Interview: Danielle McDonald on Using Friendship to Get Through the Pandemic

One of the ways Macdonald likes to take care of her friends is through cooking, something her best friends-slash-roommates, Nicole Zyana and Margot Ryan, are happy to oblige. “Dan is a master chef. It’s those Italian roots. We knew she was a cook, but she is a master chef,” says Zyana, a fellow actor who has had roles in Dynasty and Atypical. “I wouldn’t say master chef,” interrupts Macdonald, who laughs and adds, “I’m better than them, but I wouldn’t say master.” The three friends are chatting with me on Zoom from their apartment in West Hollywood, which they also share with a bevy of rescue animals: two dogs, Gypsy and Jax, a cat named Brixton, and two foster kittens. Ryan, a veterinary assistant and animal rescuer, is referred to as the roommates’ “easy hookup” for animals.

Animal welfare is incredibly important to Macdonald. A pescatarian for five years, Macdonald converted to veganism at the beginning of 2020 (her roommates had already been vegan for a while). She’s also pivoted to using cruelty-free and sustainable beauty products, with some of her favorites including The Ordinary, Habitat Botanicals, Love Beauty and Planet, Hello Toothpaste, E.L.F., Charlotte Tilbury, Tarte Cosmetics (especially the Lights, Camera, Lashes Mascara) Fenty (the Pro Filt’r Hydrating Longwear Foundation), and the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. 

Figuring out veganism, Macdonald says, has been a large part of her quarantine experience. The culinary mastery her roommates continuously praise her for includes a gluten-free, spaghetti bolognese that uses Impossible meat, omelets made with Just Egg, a mung bean-based product, and a curiously impressive avocado toast. “I don’t know how she makes it so good, but it’s amazing,” says Ryan.

Aside from cooking, the trio has been spending the pandemic taking workout classes via Zoom and watching reality TV. Some of their favorites include The Bachelor, Love at First, Dating Around, and their “number one,” Selling Sunset. “When it’s heavy in the world it’s nice to have that outlet,” says Macdonald of their affinity for reality TV. (For the record, they also enjoyed Normal People, which “devastated” them.) “We’ve been cooking so much and working out and getting strong,” says Zyana. “It’s honestly been really positive, what we’ve been able to do at home together.” 

Macdonald with her roommates, Nicole Zyana (left) and Margot Ryan

Courtesy of Danielle Macdonald

Even though Zyana and Macdonald describe themselves as “polar opposites” with different upbringings — Zyana regularly skipped class and Macdonald was a straight-A student — their love for animals and passion for social justice are some of the things that bring the group together. The friends attended several protests, including ones for Elijah McClain, who, Macdonald says, she and her friends felt a “huge attachment to.” They mail cards to officials and call every day to demand justice for McClain’s murder. “It’s so important to speak up; it’s so important to talk about it. It’s so important that people are informed so they know when they go and vote,” says Macdonald. “I’m not an American citizen. I’ve lived here, but I cannot vote in the election, and that’s something I wish I could. I really hope that people that have the power to vote and the ability and the privilege to vote do, because it’s so important.”

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