In this episode of the Spotlight Podcast, we chat to actor and comedian Jonny Weldon about auditions, comedy, making your own work and social media.
Spotlight member Jonny Weldon is an actor, writer, comedian, and content creator who has performed on stage and screen from a young age.
He can be seen in Sneakerhead, Stath Lets Flats, Breeders, House of the Dragon and The Outlaws. He’s also just finished playing the role of Casper in 101 Dalmatians at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
You might also be familiar with his work online, where he’s been posting comedy sketch videos about life as an actor that have seen him amass hundreds of thousands of views. We caught up with Jonny to have a chat about all this and more.
Headshot credit: YellowBelly Photography
52 minute listen.
Kristyn Coutts: Hello and welcome to The Spotlight Podcast. I’m Kristyn. I work at Spotlight and I’m delighted to be back hosting after taking a little time out to have a baby. I’m even more delighted that today I’m going to be talking to actor, writer, comedian, content creator, and Spotlight member, Jonny Weldon.
Jonny’s performed on stage and screen from a young age and recently he can be seen in Sneakerhead, Breeders, and The Outlaws. He’s also just finished playing the role of Casper in 101 Dalmatians at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. You might also be familiar with his work online, where he’s been posting comedy sketch videos about life as an actor that have seen him amass hundreds of thousands of views. So without further ado, welcome, Jonny. How are you?
Jonny Weldon: Thanks very much for having me. I’m very well. How are you?
Kristyn Coutts: I’m doing well, thank you. So, first of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started in acting?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, I can. I think I just liked showing off as a kid, really. That’s all it was. I wish I had some more seriously deep artistic ambition, but it was more that I just liked being a nuisance as a child. And then… well I started acting, when I was about 11, my first job was I played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins in the West End when I was 11. And that wasn’t without thanks to my mum, really, who is one of the most important people. She saw one of these open auditions in The Stage or something, and they had these regional auditions across the country. And I went and then had these various rounds and recalls and what have you. And before I knew it, I was on the stage at Prince Edward Theatre with Cameron Macintosh and all with those people when I was 11. And it was just completely otherworldly because I come from a tiny little seaside town near Bournemouth, and neither of my parents, not really any of my family are in the industry at all, so none of us knew anything about it. Somehow got the role. And then when I was 11, that was it. I’d go to school until 3pm and then my mum would drive me up to London and do a show. And that lasted for about eight months.
Kristyn Coutts: How did you find that as a child, balancing school and a show?
Jonny Weldon: Well, I loved it because every child wants to not be in school anyway. And then to have the excuse being, “I’m in a show in London,” was just the coolest thing ever. And obviously, the older you get in the industry, the harder it gets, the more it takes a toll on your mental health and the more seriously you take it and all of that. But when you’re that age, it’s just this weird fun game. So, I was just kind of riding the wave of the novelty and how exciting it was. And then that started to lead on to other opportunities. I think the associate director was James Powell who works on Les Mis, and he then brought me across where I played Gavroche after that.
And then I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School. I kind of just kept doing it throughout my teen years really. So I started when I was 11, I’m 28 now, I suppose I’ve not really known much differently. As we’ll probably talk about, it’s not been consistently working, obviously, the whole time I’ve done all the day jobs you can possibly do. But yeah, that was kind of my route into it. And I suppose, just because I just always wanted to show off. Isn’t that terrible? I just wanted to get involved with school plays and mess around and just put on various hats and do stupid voices, which I still do every night on stage at the minute.
Kristyn Coutts: So, did you know from the beginning that this was what you wanted to do with your life?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. I mean, well, yes, I suppose when I was 11, I didn’t really have any concept of a career. But the older I got, and even through all the hardships of it and how all the rejection and setbacks and all of that, I never really found anything else that I thought, “This is what I would rather be doing.” But it wasn’t always necessarily acting, I did stand up for a while as well. I did stand up off the back of quiet periods of time with auditions. I focused on writing for a bit as well. It is always been stuff within the arts-
Kristyn Coutts: The industry.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. If not just necessarily acting. But I don’t know if I’ve ever… I mean, in the pandemic, I started looking at when there was absolutely nothing going on, I started thinking about other things that I could potentially do before everything took off with the videos and took us in a new direction. But yeah, I suppose this is what I’ve always fancied doing, which seems a bit mad really, because when you think about what we do and what we put ourselves through. Maybe if I knew what it was going to be like, I wouldn’t have chose to do it. But when I was 11, it seemed like a really sensible idea.
Kristyn Coutts: Well, it’s working well for you so far.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah.
Kristyn Coutts: Can you think about some of your best and your worst audition experiences and share those with us?
Jonny Weldon: Well, yeah. I mean, do you know what? I’ve got so many stories that I could tell you of…
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah, just tell us a story.
