I first met CJ when we worked together on an indie feature film - The Renata Road http://www.renataroad.com/.
CJ starred as a stranger looking for peace, solitude and escape from the outside world in a remote hotel.
Reluctantly drawn into the lives and activities of the hotel's guests it soon becomes abundantly clear that all is not as calm and serene as the hotel management would have him believe.
A chance encounter with the hotel maid (myself) sets in motion a chain of events that will take the Stranger to the very edge of sanity and threatens to destroy the lives of everyone present....
Anyway...I asked CJ to take part in the interview as I know how hard he works for his acting career and how many challenges he's had to face!
What made you want a career as an actor?
I think this is true of most performers - I don’t want to be an actor. I NEED to be an actor. At 5 I knew it was in my blood and was the only thing that would ever make me happy. Whether you’re an actor, dancer, writer painter or anything creative, you know it from an early age. Not many 5 year olds have their hearts set on a career as a chartered surveyor.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?
In 2018 I performed a solo play titled Banana Crabtree Simon in London. It was about a man’s struggle with early onset dementia. It was emotionally draining and an obviously difficult subject to tackle but it won rave reviews and even attracted Off West Award nominations for Best New Play and Best Male Performance.
Tell me about what you're working on now.
Nothing. I’m an actor. I’m generally unemployed.
Who is your favourite actor, and why?
This is a really hard question to answer. I’ve thought about it in the past and there are actors I like but I think I should choose someone I admire or whose craft I appreciate. As I’m primarily a stage actor, I’m going to choose Simon Russell Beale. I’ve played a couple of same roles he has (although I stress I’m much younger!) but I’ve watched him live and on film and he is simply mesmerising.
Of all the roles you have played in the past, which is your favourite?
It depends on which genre I choose. Some dramatic roles have been immensely fulfilling whereas some outrageous comedy roles have been amazing fun (I attach a photo of me and Ewen Macintosh from the fabulously camp musical ‘Geek!’
However, I think playing Arthur in a west end run of On Tidy Endings by Harvey Fierstein (perhaps my favourite living playwright) was my favourite. It was very hard to do as it was a rollercoaster of emotions each night resulting in myself on stage and the audience crying. I even use the final speech as an audition piece now.
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’ve had 3 auditions in 4 years! I have a good and varied CV but that is absolutely no guarantee of ever working again. If you’re affected by setbacks as an actor, you’re in the wrong job.
How do you prepare yourself for an audition?
I can barely remember but preparation is key! I won’t accept an audition for something I think I’m not suitable for as it wastes my time and money and the casting director’s patience. I learn the lines completely - not just so I’m very familiar with them but to make them second nature. If it’s a play or book, I read it. Virtually anything can be downloaded for a pond or two and if it’s a classic, it’ll be free. Any actor who tries to bluff it in an audition will be found out and immediately crossed off the list. Of course there may not be time to do as much as I want but the more I know, the more comfortable I am. However, on tip of that, I’m lousy in auditions! I’m fine once I’ve got the job but I’m really crap at getting them in the first place.
How do you keep your spirits up when you haven’t had an audition in a while?
Acting is the only thing that will make me happy. It’s worth waiting for.
How do you source your auditions? What routes do you take/how do you network?
I’m not one for networking. Even when I was on television I avoided industry parties or awards shows like the plague. They’re really not my sort of thing at all. To be honest, I’m very active on social media so if anyone wants to contact me, they can do so on there or through my agent and I keep an eye out for what’s going on. Spotlight is an essential resource too but not all jobs are advertised there so I guess I do lose out a bit by not schmoozing but I could never play that game. I’m too direct!
What websites would you recommend for other actors to use? What have you found to be helpful?
Keep you social media profile interesting and current - if you’re an actor have your Spotlight PIN, or at least a link to your CV, in your bio. Make people want to talk to you.
What honest advice would you give to other actors?
If you can think of anything, ANYTHING, else that has a chance of making you happy, do it. Acting is the most depressing, challenging, cut throat and occasionally vicious industry in the world. 90% of aspiring performers will never have a professional contract and 95% will give up their dreams by the time they’re 25. After spending tens of thousands of pounds for drama school, it means there’s, at most, a 4 year window in which to make it, while, realistically, holding down one or two other jobs. Nobody in their right mind would follow such a path.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you do follow the path, congratulations, you’re a performer, and only by allowing it do you have that chance.
Take a look at CJ's work: