An Actor's Guide to Fulfilling Your Potential
Katie Redford's guide to combating those difficulties that stop each of us fulfilling our potential...
In any other profession, people’s progress will be tracked and if they work hard, they’re rewarded with a bonus, a promotion or an Employee Of The Month badge. Take my flatmate. Her reward last month was a cash bonus along with a Fortnum and Mason hamper. My reward last month was a Graze box. That I bought for myself.
I recently heard an interview with an actress who said at times, she feels crippled by “those f***ing demons.” From talking to other actor friends of mine, when we talk about “those f***cking demons” I noticed there was a very common pattern. And it goes like this:
No wonder we get doubtful. In any other profession, people’s progress will be tracked and if they work hard, they’re rewarded with a bonus, a promotion or an Employee Of The Month badge. Take my flatmate. Her reward last month was a cash bonus along with a Fortnum and Mason hamper. My reward last month was a Graze box. That I bought for myself.
Anyone in their right mind would doubt themselves if, despite working hard, they never got to see any consistent results. Throughout our careers, doubt will always crop up, whether you’re in work or out of work. It will creep in randomly, during moments of high importance, i.e. meetings, castings, performances or simply on a Monday morning, halfway through your porridge. Don’t pay it any attention. Move on to something else. Otherwise, if you let it linger, that seed of doubt will be planted and continue to grow. Doubt affects everyone; it’s just successful people choose not to listen to it.
So continue doing what you’re doing. The more you learn and try, the more you’ll master and develop. The doubt will crop up but when it does, do whatever it takes to kick it away. (Not literally. That might look a bit strange. Saying that, I think we’re all past caring about looking strange; we’ve all run around a room at one point as fire or ice or some other element.) Just think of how much you could achieve if doubt wasn’t a factor. Let that thought linger instead.
Last year, I was on the train coming back from the Edinburgh Fringe and was absolutely buzzing. I’d crammed in as much theatre as I could and it didn’t matter whether what I’d seen was my cup of tea or not, I just appreciated that these wonderfully creative people were up there, doing their thing. And that inspiration followed me all the way home. I sat on the train and told myself I was going to take a one woman show to Edinburgh the following year. It’s now the following year and it’s safe to say I’m not in Edinburgh with my one woman show. If I’d have acted on instinct and started writing it in that exact moment, who knows where I’d be with it right now (well, probably in Edinburgh). I’ve still been writing and progressed with other projects, but my excuse for that particular goal was: “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
As soon as you feel inspired, act upon it. Anything you’ve been putting off, start now. Even if it’s just drawing up a rough plan or doing something small towards it, it’s something. The more momentum and consistency you have, the more the progression and confidence will build. We’re brought up to think sensibly and logistically about things and consider the consequences of everything we put our minds to. But to be honest, I’m not convinced that’s always a good thing. Stop delaying, act in the moment and just do it.
Just because your mate’s current job is performing at The Globe and your current job might be at Costa, you’re still in this together. There shouldn’t be any division because the tables can turn as quickly as you can say 'Hamlet'. Your luck can change within seconds in this industry, which is a blessing as well as a curse. We are all in the same boat, so don’t create a division between you and others. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or some guidance because you think ‘they won’t understand you’.
A friend of mine, who has been an actress for over 20 years and whose CV would impress most, surprised me a few weeks ago. I wanted to ask her about what holds her back, but then thought that was silly and that of course, nothing held her back; she is extremely successful. But I did ask her and it turns out, she’s just the same as the rest of us. She said if she were in another industry, after 20 years of working within her field, she’d feel at the top of her game. But instead, after every job finishes, she feels as though she’s right back at the bottom again. Despite being successful, she’s still human and goes through what every other jobbing actor has been through. The only difference being that she chose to shrug away the doubt, didn’t delay her own creative projects and asked for help when she needed it.
Be smart about who you reach out to though. For instance, don’t tell Uncle Alan your life story when he corners you at the family BBQ because the likelihood is he probably won’t get where you’re coming from and will try cheering you up by cracking a joke about you taking all the free food home seeing as “you don’t know when your next pay cheque will come through!” Hilarious Uncle Alan. Hilarious. So, talk to like minded people. Think of people you know who you admire. Offer to buy them a coffee and just ask for some guidance. And don’t even think about putting it off until tomorrow…
Katie Redford is an actress & writer originally from Nottingham, and part of the BBC New Talent Hotlist 2017. Katie won the BBC Norman Beaton Fellowship in 2015 via Birmingham Rep. She was part of the BBC Radio Drama Company and is now currently playing Lily Pargetter in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers and Ruby Tuliver in BBC Radio 4’s Home Front. She can also be heard as Layla in BBC Radio Comedy’s All Those Women.