Actor Scherrikar Bell: ‘Every time I was on stage the whole audience was laughing. It was the best buzz’
Scherrikar Bell’s acting talent took her by surprise when she auditioned for an Off-West End production of Oh! What a Lovely War on a whim and got the part. Yet without the time or money to attend drama school, the cards were stacked against her, she tells Simon Fearn…
When did you first start acting?
Drama was one of the easy subjects at school. I enjoyed it, but I was not good at it. I thought I was too cool to become a character fully. I even failed my A-level drama. At 19 I got fired from my job, so I signed up for a last-minute university course in English and drama. I thought I’d be a drama teacher or an English teacher. I had nothing else to do with my life, so that was the easiest thing to fall back on.
When did you first realise you had a talent for acting?
On the stage during Oh! What a Lovely War, which was the first thing I’d auditioned for. I literally felt like a white English soldier. Every time I was on stage doing my bit, the whole audience was laughing. It was the best buzz. That’s when I knew that this was what I was going to keep chasing for the rest of my life. My idea of becoming a drama teacher went out of the window.
Did not going to drama school make auditions harder?
Yes, because every person I spoke to was straight out of drama school. I stuck out like a sore thumb. Because I had no training, I felt embarrassed to really portray emotion. People also just assume that if someone went to RADA you can trust them and they must be a great actor, which is not always true. I did some part-time training with the Young People’s Theatre Company and that helped with my confidence. I ended up leaving after six months – I had bills to pay and was too ambitious to just learn.
You’re moving to the US for a film role in July, is it easier to find work as an actor there?
In the US, they include all races in its TV shows, whereas in the UK it’s very rare to see a person of colour in a show. Most of the auditions I was going to in the UK were for the best friend or the girlfriend. The lead is Caucasian. They were clearly just ticking the box and it was upsetting.
What are your goals for the future?
To be respected and well known enough to put my name in producers’ heads for lead roles in film and TV. Theatre is where I got my first buzz, but I’ve always been more obsessed with film.
CV: Scherrikar Bell
Training: BA in English literature and drama, theatre and performance studies at University of Roehampton (2009-12); part-time course with the Young People’s Theatre Company (2013)
First professional role: English Soldier in Oh! What a Lovely War at Cochrane Theatre (2011)
Agent: Cyd Fenice, Duende Management