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Actor Rebecca Yeo: ‘My first job taught me to search fearlessly for truth – and not to cut my hair mid-shoot’

Rebecca Yeo. Photo: Emma Bullivant Rebecca Yeo. Photo: Emma Bullivant
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London, December 2012: I’m in an unfamiliar room waiting to meet Sean Spencer, the writer and director of Panic, an independent feature film starring David Gyasi and Pippa Nixon. We mainly chatted; I talked, questioned and gesticulated in equal measure to camera about my love for the script and Sean’s vision – poetic and stylishly film noir. I got the job.

On set, Sean immediately put me at ease and was a joy to work with; he just let me get on with it. I had done some research prior to the shoot but, once in front of the camera, extracting what Sean wanted from the scene and finding it with David, a wonderfully generous actor and lovely human, was where the fun began.

It was also my introduction to wintery night shoots. My scene had no dialogue written into it, and finding the beats and inner monologue was crucial to feeding David with everything he needed, as it was a pivotal point for further exposition. What it underlined to me was to search fearlessly for the truth in my character and in myself as a human being, as well as to ‘listen’ with my eyes. I’ve carried this with me through every job or audition since.

There was, however, one moment I will never wish repeated in my career. With time on my hands between scenes, I decided to trim my overgrown tresses. Thankfully, my character’s wardrobe was beanie-friendly and the skilful ladies in hair and make-up were mercifully kind not to berate me too much. When Panic earned its nomination for best British feature at Raindance Film Festival in 2014, I couldn’t help but recall my faux pas. This was the first and last time I’d touch my hair while on a shoot.

To this day, the pleasure of stepping on to set amid a creative bustle never ceases to excite me. It’s alive with possibility and is my playing space for those few hours.

CV: Rebecca Yeo

Age: Undisclosed
Training: Guildford School of Acting
Theatre includes: James and the Giant Peach, Yeh-Shen, Burning, Fried Rice Paradise – The Musical
TV includes: White Dragon, Stan and Ollie, Panic, Chinese Girls in London, Friday Night Dinner
Other credits: Gone by Min Kym (Penguin audiobook), Luo Bao Bei (animated series)
Agent: Sharon Henry Management

Rebecca Yeo was talking to John Byrne