Jonny Weldon: Well, no, I mean I remember one of my best friends accidentally… One of my best friends was in an audition. Very elderly casting director who was quite quiet and quaint and he walked to the door and he turned around to say goodbye and waved his hand without realising that she’d quietly walked up behind him. And he sort of backhanded her across the face as he left the audition. I mean, I’ve heard some real, real true horror stories. I actually don’t know if I can place a… I probably have a specific audition that was absolutely dreadful.
But the first one that came to mind was auditioning for the Take That musical and being told I just had to sing, and I turned up eating a Greggs’ steak bake, and it was above the… What is it? Where Six was on, the Leicester Square, the Arts Theatre or whatever it’s called. And I turned up and there was all these unbelievably ripped, handsome young guys with the vests and the shorts and they were just… You know that thing when, I don’t know if you ever see it, maybe not so much at Spotlight, but in Pineapple where they’re having a conversation, and whilst they’re chatting, one of them’s just got their leg above their head-
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah, casually stretching. Yeah.
Jonny Weldon: … like that’s a really normal thing to do. Just stretch and chat at the same time. For me, they’re not mutually exclusive. I can’t do them both at the same time. And I was in the corner, sort of eating a really flaky, burning steak bake, and then had to go in and had to go in and audition and dance. And I’ve done quite a few of these musical theatre auditions where I can’t keep up and it’s just so embarrassing for me and for them, and then you try and hide at the back and then they say, “Okay, we’re going to bring people at the back to the front,” and all that. So I’ve done a lot of those really exposing, embarrassing auditions.
And I’ve auditioned for so many commercials as well. I mean, I remember one commercial I went up for, this is just… I’ve not thought of this in years. I had to take… it probably wouldn’t happen now. But I was on a hot beach and I just had to run into the sea, and it was for an ice cream and I had to lie on the floor, take off my T-shirt and then just run across the room and just run at the panel. And it was one of those things where you go, “What on earth am I doing here?” But I’ve had certainly more bad audition experiences than good, I would say.
Kristyn Coutts: That’s a shame.
Jonny Weldon: Well, yeah. It was just surprising.
Kristyn Coutts: But it makes for good stories, I guess, so pros and cons.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. Now, I try and look at auditions as this military operation where I learn the lines, I go in, I kind of plan what I’m going to say. Whereas, when I just graduated when I was 18, I must have been awful. If there are any tapes out there, I’d love to see them. I must have been turning up with absolutely no concept of what to do, whatsoever.
Kristyn Coutts: It’s just the idea of you with a steak bake breath, singing over people, makes me chuckle. They’ve just opened one by the Spotlight studios now, so if anyone’s planning on coming to rehearsal, or audition at Spotlight, don’t go to Greggs first.
Jonny Weldon: Don’t go to Greggs-
Kristyn Coutts: Or do, because it’s massive.
Jonny Weldon: … unless it’s before 11am and you can get the bacon roll and coffee for £3. See, I’m like a hardcore Greggs fan… Is that the big one on the corner? Is that open?
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah. They had their opening ceremony and everything
Jonny Weldon: Ceremony. Nice.
Kristyn Coutts: Do you remember the first job that you got through Spotlight?
Jonny Weldon: I remember my first audition was for Mersey Beat Beach. Do you remember that?
Kristyn Coutts: Yes.
Jonny Weldon: I must have been about 10 or something and I was invited up to the BBC Studios and I saw Phil Jupitus. That really excited me. It was my first time I’d ever seen a celebrity. That was my first. Because I was on a kid’s agency books and that would’ve all been linked to Spotlight. And then, I suppose Mary Poppins, but that wouldn’t have been through Spotlight. When I was lucky enough to get into Sylvia Young’s, I was part of the Youngn’s agency, around then when I was about 11, 12 years old, that’s when I would start going up for commercials and audio things and films and like this on the regular. That would’ve been all through Spotlight. So, I’ve been going to those studios for about, almost 20 years now. God, that’s terrifying.
Kristyn Coutts: As you said, you started on stage and then you were saying you kind of were doing comedy in between roles, is that right? So how did you transition from acting to comedy, and how complimentary are those?
Jonny Weldon: Well, so I didn’t go to drama school because, by the time I got to 18, I already was lucky enough to have quite a nice CV, which meant I could email agents and they would take me seriously and invite me in for meetings and stuff like that. So in my late teens, early twenties, I was just auditioning and working, and then not working and then auditioning and just playing the game of the industry. I always looked quite young for my age. So, when I was like 22, 23, I found myself still playing teenagers on stage. And then I think I got into my kind of mid-twenties and it started to quieten down a little bit. I was still auditioning, I was still working away, and I just started to think what are the things that I could do?
With acting, you spend so much time of everything being out of your control, or certainly, that’s the way it’s perceived, I think. That the actors aren’t the ones that are able to make their own opportunities. This is what I grew up thinking, that they’re not able to do this and you have to wait for other people. You have to wait for agents, you have to wait for casting directors, you have to wait for directors to give you your opportunity, which I later just found out isn’t the case. But anyway, I got into my mid-twenties and I was like, “What can I do?” So I started to think about the things that I loved and enjoyed. And one of them was always comedy, stand-up comedy. And the other thing I liked about stand-up was that it was immediate. You could write and direct and you could make your own stuff. You could put it on stage that night, and if it went well, that was down to you. And if it didn’t go well, that was also down to you and you’d have to go away and work on it and bring it back. And I just liked that payoff element of it.
