Nadia Sohawon tells John Byrne about her first professional acting job
My first job was in a fringe comedy play at the Canal Cafe Theatre called Brooklyn Heat. It was a 1970s-style cop show set in New York City, which had a new ‘episode’ each week so you could come back a few times and see a different story. I played a range of characters, such as Mr Big, Jenny Tong and Cat Burglar. I had found the casting call in PCR magazine, which, in pre-online days, was a casting subscription service sent weekly via post.
Every Monday I used to pack a load of large envelopes with my headshot, CV and cover letter and send them off for several castings. I went through so many stamps back then. Shortly after, I received a phone call to say they wanted to see me, so I headed to Epsom where they were holding auditions during the day. I was nervous as, at 19, I was still very young, but I had also worked in bars and in retail since I was 16 so I saw it as an opportunity to use my people skills and make sure my audition was the best I could deliver. I’ve always been into mainly character roles that are very different to myself, with different dialects and accents, and I was looking forward to showing what I could do.
Looking back, once I had the job, I would maybe have asked the other actors more questions as they were a bit older and more experienced than me. This was the first job in which I was able to use my comedy skills, so I wish I had explored that a bit more, but I still learned a lot from Brooklyn Heat. One thing that has stuck with me is the direction I got to play a different character every show and how to transition to them easily.
I can be a bit of a geek when it comes to characteristics, accents and background, so for a whole week I will watch and read anything I can to make a character authentic, including voice, movement and thought process, as this can affect how they react as well as how other roles reply or react to them.
My advice for anyone starting their first job is to study hard for it. Know who you are working with, which means not just your fellow actors but also the crew and listen to how they operate as you can learn a lot. Most importantly, enjoy the experience.
Training: Italia Conti
Theatre includes: Pied Piper (Stratford East and Barbican), United Queendom (Les Enfant Terribles at Kensington Palace), 2012 Olympics opening performance
TV and film include: So You Think You Can Dance (BBC), After Life (Netflix), MOBO Awards (BBC), Rocketman (Paramount), Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (film version)
Agent: Lee Morgan