I started acting at eight years old but my first major role was in a series called The Borrowers at 16. I had done a small film role aged 12 and the producer remembered me and called me in for The Borrowers. I got the train with mum from Manchester to London and was just excited to be there and see Piccadilly Circus after the audition. I wasn’t nervous back then, not like I get now. I learned my lines without trying and I remember having to do ‘hiding under a table’ acting, although it was nearly 30 years ago, so other details are a bit sketchy.
What I do remember is the ease and nonchalance I had then, and I wish I could apply some of that today. I’m a very different actor today, but perhaps if I didn’t assign so much responsibility to getting jobs I’d be as breezy as I was back then. I was so happy to be there. That happiness is something I do still feel today. Getting in the door is always a small triumph in itself.
If I have any advice for actors starting out, I’d have to begin by being honest: I’ve put my all into acting and that has meant that in my late 30s and now in my 40s when I’ve been faced with no acting work I’ve also had no other skills to fall back on. The last thing I imagine you’d want to hear when you’re starting out is that it might not work for you. And for some people it does, right from the start. But that’s not the way for all of us. There’s no harm in having a second craft.
Remember to treat any audition you get as your opportunity to do some acting. Even if it’s fleeting it’s still what we love to do. The most important thing to do after an audition is to leave what you did in there, behind the door. Don’t chew yourself up with doubt, going over and over what you said or how you said it.
Now that I’ve had a peek of the other perspective, by casting for a film of my own, I can see that there are so many people that can do a role brilliantly but it might be the tiniest thing that makes them perfect. Once you’ve gone in there and done your best, try to move on. That’s the ease I’m still striving for, almost 40 years into the job.
Training: No formal training
Theatre includes: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Winterlong, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Blindsided
TV includes: Detectorists, Ordinary Lies, Fearless, To Walk Invisible, The Borrowers
Agents: Curtis Brown (acting), Julia Tyrrell (writing), Yakety Yak (voice)
Rebecca Callard was talking to John Byrne