My first screen job was a commercial in 2017. We filmed in Watford, not far from where I live, but as it was at a real college, there were 200 other pupils as supporting artists. Everyone knew each other except me and another young actor. We had come via auditions, while the rest of the pupils were from the school. So many people were on set, looking at me as the lead and expecting me to perform well, that I felt under pressure. Fortunately, my mum, also an actor, was there to help with my nerves and performance. Overall, it was a great experience.
It took a bit longer to get my first stage job. I auditioned for musicals such as Matilda and School of Rock, but was always too tall for the part. When I finally got my first stage role, it turned out to be a big one: Enda Walsh’s Grief Is the Thing With Feathers, starring Cillian Murphy. The first productions were in Ireland, then we did it in England and I have just finished performing in New York. It’s a very intense play about two grieving boys missing their mother. A particularly big challenge was that my own grandfather passed away just before the opening night. That was hard, but everybody in the company was so supportive.
I’m very lucky to have had early experience of professional work on stage and screen. With screen work you have several takes to get something right while on stage you only get one chance every night. On the other hand, playing the same character on stage night after night and keeping things fresh will come in handy if I achieve one of my next goals – to play a regular on a Netflix or Amazon series.
Although I’m just starting out, I would advise other young actors to balance school and professional work. Do your best in auditions and try not to think about it afterwards, even if you want it badly. Remember that just because you’re on TV or stage, you’re no better than anyone else. Treat everyone with respect and remember where you come from.
Training: Edge Grove School; Rugby School; New London Performing Arts Centre
Theatre credits include: Grief Is the Thing With Feathers (Galway, Dublin, London, New York)
TV credits include: Creeped Out (CBBC), Marks and Spencer Back to School commercial
Agent: Byrons Management
Taighen O’Callaghan was talking to John Byrne