I hadn’t really grown up around acting or theatre. I grew up glued to the TV, watching everything that was on. Everything. My first proper interaction with it all was when the Unicorn Theatre came to my school and wanted young people to be in their show. That’s when I realised it was a proper job. After that, I got involved in more stuff: DreamArts, the National Youth Theatre and Artists Theatre School (run by actor Amanda Redman).
I knew I wanted to train, and learn more, and be good at it, rather than just be famous. I remember thinking I’d be the first half-Iranian, inner-city London kid to go to drama school and train. There wasn’t really a crazy amount of people that went to drama school that looked and talked like me back then.
I don’t know if I chose Drama Centre – I guess we kind of chose each other. It was the first school I felt took the time to get to know me in the audition process. I also felt like they celebrated the fact that I was a bit different. Even though I definitely went in with a lack of confidence, from the first week on it was great – a bit like Hogwarts: all these eccentric teachers, teaching us weird and wonderful things, surprising each other doing things we didn’t know we could do. If I was back there again, I’d be having a word with myself to say: “It’s okay. You deserve to be there. Stop worrying so much and just do it.”
My time at drama school has informed my work with Open Door entirely. I know that feeling of worrying you’re not good enough, that this isn’t a place for you, feeling like a minority, that they only take ‘these’ types of people. With our actors, yes, we tutor them in acting, but a lot of the work is about empowering them so they don’t feel those things. We give them the confidence to do their best work in those audition rooms, and to be happy with what they did regardless of the outcome.
Training: Drama Centre
Theatre includes: Lela and Co. (Royal Court); Pine (Hampstead Theatre); Mush and Me (Bush/Edinburgh Fringe); The Machine (Donmar/Manchester International Festival/New York Armory); ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Cheek by Jowl)
TV includes: Hannah (Channel 4); Dead Pixels (E4); Fearless (ITV); The Windsors (Channel 4); Drifters (E4); Phoneshop (E4); Love, Nina (BBC); Cuckoo (BBC3); Fresh Meat (Channel 4)
Film includes: Johnny English Strikes Again; Mission: Impossible – Fallout; The Huntsman: Winter’s War; The Inbetweeners Movie
Agent: United Agents
David Mumeni, founder of Open Door, was talking to John Byrne