Carrie Hope Fletcher on Crafting a Cross-Platform Career

Carrie Hope Fletcher on using YouTube to help forge a career in musical theatre, and working beyond your casting type 

It’s a horrible truth in the life of an actor that you never know what's next. I might do my next job and then not work again for another four years. That's just how it works. But having those other interests means you're constantly making work for yourself. You're never bored, and it hopefully means that you're never out of income.
Carrie Hope Fletcher

Whether it’s forging an international musical theatre career, publishing best-selling books or building a YouTube presence, Carrie Hope Fletcher is a performer taking it all in her stride. Read up on her thoughts for performing across channels, accepting your castability and why the theatre industry still has work to do when it comes to body image.

You’ve worked across mediums as a performer: in musical theatre, online and writing books. What drew you to forging such a diverse career?

It's all storytelling. That's the running theme throughout my life, whether it’s writing, acting or YouTube. While I'm myself on camera, there's is something of a “switching on” and becoming a more exaggerated version of myself. When you're filming a video you're on your own in a room, there's no one to be animated to. So, you have to tell a story to the camera, the same way you would in the theatre or on the page. You're always being a character in that sense.

Would you say that embracing a ‘cross-channel’ approach is a millennial thing?

I guess it is a millennial thing. The traditional routine is slowly being broken out of because the world is changing. But only in as much as the different re-defining of the generations.

I'm very lucky to have had amazingly supportive parents. They instilled this belief in myself that you can be anything you want to be, and you can be multiple things if you want to do that. Work hard, be determined, do it to the best of your ability.

Is working across channels something you would encourage the modern performer to embrace?

Why not? It's all part of the same family and storytelling process, just from different viewpoints. It’s a horrible truth in the life of an actor that you never know what's next. I might do my next job and then not work again for another four years. That's just how it works. But having those other interests means you're constantly making work for yourself. You're never bored, and it hopefully means that you're never out of income.

What does YouTube offer to the modern theatre industry?

YouTube and social media allow people who can't necessarily afford a ticket a glimpse into the theatre world. Behind the scenes, rehearsals, bits of the show; things that nobody normally gets to see.

When my publishers say, “do you mind doing a video?” I just think, “you're appealing to my acting side!” Usually they have such trouble getting authors to do that as it's not part of their skill set. But if you're asking an actor to make a video, it's another extension of what their skills already ask of them. It's really bizarre to me that more actors don't take advantage of it.

Has YouTube become as important as performing in the West End?

I've always thought of YouTube as the hobby that went right. When I was a child I didn't want to be a YouTuber – that didn't exist back then. But I always wanted to be an actress and a singer; I wanted to perform on stage. That was the main goal, it just so happens that I fell into YouTube along the way and found a way for them to run parallel.

Theatre has always been the main driving force, and I'm very lucky that they've facilitated each other. If I wasn't in shows I wouldn't have anything to vlog about, and if I didn't vlog I wouldn't have people coming to watch me in shows. I'm sure they could exist solely, but I wouldn't want them to. 

There's a million different characters in musical theatre, and what are the chances that you don't fit into at least one of them? There's so many parts that need to be played. We're all our own worst critics.
Carrie Hope Fletcher

What’s your creative process when writing, and how does it differ from acting?

It's got a slower burn to it. It will take me over a year to write a book. I feel like it's then got a lot more weight to it, because I've lived with it for so long. And a book will never be perfect in my eyes, if you handed it back to me I'd always find something to change or make better. Eventually you just have to go “it's done!” and hand it over.
That bit is terrifying, it's like handing over a child. But unlike YouTube, which is two hours to film, edit and upload – done. Or a show, which is five weeks to rehearse and then into the run. A book is a much longer creative process. It's different levels of creativity and a different payoff for each.

When considering a career in theatre, do you think that concerns over body image are a major factor for aspiring performers now?

Oh god, it's a massive concern for me, and I'm in it! So yes, I think it's a massive concern for young people thinking about a career in the performing arts. Sometimes you can't help it; you walk in to the audition room and think: “Am I gonna get the part, or is the really skinny girl in the corner who can also sing the crap out of this song gonna get the part?”

It's sad that image is such a prevalent thing that you have to think about in this industry, but that's just part of acting. You have to look like the part, at the end of the day. But I was watching Emma Thompson in a video she did on acting. She states that, unless the size of the character impacts the story, there's no reason why you shouldn't get that part above anyone else.

If you're playing a character who has anorexia, for example, then that's a key part of the story and so the size and shape is unarguable. But if the character is only a blonde woman in her 20s and the casting director says, “Sorry, we're looking for someone skinny,” that's when you can contest it and ask why. And often that's when you find they were looking for a model, not an actress.

Have you ever encountered issues over body size yourself?

Actually, it was something I encountered after I had the part. But I was cast, so it was fine. The people who had the final say were happy with the way I looked.

But I've seen it happen to other people shockingly recently, and for reasons that are completely beyond me. I couldn't see any reason for it whatsoever. It wasn't even directed at me and it made me so angry. It simply means that there's still a need for voices; we need people to stand up and say “that's not right.” And that's not necessarily for the people doing the casting but for the people being cast, just so they know that it's not right and you can contest it.

Is there a responsibility for actors to also accept their castability too?

It's hard to accept your castability. I know that there's parts that I'll never get to play because of the height, shape and size that I am. Sometimes it's nothing to do with being discriminated against the way you look, it's just what that part is, and if you don't fit the box then you can't play the part.

What would be your advice to people who don’t want to go into musical theatre over body fears?

There's a million different characters in musical theatre, and what are the chances that you don't fit into at least one of them? There's so many parts that need to be played. We're all our own worst critics.

I'm up for a part at the moment that I'm waiting to hear back from. Far too many times I think “I'm just not right”; I second guess myself and think “Oh, maybe they do want someone smaller than me.” I have to remind myself that there's nothing in the description of the character which says she needs to be stick thin. And people of my shape and size have played her before me. They wouldn't be calling me back if they weren't interested. Those voices are so easy to take over your brain for a little while. So, you have to train your mind to say “no” and ignore it.

Who inspires you?

It's the amazing people I know and have worked with who inspire me. Like Celinde Schoenmaker – my Fantine in my second year of Les Miserables. I'm careful about idolising people, but she has chords of steel and can sing anything.

Bradley Jaden inspires me; Cover Enjolras and now he's now playing Fiyero. Emma Kingston – a second cover in Les Mis and now she's Eva Peron in the international tour of Evita. These amazing people work so hard and you watch it pay off. It's inspiring when you know how talented someone is and you watch them get what they deserve.

What are your thoughts on the future of West End musical theatre?

I believe talent is still winning out. I understand that there are pop and reality TV stars who have an abundance of talent and deserve to be onstage. At the same time there are those who don’t, so I understand where those complaints come from. But rest assured, there is plenty of talent still lurking in musical theatre. After seeing people move from second cover to the leads in international tours… I have every faith that they are the future of the industry.

Carrie Hope Fletcher will be performing her first solo concerts at Cadogan Hall in London on March 31 and April 1 2018. Produced by Club 11 London, tickets can be bought here.

About the author: Mark Bonington is a writer and digital strategist. Having swapped the stage lights for the laptop screen, he writes on theatre, social media and gaming when not creating integrated online campaigns.

Image Credit: Darren Bell