Plus, as I said, just messing around and showing off was the only reason I wanted to get into it in the first place. So this was just an extension of that. But I didn’t know how to go about it, so I just Googled stand-up comedy courses in London and paid for one. And I did this eight week… This was a few years ago now. I did an eight-week comedy course with 10 or so different people. It was like a meeting. We’d all sit in chairs every night. It was at The Umbrella Rooms, just off Tottenham Court Road. We’d all sit around with the pro comedian and every week we would be taught a different thing about comedy. So, one week could be about writing and the other week could be about heckling. I mean, one week was just-
Kristyn Coutts: There was a week dedicated to heckling?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, how awful is that? We had to get up one by one and just sort of be hurled polite abuse-
Kristyn Coutts: Be shouted at.
Jonny Weldon: I know. It was awful. I was paying to do it. Awful. But then the main reason I did it is because the final night was this showcase above a pub in Leicester Square where you could invite all your friends. And there was like a hundred people in this room and they all were so eager to support all of their friends. I think I can speak for the entire course if I say it was like the best gig that we’d ever do. Because you could say anything and people would find it hysterical, even though it was a really, really bad observational comedy, pun, or something really dated now.
And then after that, I just decided to start gigging as much as I could, and I spent a few years doing that. It’s very accessible, for anybody that’s listening that wants to do that. You can literally join a Facebook group, probably, right now, where there’d be open mic spots tonight in Soho and you can go and join a new community and you can try it. Obviously as well, it’s not just straightforward, but I kind of like the idea of, if you do it, you work hard, hopefully you get better, then you can enter competitions and then you can get bigger and better and more well known and hopefully paid. And I like the idea of the linear progression, as opposed to spending years going to commercial castings and holding a bottle of Fanta going, “Is this acting? I don’t know.” So, I just gave that a go, and then there was a global pandemic. That’s what happened.
Kristyn Coutts: Thank you, COVID.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. That was kind of my path into it. And you asked about, was it easy? I mean, it was certainly easier. There were a lot of people on the course that really had, not even confidence issues, but just weren’t used to public speaking that was in no way linked to their job. They had no experience of it whatsoever. So a whole part of it for them was even being on a stage and talking to people and trying to be entertaining, whereas not all actors are extroverts, but if you’ve ever stood on a stage, then you’ve already ticked that bit. So certainly, I think it did help.
Kristyn Coutts: And then on the subject of making your own work, so we’ll speak about your sketches, your comedy sketches that are on social media, that obviously have loads of views, millions I’ve seen.
Jonny Weldon: Is it? Let me just get my tally chart out, my Excel spreadsheet.
Kristyn Coutts: You got an abacus back there.
Jonny Weldon: Let me get my abacus out.
Kristyn Coutts: But my question is, I mean, they’re brilliant. We all laugh at them so much in the office. I think the self-tape one is my favourite, rightly or wrongly, that’s my favourite one. But what motivated you to make the first one and put it out there?
Jonny Weldon: So, that would be because I spent eight months of one of the lockdowns, it’s all a blur now, at my now fiance’s dad’s house with her. Three of us were there. She had a job, she was working for the NHS. I was at home, her house, every day with absolutely nothing to do other than just trying to stop myself going crazy. And a very good friend of mine, we would just send each other videos and voice clips and funny little ideas and observations about the industry. I think there are so many ridiculously funny people in the industry and, also, it’s a big, but it’s a niche world. And once a type of character, once you know a certain type of director or audition or environment, it’s relatable.
So we would just spend our time anecdotally sending little videos or clips about funny things that had happened to us. And then just one day I said, “Oh, like this,” and I sent them a video of myself pretending, talking to nobody just in the bedroom, pretending I was at a theatre bar, bumping into an old friend that I’d not seen in years who was, of course, doing so much better than me, more successful. I think they had a girlfriend and I didn’t, and the girlfriend was filming as well. And then we said, “Oh, well, we must, we must meet up. Let’s have that coffee.”
And I sent it to my friend and he said, “You should put this on social media.” I didn’t want to, initially, because I… Well, I kind of found the idea of it quite arrogant to be like, “Here’s my face. You all want to see it, so here it is in front of you.” I’d never done anything like that before, apart from stand-up. It just felt like a very different thing with the phone. The kind of immortalisation of there’s a video of my face on… It was really weird. Plus I didn’t ever tweet. I didn’t really use it. I had Twitter, I was on it, but I didn’t ever use it.
Kristyn Coutts: I was going to ask if you were a big social media person user before this, but.
Jonny Weldon: Oh, I had it. I mean, yeah. I am on them.
