Next up on my actor list, we have Grace Blackman! I have been following Grace's work for a while and asked if she'd also be interested in doing my little interview.
Grace offers some great advice for actors here, as well as sharing her take on the acting world:
What made you want a career as an actor?
The way I started was because I was ‘acting out’ at school so my parents thought an after school club would be the way forward, joining Helen O’Grady at the age of 6. From then on I didn’t know how to do anything else; it was the only thing that gave me drive to work hard, that made me get up in the morning. That fire in the belly after watching a good piece of theatre, film or television can never be beaten for me, it’s a visceral force.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
There are a few things that have been milestones; whilst at university I did a play that required me to strip off completely – something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do and it enabled me to believe in myself a hell of a lot more. I never thought I’d be able to get into the National Youth Theatre or University or drama school at Arts Educational or indeed get my Masters there so exceeding my own expectations on all three would be my greatest achievements so far. But I’m most excited about what’s to come, because I have no idea what’s coming.
Tell me about what you're working on now.
I work as an actor for Handmade Mysteries escape rooms as their Lady Chastity’s Reserve host, Gabriel. I absolutely love her character; if you can imagine a sexy Victorian Anne Robinson with extra creepy and extra innuendos, that’s her. Apart from that I have no theatre film or television booked in for 2019. But I think that’s a natural pause button that every actor reaches at some point in their career. I’m writing a piece of theatre for an end of January deadline and a short film that I’ve wanted to write for 4 years now but have been too afraid to, until now. It’s a pivotal but very exciting time.
Who is your favourite actor, and why?
My inspiration is Kate Winslet – she is incredible and since I was very small she has been the actor I’ve looked up to most, it was very special for me to watch her win the Oscar for The Reader, I just have a weird affinity for her and her career.
The lady of the hour has to be Olivia Colman – because of her longevity. She started her career at the age of 26 (my age now), received recognition in Peep Show at the age of 29 and now at the age of 44, she’s won her second Golden Globe, 3 BAFTA awards and 4 BIFA’s… a true legend. I watched her in Mosquitos at the National Theatre last year and her performance was phenomenal, a master of both stage and screen and still humble and funny as fuck.
However, I feel that having role models that creative positive change beyond this field is also important; Jameela Jamil, Megan aka BodyPosiPanda, Iskra Lawrence, Ashley Graham, Emma Thompson, J K Rowling, Emily Blunt, Gemma Arterton – then you have the greats such as Judi Dench, Helen Mirren.
I feel it’s important to take little examples from lots of great women; we are spoilt for choice and I’m grateful for that.
Of all the roles you have played in the past, which is your favourite?
It’s a tie – Maus in short film Outsiders is the strongest and I have a real soft spot for her; she was an American computer hacker that could hold her own as the only girl in a vigilantes pack of 5. However, Ashleigh in web series Tour Girls was just wonderful to play as the script was just perfection, I think that’s my proudest project and Maus being my favourite character.
When you suffer a setback, or you don’t receive the part you want, how does that emotionally affect you and what do you do to get over it?
I believe in honesty, and it really does destroy me. I give myself a full day; I properly sulk and feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I lose confidence and don’t apply for new work for another week. But once that’s done, it’s done. You learn not to make the same mistakes again, you learn to not punish yourself and you learn where your strengths are when you were REALLY close. Use that.
How do you prepare yourself for an audition?
PREP! Everytime I miss that I don’t get the role. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Read the instructions given in the email. Read them again. Even if you were told you don’t need to learn your lines, learn them because someone else will and it puts yourself at a disadvantage already. Basic things like pack your bag, know your route, leave plenty of time etc. I suffer really badly with nerves before an audition so the night before I leave myself lots of time to pamper with a bubble bath, mani/pedi and face mask.
BUT in terms of character exploration – I always ask for a full script beforehand, not just the extract sent – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. After reading the script I highlight my extract; green for cues or ‘reasons to speak’, orange for actions and pink for dialogue. I then separate the script into units and motivations, divided up where the action or motivations change. In a different colour I annotate the script with the characters inner monologue. I then practice as much as I can. Look for facts about the character in the script, any questions about the character that are left unanswered – make a decision and stick to it. Physicality; where do they hold their weight, where do they lead from, where is the tension, what’s their speed, how big or small are their movements (normally smaller for screen), if it’s historical – what were the postures and gestures of the time. Voice; what’s their accent, what speed, which words would they emphasise, where are the consonants. Once I’m in the room, I perform it as practiced, before letting absolutely all of my prep go and do a completely spontaneous interpretation to the specifications asked of me by the casting director or director.
It’s also down to basic interview techniques – do your research! What previous work has the director, casting director, producer been involved in. What actors have they previously liked to work with. Be professional, polite and personable. Make sure they remember you! Take a risk that makes you stand out. Then once the audition is done, send an email to say thank you for your time, nothing more, leave it behind. Forget about it entirely and look forward to the next opportunity.
How do you keep your spirits up when you haven’t had an audition in a while?
I keep, keep, keep working. I create my own ideas for work, take classes, watch other people’s work, learn a new skill or language. But you are allowed bad days, you are allowed to have days off, you are allowed to look after yourself. Trust that if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and it’s all about timing.
How do you source your auditions? What routes do you take/how do you network?
Mandy is my main source at the moment as well as social media and word of mouth or previous collaborators - Spotlight is the higher tier so you should always keep applying there in the quest to better yourself. But going to see and celebrating other people’s work increases your circle. Going to film festivals, open mics, scratch nights, monologue slams, short courses, classes, press or opening nights of plays.
BUT – it’s important not to actively seek out people purely because you want them to give you a job on a plate – it doesn’t work like that. Building professional relationships is much more positive for you as a creative. You should be going to these events because you love story telling and you enjoy seeing other people’s imaginations – a joy to watch – not because you’re using them for a leg up; it’s selfish, unfulfilling and doesn’t feed your own creativity.
What websites would you recommend for other actors to use? What have you found to be helpful?
My best tip is to sign up to as many mailing lists as possible; theatres, theatre companies, cinemas, production companies, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, arts sections of newspapers, casting websites – everything. Get in that loop.
I’ve found Mandy and Spotlight most proactive to explore. There’s also Act On This, Amy Jo Berman (an American approach), Shooting People, Actor’s Centre, Actor’s Guild, Equity…. SO SO many.
For accents it has to be; https://www.dialectsarchive.com/
A primary-source of recordings of English-language dialects and accents as heard around the world. With roughly 1,400 samples from 120 countries and territories, and more than 170 hours of recordings, IDEA is now the largest archive of its kind. ANY accent you want, it’s there.
https://www.spotlight.com/ - it has AMAZING advice.
What honest advice would you give to other actors?
Don’t compare your journey with others, everyone has a different path.
Don’t take all word as gospel, everyone has a different opinion.
Keep your head down and work hard because you deserve results.
Take time off to rest or you’ll burn out.
Hang out with non-industry people so you know your worth beyond your ‘pitching’.
Enjoy the ride, ups downs and all, you love this job that’s why you do it.
Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.
If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will.
If you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, if you’re late you might as well not be there.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Read plays, screenplays, articles, dramaturg theories, actor biographies. See plays, films, TV series, talks, Q&A’s. Get out there and learn as you do.
Success is as simple as knowing specifically what you want, making a plan and going to get it.
To see some of Grace's work, follow the links below: