What type of membership would you like to apply for?
Account access problem
You do not have permission to access this page with your current sign in details. If you require any further help, please get in touch at questions@spotlight.com.
The Essentials
An actor with headphones in staring upwards as he prepares for his performance.

Image credit: Joanna Nicole Photography

Our Spotlight Prize 2023 nominees and winners share their motivation for becoming an actor and what first inspired them.

Being an actor is one of the most challenging professions to pursue. You have to deal with countless rejections, never knowing when you’ll get your next role and usually work a side job to keep your finances healthy.

However, despite this, thousands of people worldwide attend auditions, acting workshops, and drama schools, all in the hopes of appearing on stage or screen. Acting isn’t just a job – it’s a passion, and every actor puts up with rejection and job uncertainty because they love to perform and relish every chance they get to do it.

At the Spotlight Prize 2023, we spoke to our graduate nominees and winners about what inspired them to become performers. Their motivation for becoming actors might not be too different from your own! Here’s what they shared:

Inspired by Other Actors

For nominee Yasemin Junqueira and Screen Prize winner Shannon Watson, inspiration came in the form of stand-out performances from beloved productions.

Yasemin wanted to become a performer after seeing, “Emmy Rossum in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’,” while, for Shannon, it was, “Sarah Michelle Gellar in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.”

It’s common for performers to inspire each other, highlighting the importance of the performing arts being accessible to all. Everyone should have the chance to see a life-changing performance that makes them interested in theatre, film, or television.

Growing Up with the Arts

The following nominees have all known they wanted to be actors since childhood. 

Jess Gough: “I grew up watching my dad in pantos and he used to always play the baddy. I’d go and watch, and I’d see the audience response to [my dad playing] this character. So it’s all I’ve ever known, and there’s no feeling quite like the feeling of being on stage and the adrenaline rush it gives you.”

Kurtis Thompson: “My dad started this tradition. Every Friday, he’d come home with a new DVD and educate us on films and storytelling. It started from [when I was] five years old, and he’d shown us ‘Labyrinth’ with David Bowie. I think just him repeating that just got us interested.”

Öncel Camci: “When we were kids, [my brother and I would] play lots of games together. We’d watch ‘Harry Potter’, then, in our house, we’d just make up little games, little plays. We’d play lots of those. And as I grew up, I just decided, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do full time.’”

Lucas Albion: “As a child, I was awfully un-coordinated, so my mum wanted to get me out of the house, but sport was not my bug. In youth amateur dramatics, I found a real home, and it was where I could unleash all this chaotic energy.”

Chiara McDougall: “When I was a kid, I wanted to do so many different things. I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a vet at some point. And then there was this school show in primary school, it was a show called ‘Honey’ and it was all about bees. I remember loving it. I was obsessed with the applause that you get at the end, and the thrill of the stage lights hitting you. I think it was the first time I felt something like that before. It was so euphoric. Ever since, I’ve just been chasing that feeling.”

Darcy Braimoh: “I think the thing that first inspired me to become an actor was my secondary school drama teacher, who just said, “Why not? Just go for it, see what happens, have fun.” And I’ve held onto that from the beginning.”

Exploring Other People and Places

A lot of people become actors because of the freedom and escapism each role brings to them. You never know who your next role will be – or where the production will be set. One moment, you could be a noble lady in a ballroom scene in Bridgerton; the next, you could be covered in prosthetics playing an alien in a sci-fi film.

Our next nominees love this aspect of acting and what playing a variety of roles can do for them in their everyday lives.

Arnold Patrick Lumu: “[My inspiration] changes every day. Today, I think it’s just curiosity about people, about myself and other human beings.”

Riess Fennell: “The idea of entering new worlds. I love video games. I love the adventures, the enemies and the stories. And I think acting lets me do that. I get to enter different characters and I have immense fun doing that.”

Edward Neale: “I grew up in the countryside, so [there’s] not a lot of creative activities to do. So I learned about the world through film. It was the most accessible thing to me. So it’s amazing to see all these experiences that I wouldn’t have necessarily experienced myself through the eyes of somebody else.”

Chelsie Lockwood: “I enjoy [acting], which is helpful. I feel like it’s one of the jobs where you can do loads of different jobs within one job. So, one day I can be a nurse, one day I can be a doctor or a teacher. It’s cool to have different jobs within one big job.”

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is also a great personal development and growth lesson to nurture. The Stage Prize winner, Teddy Moore, admits that “Acting was always much more terrifying to me than doing something academic because it just seems like a bigger challenge. So I wanted to take on what scared me, I guess.”

For the Love of Acting

The rest of our nominees didn’t necessarily plan to become performers, but their love of acting pulled them into the industry.

Ria McLeod: “I liked drama at school, so that’s what I’ll do. I’ll go to college and I’ll study drama and I’ll become a drama teacher. That was my thought process at the time, and then it wasn’t really until my final year at college that I actually saw myself as an actor, and then it just went from there.”

Lillia Squires: “I actually started off singing. I’m mainly a singer before I’m anything else, but I find it really hard to be myself and sing. So that’s when I delve into musical theatre. And since then, I’ve just sprung off into all kinds of acting.”

Charlotte Delima: “I worked in marketing for eight years and I got to the end of my twenties and went, ooh, I’m not sure this is for me. And so I came to acting from that. It was one of those things that I did a lot of when I was younger and I was singing and [through] all of my 20s. I was just like, something’s not working. And then I went, I need to just try it. It’s now or never.”

Amy Tara: “I was actually going to go into fine arts and curation, and then I took a gap year and I just realised that drama, my hobby, has always been there for me. It’s always just had my back like a friend, I guess. So yeah, I just thought, why not do something I love as a career?”

Megan Kennelly: “I think I’ve always been creative, and it took me a while to figure out that acting was what I wanted to do, but it started off as a hobby in my 20s and just progressed from there.”

However you first get into acting, and wherever you draw your inspiration and motivation from, Spotlight is proud to support you on your journey through the performing arts.

The nominees for the Spotlight Prize 2024 have now been announced!

Take a look at our website for more videos and interviews with actors, agents and casting professionals.