Kristyn Coutts: It’s because we all have to be on it kind of thing.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. I’m on them, but I was never… And I actually resented the link between the industry and Twitter, mainly because maybe I’m just getting old, older, and I’ve been around the industry before, it feels before Twitter was a thing. And I probably found it all quite scary and new and didn’t like it. I would have emails from various people in the industry about making sure your Twitter’s up to date and all of that. And I had this idea of, I don’t know why my personal, private, social media has anything to do… isn’t it about what I want it to be? As opposed to it should be about the industry. And then obviously, that changed.
I just put the video up, based on the fact that he would share it. I said I want one person to share it. I said, “Because if no one shares it or likes it, it’s really embarrassing, so can you share it?” That’s just one person, isn’t it? Then he did. And I don’t know. I mean, I think, I just remember kind of looking at my phone throughout the day and refreshing it. And it would be like 5,000, 10,000 views, 20,000 views, 50. I think it went to about 70,000 people had watched it, which blew my mind. And I always operate in football stadium size, it’s why I’m like, “Oh, that’s an Old Trafford,” which just freaks me out, the concept of a full football stadium. Cos I’m a big football fan. And also as well, then you see all these well-known actors sharing it, and that was very, very, just very surreal and unexpected.
Kristyn Coutts: What was the reaction like? Has it mostly been positive?
Jonny Weldon: Oh. Yeah, no, it was all positive.
Kristyn Coutts: Oh, good.
Jonny Weldon: It was all positive. It was people kind of going, “This is so how it is. This is so real. I’ve been in this situation.” And just people saying, “It’s funny, this is hilarious. This is funny.” I’ve been lucky. I know Twitter can be really horrible place for some people, but I’ve been quite lucky that my experience of it has only really been positive. I mean, all the jokes I do are always self-deprecating to a certain extent. The whole thing, the whole joke is about how awful it is to be an actor. That’s all it is. It’s about how hard and ‘swimming against the tide’ it is. But also, at the same time, it’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek thing of being like, “But we love it really. And we wouldn’t do anything else.” And that isn’t it ridiculous? But isn’t it wonderful? So, the engagement is always positive, which is really lovely.
Kristyn Coutts: Which is great. Yeah.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, but…
Kristyn Coutts: Sorry, go on.
Jonny Weldon: No, I was just going to say with it being self-deprecating and an actor in this bottom-of-the-pile scenario, doesn’t give anybody any room to kick you down further. God, how bleak’s that?
Kristyn Coutts: I know. On a happy note.
Jonny Weldon: Cheery.
Kristyn Coutts: So before you posted, do you have an agent?
Jonny Weldon: Yes.
Kristyn Coutts: Did you speak to them before you posted it?
Jonny Weldon: No.
Kristyn Coutts: Did they say anything about it? I was just curious about how that works. Especially because they’ve been so successful.
Jonny Weldon: Well, no. I mean, initially, I think like me, we were just both a bit baffled. We were like, “This is crazy. What’s going on?” And the unintentional side effect of it all was because it was about the industry, lots of casting directors started to share it. And then I started to go, “Oh, hang on. Can I get a job out of this?” So then I started to accumulate lists of casting directors that would share it. I would send it to my agent again, “Let’s try and generate opportunities from these people.” But no, I didn’t ask for permission, initially.
Kristyn Coutts: Just on that, very proactive making that list, sending it to your agent, “Let’s get a coffee in,” or whatever. Did anything ever come out of it?
Jonny Weldon: Well, yeah. To speak frankly, this is how bizarre it was. About a month before… I suppose I can say all this now. About a month before I started doing these videos, I was thinking about getting a new agent anyway. And I started writing to various agencies. I wrote to about five agents and I got all nos, even no replies. Or well, the two replies I got were ‘thanks but no thanks’. Within about a month, two months of me putting these videos up, I had a list of about 10 agents, all of whom I’ve had direct messages with back and forth on Twitter like, “Thanks for the follow.” Just sticking my face in there ever so slightly. And just all loads of replies like, “These are great. If you ever want to have a chat, here’s my email, here’s my number. If you have one out of coffee.”
It was like this unbelievably huge difference. And I felt overwhelmed. So then I decided to do something that I’d never done before, which is I approached three casting directors, all of whom I, sort of at that point, I did know, some more than others. I did know them. And I just asked if I could have an email exchange with them or a Zoom, and I just said the same thing to them, which was, “Look, I want to capitalise and utilise this moment because I’m aware how fickle social media can be and how quickly things can change, and that tomorrow it might be old news and I want to strike while the iron’s hot.” And I said, “So this is my list of agents. Who should I contact?” And unbeknownst to each other, they always have the same person.
Kristyn Coutts: Really? Interesting.
Jonny Weldon: And that person I emailed, spoke to for about an hour on the phone, and is now my agent.
Kristyn Coutts: Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. It’s great. It’s great. And I don’t know, I was going into those sort of conversations being, even though I’d been working for a few years, I was suddenly this guy who did this thing, and a lot of people knew me for this thing, as opposed to spending years of just appearing through the crowd saying, “Hi, I’m another actor. I’m looking for representation.” I don’t mean to undermine myself or anybody in that situation, but that’s the difference it was. I suddenly had this thing now that I’d not had before.
