My first acting job is the job I’m still doing. I’ve played Shak in BBC1’s Doctors since September 2015. Roughly a month after I graduated from my level 3 acting and theatre studies two-year course, I was put forward by my agent for the role – my first audition for TV. The audition couldn’t have gone any better.
On the day, I met casting director Laura Swan, who was lovely to me. I’d already learned the script that had been sent in advance, but on the day I was handed two or three more scripts to perform. They told me I didn’t have to learn the new scripts, but by some miracle I learned the sides in about 15 minutes, and landed the role.
I had never trained in TV acting before so I learned everything on the job. I originally auditioned to appear in five episodes, but I’ve now been in more than 60 as a semi-regular character, including some terrific storylines with Shak as one of the key players. I’ve never been the nervous type, but watching myself on screen brings those nerves on. Despite this, I’ve made a habit of watching my performances with the aim of improving in every episode. I try to learn from everyone I work with and whenever a fellow professional says they’ve seen me improve, it brings the utmost joy.
Television is so different from the theatre work I trained in. I came into my first episode using every stage expression I have. But over time I’ve realised that in TV sometimes saying nothing says a lot more, and that, done properly, even a single look can communicate many internal thoughts to the audience. I’ve most definitely learned that on camera it is all about your eyes, and they truly are the window to your soul.
If I could go back, I would probably have continued my training alongside my work, which is what I am doing now via classes whenever I can. For an athlete to be great, they must train continually and consistently. The same applies to actors.
Training: Walsall College; the Actors’ Temple
Theatre includes: Our Country’s Good, Matilda, Baby Girl (Venue Theatre); Lord of the Flies (Birmingham Hippodrome)
TV includes: Doctors (BBC)
Agent: Rozzy Lloyd, Narrow Road Company
Sunjay Midda is performing in Taking Flight New Writing Festival 2019, touring work by British East Asian, South Asian and South East Asian writers until July 10. He was talking to John Byrne