After gaining sobriety, Michéal paid tribute to his late mother Natasha Richardson by taking on her maiden name.
As a tribute to his late mother, the actress Natasha Richardson, Michéal Richardson changed his last name from that of his father—the actor Liam Neeson—to his mother’s storied surname.
The 23-year-old’s maternal grandmother, Oscar-winning actress Vanessa Redgrave, told the British press that Michéal’s decision was a way for him to “hold his mother close.” According to Michéal, his mother’s death in 2009, from injuries incurred in a skiing accident, put him in a depressive spiral which he treated with drugs and alcohol.
After gaining sobriety, Michéal paid tribute to his mother with not only the name change, but also following in his parents’ footsteps by becoming an actor.
Michéal was 13 at the time of his mother’s death, and in a 2015 interview with the Sunday Times, said that he was unable to find a way to cope with the loss. “In my mind, subconsciously, I either pushed it out or stored it deep inside,” he said. “And so, within the next week, I was like, ‘Okay, on with my life.'”
But by the spring of 2014, Michéal saw that “things just started going downhill” in his life. “The people I was with, we were partying a lot. It was dark.”
Though observers saw his behavior as springing from his loss, Michéal wasn’t ready to accept it. “Everybody said, ‘This kid has lost his mum, that’s where the problem comes from.’ And I was like, ‘No, it isn’t. I just like to party.’ But looking back, I realize it was a delayed reaction.”
According to Us Weekly, Michéal sought help at a treatment facility in Utah, where through wilderness therapy, he eventually gained sobriety. He credited his father with giving him the support and work ethic he needed to make the change. “He came from a small town, Ballymena,” Michéal told Hello! Magazine in 2015. “It took him years to make it. He’s an inspiration.”
The adoption of his mother’s last name appears to be one of several ways in which Michéal has paid tribute to her memory. He has also appeared in several film and television projects, though his father has expressed caution in the choice.
“Dad was like, ‘Please become a carpenter or something,'” he said. “On my mother’s side, I was encouraged to do whatever I wanted.”
The Richardson/Redgrave family counts such acclaimed acting talents as his great-grandparents, Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson; grandmother Vanessa Redgrave and her siblings Lynn and Corin Redgrave; aunt Joely Richardson; cousins Jemma Redgrave and Daisy Bevan; and step-grandfather Franco Nero. Michéal’s maternal grandfather was Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson and his uncle is film producer Tim Bevan.
“I know that my mum liked the idea of me becoming an actor,” said Michéal. “She would have thought that was cool.”