But all of this stuff, I was working it out as I went and it was just every day was a surprise to me. At no point was any of this a long-term plan. I had no idea it was going to go like this or that I wanted it to go like this. It just did.
Kristyn Coutts: And how do you feel about social media now as a creative or promotional outlet for actors? Has your opinion changed of it at all?
Jonny Weldon: I think it’s brilliant. I think it’s useful. I think it’s so many things. It’s good and bad and it’s useful and it’s difficult and it’s so many different things. I think that the fact that you can now upload a video, for free, and more people might watch that in a morning than what would cost you thousands of pounds to go to Edinburgh and sell out a show, is baffling and amazing. And the fact it can directly put you in touch with some of the most influential people in the industry is… That’s an invaluable thing. That’s amazing. And for some people, it can be life-changing. But also, as well, at the same time, it’s so important to remember that social media, it’s not a real thing. It’s just an app. It’s not tangible. It’s a thing that you can delete. And without it, if every social media app just disappeared now, acting would still carry on and there would still be brilliant shows and there would still be casting directors and there would still be this, that and the other. So it’s not the be-all and end-all.
A lot of people ask me about, oh… I was just saying to you that I’ve led workshops about doing online content and stuff, and all that seems quite new to me. It’s very difficult to give advice to people that want to do it because it is like a Wild West thing, Twitter is. For some people videos work. I mean, Rosie Holt’s a good friend of mine. She’s doing a set out at Edinburgh at the moment. Her stuff just absolutely took off. And then I know other people that have had very similar experiences to that. And then I know other people that make amazing, brilliant content and it doesn’t get the engagement that it should. I don’t know what the answer to that is.
Kristyn Coutts: It’s like a dark art.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, there is also a chance that had I not put up my videos in the pandemic, had I put them up at another time, they might not have worked. There are all these sliding doors elements to it I think. And so, whilst it is brilliant and it’s a great tool and a great opportunity to be seen, I think it’s not the only thing in the world. Do you know what I mean? There are millions of actors that have been incredibly successful, not on social media and will be not on social media in the future. But for some people it’s…
Kristyn Coutts: It could be a useful tool?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. I think as well, I don’t know as well. The one thing I’m starting to get more and more conscious of is I don’t know what’s on there from 10 years ago. I don’t want to get well-known and then somebody digs out me at a house party in 2013. And so, that kind of freaks me out as well. The idea of once it’s there, it’s there. So I think I just try to tread carefully with it all and I just try as much as I can just to disengage from it as much as I can, use it for when I want to use it and not be too glued to it.
Kristyn Coutts: I think that’s a healthy balance, isn’t it? Because it can be a real rabbit hole, I guess. You could just keep on going and suddenly hours have gone by. But equally, it’s great for connecting with people. And if you are making stuff and you want people to see it or you want to at least put it there for people to find, then I guess it’s a really good thing.
Did you make a conscious decision about which platforms you were going to post it on? Because is it just primarily Twitter you use?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, I don’t know. I think, probably because my mates said, “You should put that on Twitter.” And that was basically the amount of thought that when I went, “Okay. All right.” I think that was about the amount of thought that went into it. I mean, I posted it across all the platforms, really. I put it on Facebook and my mum’s friends in-
Kristyn Coutts: I think I watch all your stuff on Instagram.
Jonny Weldon: On Instagram. I put it on Facebook. My mum’s friends enjoy it. I put it on Instagram. People watch it on there. I’m not on TikTok, yet sometimes people stop me in the street and go, “You’re that TikTok guy,” and I go, “Oh, yeah. Okay.” I guess that’s part of the deal. I’ve just got to say, “Okay,” even though I’m not on TikTok. Yeah, no, I just kind of put it on all of them, I suppose. Not much thought goes into it.
I’ve got a little bit, when they first started blowing up and I wanted to keep that momentum going, I tried to be consistent with how often I did them and even times of the day and stuff like that. I suppose it’s because I found if it’s not broke, don’t fix it type thing. It was working that I would upload it midweek in the morning, so I kept doing that. But it’s shameful to say, but not an awful of thought more went into the technicalities of it, other than just of film it in my lounge, hope it’s funny, put it on Twitter and see what happens.
Kristyn Coutts: Well, I was going to ask about the process of actually creating the video. So, do you sit down think of an idea, come up with a script, or do you just freestyle? From the idea through to actually posting it, what do you do?
