My first audition was when I was nine so good luck trying to get me to remember! I was going to Saturday acting classes at a local community centre and I was playing a drug addict’s daughter. There were a lot of needles and a red background. Not that I knew it at the time, but it was like being in a David Lynch movie. I wasn’t allowed on stage during the gritty parts but when I was on, all I thought was, ‘Where am I?’. Thankfully it didn’t leave a lasting impression.
My first professional acting job came directly after drama school. I played the lead alongside Ben Kingsley for a children’s drama called Jackanory. I wasn’t nervous at first. The audition took place at the casting director’s home, which happened to be her studio so I felt at ease. But I remember the butterflies when I had a recall with the BBC director. I focused on ensuring I understood everything the director suggested. I knew I had a good chance because I had already passed the first round. It was a great experience – I learned to leave myself alone in auditions, trust I had made the right choices for the character and be present with the director so I could take on board their suggestions. And I got the part so I couldn’t have been that terrible.
The production was almost entirely green screen, I was laden down with prosthetics as my character had to age suddenly, while Kingsley narrated my voice and I acted on his lip-sync – it wasn’t exactly the same as prancing about with my mates like in drama school. Sometimes you are thrown in the deep end and you don’t know what you’re going to get, so you have to be ready for anything.
My first theatre directing job came from an acting audition. After auditioning for a role in a theatre project I decided I didn’t want to be in it, but I spoke with the producer about the project, my ideas for the script and she hired me to be the director. Sometimes it pays to be outspoken.
CV: Elif Knight
Training: Rose Bruford Drama School, the Actors Studio
Theatre includes: St George and the Dragon, Festen
TV includes: Into the Badlands, Penny Dreadful, Prey, Locked Up Abroad, The Passion, Luminary
Other credits: Winner of Patricia Rothermere Scholarship (2003 Evening Standard Theatre Awards)
Agent: Identity Agency Group
Elif Knight was talking to John Byrne