10 Things I've Learned from Interviewing Actors
Jonathan Harden produces In Anything At The Minute? The Honest Actors’ Podcast and curates their blog. He is an actor, VO, virtual assistant and pub quiz host. Former barman, waiter, cook, labourer, ‘tugger’, wedding photographer, security guard, dish washer, removals man, educational workshop facilitator, bouncer, office manager, Wendy’s ‘Crew Member’, academic, Costa ‘barista’, snooker table maintenance guy, shop assistant, usher, boom op, golf buggy driver, and one-time pretend bank robber. Bacon number of 2.
Photo credit: Ori Jones
I started interviewing actors for a new podcast back in March, and since then I’ve spent thirty hours in the company of some very honest actors, discussing everything from unemployment to stage fright, training to rejection, their favourite jobs and the regrets they have about their careers.
Six months later and 'In anything at the minute?’ – The Honest Actors’ Podcast, finally launched last week having already secured the support of Equity and approval from RADA. In that time I’ve chatted with almost twenty fantastic actors, including Niamh Cusack, Justine Mitchell, Paul Higgins, Sinead Matthews, Jessica Raine, and the stars of the double launch episode, Denise Gough and Tom Goodman-Hill. Already, the podcast has been listened to over 20,000 times, in 44 countries, earning a perfect 5-star rating on iTunes in the process.
More interviews with actors? Yeah. But these are different...
The average interviewee in your average interview is an 'A-lister', and questions therefore focus on celebrity, oft-told anecdotes and imminent releases. Don't get me wrong, I occasionally enjoy listening to famous actors talk about what they're doing and how they do it, but these sorts of interviews function largely as escapism, much in the same way as the blockbuster movies they tend to publicise.
For me, what’s more important than the work interviewees are currently doing or have done in the past, is what they do when they’re not working, what they’ve done to pay bills and stay sane between jobs, and what advice they’d give if they could somehow meet their younger selves. And those were the kinds of questions I wanted to start asking.
What have I learnt from it all?
1. Rejection does not get any easier with age or experience. It just doesn’t. If you care about the job, not getting it will hurt. It may take a while to get over, you may descend into a moment of teenage self-pity. That’s ok. It’s allowed. This too will pass.
2. Celebrate every victory. Every job is a miracle. Don’t get caught up in self-doubt: they hired you because they believe in you. Run with that.
3. You will have days when all you want to do is stare at the wall. You will have days when you can’t get out of bed. You will have days when nothing seems to be going your way. But these days don’t define you.
4. We don’t have careers; we have a series of jobs. Or as Tom Goodman-Hill puts it, “You won’t get promoted. You’ll never be ‘Head of the Acting Department’. The plus side? You’re lucky enough to work in an industry where (almost) everyone is equal.
5. Luck is huge, but you can’t rely on it. Be in control of everything you can be in control of. Do the work. Your audition may be your only opportunity to play this great part. Enjoy it.
6. There is no such thing as a big break. Even though you may feel like you’re in the midst of one, it’s not the real thing. It isn’t that easy.
7. If you can stand up and confidently call yourself an actor, that’s a pretty good start. Nobody said this was going to be easy.
8. Success is relative. We all revise our definition in light of our achievements. Think back to what you expected from your career when you first set out. Don’t undermine yourself because you’ve done well.
9. ‘If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you say?’ – ‘It’s ok’, ‘You’ll be ok’, ‘You’re doing great’. The most common response across all the interviews. Put simply, go easy on yourself.
10. There’s more to life than acting. You will be happiest if you learn to have a life outside your career, a life that doesn’t depend on it. You cannot get your self worth from acting alone. As John Rogan puts it: ‘If my health is good, I’m happy. I’m happier if I’m working, but there’s more to life than acting.’
Want to hear more? You can listen to the double first episode, featuring interviews with Denise Gough and Tom Goodman-Hill on iTunes now. Find out more about the podcast, and read the blog, at www.inanything.com