I was asked this question on twitter by @28_Maryam1D (Maryam Hashi) and I felt like it needed more time and consideration than other questions I’ve had, so I am going to devote a whole blog to answering it.
First of all, my main drive for acting is inside me, I can always remember wanting to be on a stage or TV, when I was young I thought that it was something that everyone wanted to do. I couldn’t imagine that you would really want to do anything else (in some ways I still can’t). I don’t know where it came from in the early days. My dad has always been a bit of a showman, playing his guitar at all possible social gatherings and quite a lot of my extended family enjoy telling good stories and having a sing-song, but there isn’t much more that that.
I can remember some specific occasions when I was quite young watching movies and musicals and wanting to be in them. I loved Grease and Dirty Dancing and watched them over and over, I also remember vividly going to see Cats, leaping and singing out of the theatre and into the street, Evita is also one of my favourite shows and films. A lot of my favourites are musicals, or big spectaculars, I like circus, dance and gymnastics based shows and I like to use a lot of movement and music in my performances.
When I was nine I auditioned and was accepted into a local television workshop, which meant that I had weekly professional level workshops, which led to parts and auditions in TV shows and films. I got a speaking part in Casualty, this was amazing inspiration for me, I knew I was where I was meant to me.
Sadly, when I was a teenager my acting inspirations dried up. The drive was still inside me, I felt I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have time and I was too scared to go to auditions in case I didn’t get them. I didn’t have the inspiration that I needed in order to replace the fear that I felt with the courage to overcome it and do what I really wanted to do, before long I thought that I was too old to follow my dreams (this was utter rubbish and I regret thinking this way).
So, how have I ended up being re-inspired? As I said, the drive never went away, I did other things, other jobs, other studies and I became very unhappy, I always felt like something was missing and finally when I was at university I got back on a stage again and started to believe that I could overcome the fear and start acting.
I have The Egg Theatre and a number of people who work there to thank for inspiring me, these include creative practitioners who have run workshops and directed shows, other actors that I have met there, in particular Jane McLeod, Jade Berks, Louise Bowen, Shane Morgan (actually I met Shane previously, I have him to thank for introducing me to The Egg). But the people who really helped to inspire me were the young people in the workshops that I worked in, they will never know it, of course, but by talking to them, giving them advice, watching their passion, it really inspired me to take my own acting journey.
My teachers and fellow actors at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts have also been huge inspirations for me, ever since studying there I have felt that my acting career has snowballed.
Now, every new job I get, every director, or fellow actor that I work with leaves a drop of inspiration with me. But there are also people outside the acting world that have inspired me and continue to do so. People who have helped me turn my life around when I have taken the paths that didn’t work for me, people who have helped me listen to the voice inside of me, my close family and friends and mentors.
As you can see, most of the people who inspire me are in my life, but there are others outside of that. As a gymnast I am also inspired to work with drive and discipline by some top gymnasts and when it comes to believing in myself the internet is an amazing source of articles, I particularly like Hello Giggles.
There are some people who I look up to as actors, but I wouldn’t necessary say that they inspired me, just acted as role models (maybe that is the same thing?) Almost all of the actors I admire are female, mainly because I can relate more closely to them, I can name some now, although the list is always changing, most of these are film and TV actors:
Actors with other strings to their bow who are active feminists, I admire them because they stand up for what they believe and, I think, are the most amazing role models, especially for women:
- Zooey Deschanel
- Tina Fey
- Lena Dunham
Actors who have had strong slow burning careers with the ability to play wide ranging characters:
- Julianne Moore
- Dame Judi Dench
- Amy Adams
- Claire Danes
However, I don’t like to fixate on particular actors, for me the real joy of acting is stepping into a new world and going on a journey. I need to be captivated if I am watching theatre, a movie, or TV show, I do not like to use my head too much or analyse the performances, I like to be entertained or moved, don’t you?
Ultimately, I think that my main inspiration for performing is the stories themselves, the words, the characters, the poetry and the fantasy, and sharing those stories with other people to help us understand the world, ourselves and each other a little bit better. That is what makes me come alive.