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Getting Work
An actor standing on a balcony staring out at the London skyline

Image credit: Joanna Nicole Photography

Advice from casting director James Pearson on how international performers can apply for acting work in the UK.

For any foreign actor looking to pursue a career in the UK, there are many factors to consider. The UK – especially London – is a hub for the performing arts, with stage and film productions constantly being cast via Spotlight. It’s a competitive industry, but competition also breeds opportunity and with the right amount of effort and talent, success can be just around the corner.

Immersing yourself in the UK scene is a great place to start. Get to know the theatres and venues, watch UK-based series, and study the layout of the UK industry – it will all help you when you get a role!

James Pearson is an independent casting director and founder of the casting house, Pearson Casting. He recently worked on Operation Mincemeat, the hit show on London’s West End, which recently won two Olivier Awards. We spoke to him about getting acting work in the UK as a foreign national:

Consider the Legal Requirements of Acting in the UK

James says to “look into what it takes for you to come and work here. Investigate to your embassy, investigate what it takes, what it costs, what you need.”

Requirements vary from country to country, and the important factor of the UK’s no longer being in the European Union must be considered.  

In addition to the legal requirements, there may also be specifics you need to consider if you’re applying for a specific role. 

“Get the paperwork in order,” James advises. “Or at least have an understanding of the paperwork that’s needed for the people that you’re going to work for.

Perfect Your English for Acting Roles

Whether treading the boards at a famous West End theatre, living the dream on set of a historical UK production, or simply going for auditions, your English must be first-rate. 

There’s a difference between a basic understanding and ‘good English’; you have to consider the different forms of communication in the industry. For example, you will be speaking to people via email, in audition rooms and communicating with large numbers of people on a production, so feeling confident in things like your pronunciation and understanding direction are massively important if you want to be successful. It could be helpful to consider advanced English classes in preparation for working in the UK if relevant.

You should, however, maintain the natural accent you may have. This makes you unique, will be great for your acting profile and will make you an enticing proposition for casting directors. There will be the ideal role out there for somebody with your exact accent!

Be Professional with Casting Directors

If you’re applying for acting work from overseas, it’s essential to consider your communication etiquette. Understanding all the official stuff is vital, and being knowledgeable about this will help you appear professional and business-like to industry professionals. 

James says, “We often get people writ[ing] to us saying, ‘I want to work in London. How do I do that?’ Well, that’s not for me to investigate!”

‘What I want,” he continues, “[Is] you as an actor, working wherever you are, wherever you’re from, to write and say, ’I am from this country, I know I can come and work in London with these details, this sponsorship, this visa.’ And then I can go to the producer of whatever I’m working on and go, ‘There’s this extraordinary talent, this is how we can get them here.’”

Take a look at our website for more industry advice, including 10 tips for foreign actors in London and a guide to working in the UK as an EU national

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