Jonny Weldon: Well, I suppose I have a lot of thoughts come to me when I’m doing mundane things like in the shower or when I’m cycling. I just have these things pop into my head and I’ll stick it straight into my notes folder. So it could be an actor, there’s a podcast with Spotlight, for example, for example. And then I will then break down all the things that I would experience from that or expect to experience from that. But also, fundamentally, the things that would be very relatable as well. And I just bullet point and go from there. Then I try and think about maybe some sort of twist or punchline or something at the end. But then really, I suppose the most work I do is when I film it and that’s just… I just hope for the best and I look at these-
Kristyn Coutts: Do you film it on your phone?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, as if I’m taking a selfie. I hold my phone in front of me. I think when I first started doing it, I filmed it all as one video, whereas now, I’ve got a little app, like an iMovie type app that I chop it up and I put them together and jump bits around. I use an app called MixCaptions as well because quite early on, people were commenting and saying that I need to make this as accessible for everyone as possible. That’s actually quite probably the most technical part of it because you have to upload a video into this app and then it transcribes your audio into captions. But I talk quite quickly, so it’s nothing like what I’ve said, so then I have to go through it second by second and change the words around.
Kristyn Coutts: Who or what are your comedy inspirations?
Jonny Weldon: I think growing up, I pretty much religiously watched Young Ones, Bottom, Fawlty Towers. In my teens, I got pretty heavily into The Office and Extras.
Kristyn Coutts: All the classics.
Jonny Weldon: I mean, it’s not very unique. And I’ve also always loved watching stand-up as well. Rick Gervais, Billy Connolly, Eddie Murphy as well. It is kind of like your entry-level, aspiring comedy starter pack of who to watch. Just the greats. But I think I’ve kind of always been quite drawn to dry, awkward, British humour, fly-on-the-wall stuff, observing awkward British scenarios. I think that’s quite mainstream comedy today. And then I think more recently, I think stuff like Ghosts on BBC is fantastic. I think Stath Lets Flats is one of the best comedies that’s come out in years, in my opinion.
Kristyn Coutts: So, are you super happy to be in it?
Jonny Weldon: Well, yeah. I mean, I didn’t know you knew that. I didn’t say that so that you would say that.
That was mad. I was chatting to Nicky Bligh who casts in and she said, “We’ll bring you in for that.” And you hear those things and you go, “Oh. Yeah, sure.” But then it actually happened. I did a tape and the next thing I knew I was filming with Jamie Demetriou, running around a flat in Wembley or somewhere, and he was giving me a viewing and it was this surreal moment. And I watched that show so much, to suddenly be stood in front of Stath was great. Watching him at work was fantastic as well. Very, very funny performer.
But also, as well, it’s kind of just whatever I think is funny. Now I’m so exhausted all the time with work, I spend most of my time just watching Gogglebox. That’s all I really watch at the moment.
Kristyn Coutts: I think Gogglebox is one of the funniest things on telly though.
Jonny Weldon: Well, it is, isn’t it, really? I mean, if you want to sit around-
Kristyn Coutts: Just normal people just chatting.
Jonny Weldon: … and watch real funny people, watch Gogglebox. But I suppose, I don’t know, that doesn’t really give you too much of an exciting answer, but it was just kind of all the classic British stuff.
Kristyn Coutts: No, I think it’s all perfectly valid. And it’s all people I watch and shows I watch as well. I’m sure they’re shows, well, clearly it shows that a lot of people watch because they’re so popular.
Has the process of creating your comedy videos and the response that you’ve received, has it made you consider writing something for stage or something for screen perhaps?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. Well, I’m kind of in the process at the moment of talking with various production companies about how to take the online thing into a bigger world, and that character, so that is the plan.
Kristyn Coutts: Oh, that’s exciting.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, it’s really exciting. And I’ve been very lucky that over the last year and a half, I’ve done lots more TV than I’ve ever normally done. So, I’m just trying to hone those skills, learn as much as I can about that world and just keep relentlessly writing, keep trying to generate as many opportunities. I’m trying not to just become content with the fact that loads of people have seen my videos, so that’s it. I’m just always trying to push and work on to the next thing. So, that is very much the goal and the plan at the moment, to try and do something like that. Because I think that, just going back to what I said at the beginning, you spend so much of this time in this industry, just feeling like you’re waiting, feeling like things are out of your control. And it dawned on me, that if I was in any other industry, eventually you’d probably make your own business. If I trained to be an estate agent; or this is maybe what I would do anyway; an accountant or anything like this. After years I’d probably go and try and start my own business. That seems like what most people do. They just work for a few years and then they’re like, “I’ll go and do…” A lot of people do that.
And I just thought, well, I suppose it doesn’t always look like you can do that in the acting industry, but I suppose you can. People can. I know so many people that write and direct and try and make production companies and just try and generate their own opportunities alongside. It’s tough, but people do it. And I also find that I think the most exciting people in the industry, and often the most successful ones, are the ones who have really honed in on what they are, what makes them them. What’s that Oscar Wilde quote, “Be yourself because everybody else is taken.” It’s a bit of a cliche thing. But do you know what I mean? In this industry, you spend so much time watching other people be successful and watching other people do things. It’s so hard not to get envious and things like that. But they are them and you are you. And nobody can do you in the way that you do you. So I think that if you watch some of the best people, they truly utilise and capitalise the thing that they do that’s made them valuable.
