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How to… draw from your other work in your acting

Fiona Rodrigo. Photo: isaac peral Fiona Rodrigo. Photo: Isaac Peral
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1. Find your advantage

An interesting life makes for an interesting actor. What’s your other job? Every actor I know has at least one, maybe more – even those that work as actors a lot. Being an actor is one part of their lives. They have other passions and pursuits. So use them. Find those core skills unique to you and bring them to life. For instance, I have a degree in international relations and have worked in, among other areas, public policy. The advantage? Learning about different subject areas from health to legislative process and exposure to situations most people wouldn’t believe. I am also able to handle complex language like it’s second nature – crime drama, medical or science fiction anyone?

2. Explore

It’s always worth finding out what other people do even if you don’t work directly with them. Meet them and see how they work. Be interested. You’ll become a quick study if you pay attention. Working in policy is a different environment to the communications department. And don’t get me started on press office. Being familiar with different environments and ‘types’ of person can be helpful when putting together the frame within which you place a character’s emotional core.

3. Make it work for you

Keep notes on people and places (obviously nothing confidential). Pay attention to how people interact with each other and how they talk, as well as the energy and look of a place, as these are often extremely specific. As an example, each law firm often has a distinctive feel, carefully created to suit the type of client they wish to attract. Study those quirks and adapt them – even better if you’re also a writer. It may also be a good idea to find a great acting class where you can explore what you’ve learned from your other work, so that it’s right there for you, whenever you need it, for any role.

Fiona Rodrigo is an actor represented by Nelson Browne Management. She was talking to John Byrne

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