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Actor Melissa Johns: ‘My first job taught me how to deal with frustration and move on’

Melissa Johns. Photo: Robin Savage Melissa Johns. Photo: Robin Savage
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My first professional acting audition was in July 2012 for a play called The Prize, to be performed at Live Theatre, Newcastle as well as Underbelly at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was a month before we graduated from East 15 and we were preparing for our final show. My agent, Niki, who I had only been with for a few months – I had signed after my drama school showcase – rang to say I had an audition.

I remember the butterflies swirling around my tummy. Not only was I excited but what I loved about this job was that it was a verbatim play leading up to the Olympics and Paralympics. As an actor with a disability, everyone assumed I would be going up for the parts of the Paralympians. In fact, I only played the non-disabled characters, which really highlighted the importance of the stories.

I was incredibly nervous, as it was my first audition with my agent and I wanted her to know she had made the right decision by signing me. I was also about to leave drama school and getting my first acting job would mean everything. Thirdly, as it was verbatim, I had to listen to the original words of the real people in the story, then go off and learn the lines in the accent as recorded.

Suddenly I doubted myself and my ability to do accents. I remember going into the toilet, having a word with myself and reminding myself that I was right for this job. There was so much I could bring to the characters.

For every actor, there will be days like that. We can’t be at our absolute best every minute of every day. Yes, it can be frustrating but welcome that frustration. Don’t fight it. Allow yourself to be annoyed or upset, then move on. I did, and got the job.

Even to this day, that same ‘swirling’ feeling happens when I see my agent’s name come up on my phone. You never know what the conversation is going to be. And that’s exciting.

CV: Melissa Johns

Age: 28
Trained: East 15 Acting School
Theatre credits include: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sheffield Crucible; My Version of Events, Hope Mill, Manchester; The Prize, Live Theatre, Newcastle; Doing the Idiots, National Theatre Studio
TV credits include: Coronation Street (ITV), The Interceptor (BBC), Doctors (BBC), Silk (BBC)
Other credits: Revolution make-up campaign, Ambassador for InvisiYouth Charity and Models of Diversity

Agent: Niki Winterson, Winterson’s

Melissa Johns was talking to John Byrne

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