Kristyn Coutts: That’s a really good point. I think understanding yourself and knowing your type for casting, can only be a great thing.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, that does help. Well, it feels to me that now more than ever, there are a lot of opportunities to generate your own stuff. I mean, Edinburgh is a great example of that sort of thing and obviously, online stuff as well. But I find that unifying for actors. I find that encouraging because it gives power to the people who are in a powerless situation for a lot of it. Do you know what I mean?
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah.
How do you stay motivated?
Jonny Weldon: I don’t know. I just drink loads of coffee and try and go to the gym and stay sane. And I think just that I try and remember why I wanted to do it all. I put aside time to focus because if I don’t do that, I will just watch telly and sleep next to my cat and go, “Another day’s wasted.” I have to put time aside and go, “Right. I am going to do that in that time,” otherwise I just won’t do it.
So my motivation is trying to be structured. And then the heartbeat of that is remembering why I set out to do it in the first place, and just knowing that all of this has come about, a lot of it’s been with the help of other people. But if I hadn’t done it myself, none of this would’ve happened. So I need to just keep that mindset.
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah. You’re busy, right, I know you’re on stage at the moment. And you are also creating your own work. You’re also having these discussions about production, potentially. So how do you balance everything? How do you balance making your own stuff whilst also putting yourself forward for roles for paid work and then perhaps, actually if you have a side job, I don’t know? But how do you balance all of that stuff?
Jonny Weldon: Well, I’m sure some people are really, really good at it. I don’t know how good at it I am, because I really like to be busy. I prefer to be occupied doing a million different things. If I sit around and do nothing, I feel quite guilty. I feel like “I’ve wasted some time here”. So, I just factor in time. I make sure that I’ve got enough time. I try and balance out work and pleasure and also relationships as well. I feel like it’s so important. I’m lucky that I live with my partner and I’ve got a family and my friends and all of that, but it can be so easy in the industry to get distracted and be too busy for people and to forget mates occasionally and stuff like that. But family and your friends being your family are vital and they’re the ones that would be there throughout. I think it’s really important. They’ll be there when things are successful and things are unsuccessful for you, so it’s really important to factor in time for those things as well.
So, I just have a little diary and I just make sure everything goes in there and I stick to it as much as I can. And of course, my work life bleeds into my personal and private life and my leisure life, but I try to just block it out as much as I can. So I’ll take myself out for a walk for a couple of hours and I won’t think about anything to do with auditions. And then a thought would pop in about taking a Greggs to the Arts Theatre and I’ll break down and cry.
Kristyn Coutts: So, can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on recently?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, I can. So for the last year and a half, as I said off the back of the videos, I’ve been lucky to do quite a bit of TV. And in particular, the sort of stuff that I want to do. So we touched on things like Stath Lets Flats. I just filmed an episode of a show that just come out called Sneakerhead, which is on Channel Dave, produced by Roughcut TV, who also did Stath. I was lucky enough to work with Daisy Haggard in a show called Breeders, which is the Sky TV show produced by lots of brilliant people, including Gina Lyons. And I had one scene where I played a pretty jobsworthy, annoying ticket attendant Daniel, I want to say, I can’t really remember, opposite the excellent, excellent Daisy Haggard. I was lucky to work with Stephen Merchant on The Outlaws, which is his Amazon show, which I think is also on BBC.
Kristyn Coutts: It is.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. And so, I’ve just been really, really grateful and lucky to have done those things. Then I’m in Regent’s Park at the minute, doing their big summer musical, which is 101 Dalmatians as well. So I’m doing that at the moment. We have eight shows a week. I’m back on stage tonight.
Kristyn Coutts: How’s that experience been for you?
Jonny Weldon: The experience has been great. I’ve never worked outdoors before, so… Actually, that’s not true, I have. It was about 10 years ago, but I can barely remember it. It’s fun. We’ve had heat and rain stops during shows. We’ve been performing in-
Kristyn Coutts: Oh, of course. The heatwave.
Jonny Weldon: … 40-degree heat in a production, which is about skinning puppies and wearing big leather coats and fur jackets. And I play Casper, which Cruella has these two nephews, Casper and Jasper who she manipulates to go steal all the puppies for her and she sends us off. And the costume designer, for whatever reason, gave us these big thick leather coats. So, we basically have to run around stage and grab puppet puppies dressed in leather. So it’s been very hot. Also, I don’t really do the musical theatre thing so much. Regent’s Park’s a really nice place to work. I live in north London, so it’s a nice little cycle to work. I don’t think I’ve ever been lucky enough to cycle from home to a theatre in London before and go to work. It’s great, and I get to work with Kate Fleetwood every day who plays Cruella, who’s sensational.
Kristyn Coutts: Have you noticed a change in the industry after the pandemic lockdowns? Because you’ve been busy, I just wonder if productions have changed, if being on stage has changed, if audiences have changed. Have you noticed anything?
