The Real Reason Meg Ryan Changed Her Name

Born and raised in Fairfield, Connecticut (via Biography), Meg Ryan fell into acting in order to make ends meet. After enrolling at UConn to study journalism, the future actress moved to New York to continue her studies at NYU, according to The Oregon Herald. Ryan obviously had ambitions to be in the media industry, but she started taking on small roles in television commercials in order to earn money.

However, that all changed in 1982, when she landed the role of Betsy on the soap opera "As the World Turns" — a part that she wound up playing for two years. The steady stream of income lead Ryan to change her future prospects altogether, per the Herald, and decided to leave college a semester before graduation to pursue acting in the long term.

Soon after, the actress starred in two more television series — "Charles in Chicago" and "Wildside" — before starring in "Top Gun" as Goose's wife Carole Bradshaw, per her IMDb profile. And it wasn't long after this that Ryan starred opposite Billy Crystal in "When Harry Met Sally," which kickstarted her career as America's sweetheart.

But what you might not know about the hugely successful rom-com star is that Meg Ryan isn't actually her real name. In fact, she changed it to the one we know and love when she became an actress. So, what is the moniker she was born with — and why did she decide to go with "Meg Ryan"?

Meg Ryan was inspired by her grandmother's maiden name

According to Entertainment Weekly, the actress the world knows as Meg Ryan was born Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra. The actress decided to shorten her first name and use the maiden name of her maternal grandmother when joining the Screen Actors Guild after she decided to pursue acting as a career.

Many of Hollywood's biggest stars join SAG-AFTRA in their careers, as it is a labor union that represents performers and others in the industry and protects their rights. You can either "earn" the card by making a name for yourself in the industry, according to the site, or pay an initiation fee of around $3,000.

By joining SAG, there's also a stipulation that if your name is already being used by an actor already in the union, you can't use it as your professional name, according to Actors' Sound Advice. Instead, you're required to provide a stage name. While this is a super common practice for many who work in film, TV, and beyond, this doesn't appear to be the case for Ryan, who seemed to change her name due to its length. (After all, "Margaret" is rather long — and having to say five names in one doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.)