My First Job: Tara Breathnach
My first job was in 2004: a week playing a nurse on Tracy Beaker for the BBC in Cardiff. It couldn’t have happened at a better time.
My term at college was winding up and I had a few weeks hanging around Cardiff figuring out my next move. This job offer came out of the blue. I was so green. We had completed a module in acting for camera but the reality of going in to join an established production was intimidating. I remember being surprised the director wasn’t more hands on on the floor, not realising this was what the assistant director did.
Knowing very little about camera and lighting set-ups, all I could do was trust my instincts. That was one of my most important lessons that I continue to tell younger actors: 90% of acting is about listening. Trust that the technical experts will do their job and will tell you if you’re in the wrong spot. Also, by observing other actors I quickly picked up on the importance of continuity.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change the performance but in terms of the experience on set I would say to myself to own it and not be a mouse; I practically hid from the director and regular cast members at lunchtimes. Being my first experience of television, the basics stuck: marks, continuity, maintaining focus when there are lots of things happening off camera. Most importantly, the camera sees you think.
I also discovered the importance of an on-set ‘boredom bag’. To this day, whether filming or rehearsing theatre, it comes with me, filled with sketchbooks, short stories to read, healthy snacks, a skipping rope etc. I established the basics of a routine I still use on a job: early nights, plenty of water, a physical/vocal warm-up before my call time… the first time you speak should not be during a take.
CV: Tara Breathnach
Trained: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Gaeity School of Acting
TV credits include: Jack Taylor, Holby City, The Last Days of Anne Boleyn, An Bronntanas, The Tudors
Theatre credits include: Walking to the Ark, The Weir, Francis and Frances, The Hen Night Epiphany, Well of the Saints
Other credits: A Nightingale Falling (feature), Sanctuary (feature)
Agents: Mr Management (London), Ann Curtis (Dublin)
Tara Breathnach was talking to John Byrne