Jonny Weldon: Well, I suppose the big change is the amount of self-tapes now. I’ve had two in-person auditions maybe in the last year and I probably have a couple of self-tapes, two or three self-tapes a month also come in. So a lot of that, so I had to up my game, get the lights and get the tripods and all of that sort of stuff that I’m still learning to do. That for me has been the biggest noticeable difference.
Kristyn Coutts: Yeah. Do you think it’s going to be the new normal?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, I imagine so. I can’t really imagine why it would change. Surely it’s more economical for people? You don’t have to hire somebody to read in, you don’t have to hire a room and you don’t have to hire a room for multiple recalls and things like that. It’s a way that they can see a lot more people. For actors, I think there are pros and cons to it. I mean you don’t really get to be in the room, so you don’t really get a vibe of personality. But you can just send it when you’re ready. Do you know what I mean? When you are happy with it.
Kristyn Coutts: I guess you save on travel costs as well too.
Jonny Weldon: Yeah. Yeah, of course. It can be quite stressful for actors because it’s like in it comes and then you’ve got to get your friend over and you’ve got to make sure you get… But I think I quite like it. I think a lot of actors feel like they’re stabbing in the dark with self-tapes, going, “Oh, I don’t know if this is the sort of thing that they want.” I quite often will do a few different versions of it. I think casting directors are quite grateful for that. So if anyone listening struggles with it, I always just do a few completely different versions of it and send that over. I don’t think that hurts.
But in terms of being at work, I think audiences really appreciate and enjoy and cherish live theatre. Maybe more than ever. There are still people going to the theatre now – this is August 2022 – there are still people going to the theatre now. It’s their first time back, going to the theatre after the pandemic. First time going to drinks after shows, going to press night parties, going to that sort of stuff. So I think that people are excited by it.
But then the process of working is tricky because people are still getting COVID. I mean, I was unfortunate enough to get it when I was rehearsing Regent’s Park. It’s still very much out there. And if you go on film sets and TV shows, there are COVID coordinators, all the crew are in masks. It’s still very much a thing.
Kristyn Coutts: It’s a big question, but what’s your ambition as an actor?
Jonny Weldon: Oh, wow. Do you know what? I think, there’s such a holy grail element to acting, It’s never enough, It’s always, “I want that.” It’s always, “I want more. I want to do that job. They’re doing that job, so I want to do that job.” I think everybody feels like that. So I suppose my ambition would be just to have a steady, stable career with enough income that I can occasionally go to Spain and I can just be happy and be content and have it not completely dominate my life.
There are specific things that I want to achieve. There are certain roles I want to do. There are things I want to achieve. There’s writing stuff I want to go to. But the thing that overrides all of that, would just be to be content with where it’s at. And not spend all day, day in, day out, my whole career feeling like, “Ah, if only I could get a little bit more, I’d be happy.” Just trying to be happy with what I’ve got, while I was trying to generate the work that I enjoy.
Kristyn Coutts: Lovely. And my last question is what are you currently watching or listening to that you would recommend?
Jonny Weldon: Yeah, what am I watching and listening to? So I’m marathon training. I’m running the London Marathon in October, the second, for Children with Cancer UK. And I’m not very good at listening to music when I exercise, so I listen to podcasts. There’s a brilliant podcast for anybody that’s interested in writing, and writing comedy in particular. There’s a great podcast called Sitcom Geeks, which you can get on Spotify or any of those Acast or any of those streaming apps, which is run by a guy called James Cary who wrote a sitcom called Bluestone 42, he wrote Miranda and lots of other things. There’s another guy that runs it as well [Dave Cohen], I can’t remember his name right now. And just every episode’s a completely different thing. So structure, story, joke writing, characters, narrative, seasons. It’s like half an hour, 45 minutes. If you’re an aspiring comedy writer, I think it’s really interesting and useful. I also like to listen to James Acaster and Ed Gamble’s… Can’t remember what it’s called now. It’s that good, I’ve forgotten what it’s called.
Kristyn Coutts: I can’t either. And I listen to it too.
Jonny Weldon: Something about eating. Off Menu.
Kristyn Coutts: That’s it.
Jonny Weldon: Off Menu. I listen to that. And I love Beyonce when I run as well. That’s the only other thing. And then honestly, I’m only watching Googlebox. During this show, I get in at 11 o’clock at night. I barely got any words left even to say hello to my fiance. So I slump into the sofa, watch Gogglebox or any film that happens to be on TV. I’m trying to think about what we’ve watched recently.
I’m about to start watching The Great because Douglas Hodge who wrote the songs for 101 Dalmatians is in it and I need to watch that. But I feel like, I mean, I just watched James Graham’s Sherwood, which is pretty spectacular. Gogglebox.
Kristyn Coutts: I’ll just put a full stop and then we’re done. We are done. Thank you so much for your time, Jonny. I really appreciate it.
Jonny Weldon: Thank you. Thanks so much for inviting me on.
- Producer and host: Kristyn Coutts
- Production: Nicholas Peel
- Guest: Jonny Weldon