for when you become a celeb, you sign away your privacy and you are well compensated financially,” he said.
Does Ireland need a version of TMZ? The Cork man definitely thinks so.
“I think it could work,” he says. “I will be ready, willing and able to go!”
But for the near future O’Riordan admits that LA is his home.
“I am all about work ethic and determination,” he explains.
He says being Irish has helped his career advance so far. “You are being differentiated and it’s instant conversation starter, we have a known work ethic,” he said, concluding “It’s important to fly the flag”.