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Actor Tom Stocks: ‘My first job taught me never to feel ashamed about asking to be paid’

Tom Stocks. Photo: Alishia Love Tom Stocks. Photo: Alishia Love
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My first job was a great experience, but I came very close to not doing it. A lecturer at my university told me that there was an open audition coming up to be in the ensemble of Robin Hood, a panto in Newport. I went along to the audition and was offered the part, which sounds like a win, and in one sense it was. But it also created some serious juggling problems.

Rehearsals started and, as I was essentially part of the kids ensemble, it was easy to manage along with my other activities. The job wasn’t paid, but as the arrangement for that group was one show on, one show off, it fitted in well with the fact that I was still in the third year of my studies and also working in Costa. That changed when the director was so impressed with my work ethic and stage presence that he asked me to do every show. I told him I couldn’t afford to give up my job. Later that day, he went to the producers, who offered to pay me. I was promoted to dance captain and asked to understudy some parts.

I was just about to go into one of our final-year shows on the course, The Cherry Orchard, so I had to push myself really hard to get it all done. During the morning, I would rehearse for panto, do my written work in my lunch break then go back to panto before rehearsing for The Cherry Orchard in the evenings.

Looking back, I worked myself too hard, but that’s because I wanted it so badly. The weird thing was that because they decided to pay me, I felt added pressure and sometimes felt guilty about it. I was afraid of the word ‘no’ and too anxious to please everybody. It turned out to be an amazing opportunity to be in a real working environment, but most of all that job taught me self-worth.

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By the end of it, I had learned that I shouldn’t feel guilty about asking to be paid and that’s a lesson I would pass on to any actor who finds themselves in the same situation: do your best work no matter what the job, but know that you should never feel ashamed about asking to be paid for your craft.

CV: Tom Stocks

Age: 26
Training: Newport University 
Theatre credits include: The Greater Game, Robin Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Jelly
TV and film credits include: GiantLand, Blinded by the Light, The Acting Class; commercials for brands including Lynx, Febreeze and Wickes
Other credits: Founder of Actor Awareness
Agent: Marcus and McCrimmon

Tom Stocks was talking to John Byrne

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