My first job was in 2006, before I went to drama school. It was a TV film called That Summer Day about the London Bombings, but told through the perspective of five kids. I played one of the five. The job came about through my first agent who I got from a show I had done at the National Youth Theatre. At that point, I had no idea what agents and professional auditions were about. I had to learn a lot on the job.
I ran the audition sides with my agent. They were great at helping me prepare. I learned my lines back to front and bought a London A-Z so I knew how to get to the audition venue. I had no idea where all these offices in Soho were. There were no iPhones then.
I was very nervous, but I was also prepared and the audition was being run by people who knew how to audition children. I felt safe. I got the job and one thing I remember is that when it came to filming, even though we were children, we had to make our own way to the set, which, looking back now, was really risky and bonkers. If I was doing it all over again, I would definitely have asked for a car. It’s my only pre-drama school screen credit, but the last time I watched it back (which admittedly was a while ago) I didn’t wince. I thought: ‘Gosh she had good instincts’ and that lesson to keep trusting my instincts is one I keep in mind today.
NYT shaped everything for me, and my advice to actors starting out today would be to find a similar group or organisation where you can act with your peers. At NYT there wasn’t a focus on getting an agent and all that industry pressure. I learned how to be a good company member and it’s absolutely one of my strengths as an actor and writer. It’s the way you learn and grow and surprise yourself.
Training: National Youth Theatre, RADA
Theatre includes: Labour of Love (West End), A Raisin in the Sun (Sheffield Crucible), Game (Almeida), Hotel (National Theatre), Henry IV and Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse, New York transfer)
TV includes: Crazyhead, Chewing Gum, Porters, Crashing
Agents: Scott Marshall (UK), Gersh, Management 360 (US), 42 (literary)
Susan Wokoma is mentoring Marilyn Nnadebe, a former winner of The Stage Scholarships, in Consensual and Victoria’s Knickers at the Soho Theatre and Macbeth at the Garrick Theatre as part of the 2018 NYT REP season that runs from October 22–December 7. She was talking to John Byrne