Victor Oshin was initially on track to become a professional athlete before an injury caused him to rethink his career and train to be an actor. He tells Giverny Masso about the experience of making his professional stage debut in the role of Othello with English Touring Theatre…
How did you get into acting?
I was an athlete from a young age. I used to train a lot with Newham Sports Academy, which was for young athletes in the area where the 2012 Olympics took place. I was good at throwing javelin, which I was doing before I was injured. While in rehab, I thought: “What else can I do?” – and I considered acting. From there, I took different classes and the first play I was in was at Theatre Royal Stratford East, where I was part of the chorus. It felt massive at the time.
Where did you go from there?
I started to do normal A levels, such as psychology, which didn’t really work out for me. I found the National Youth Theatre’s Playing Up course, which is a social inclusion course, and I was a part of that. I think the social inclusion work is the real heart of what NYT does. I then got into the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. I was there for two years, but I wasn’t used to that way of working and I left a year early. I thought: “This is not working out”, so I decided I’d leave acting behind.
How did you get back into acting?
I started working in different bars, one of which was at Soho House in London. With actors all around you, you feel like you are part of it, but also you’re not. That got to me and I thought: “I need to get back into acting.” It was affecting me; I wasn’t doing what I love and that gets you down. I started getting back into acting by doing classes here, there and everywhere, and people began to notice it. The director of ALRA contacted me asking if I wanted to finish what I started and come back to complete my degree. I had learned my lesson from those years before and really got to know the other students and took everything very seriously.
How are you finding the role of Othello in your professional debut?
It’s amazing, the adrenaline coming on stage. I can’t describe it. The play is very emotional and it takes a lot physically, mentally and emotionally. When developing the character, I could never ignore what’s happened before. It’s one of the most iconic roles a black actor can play and for years I have idolised the Othellos that have gone before me. I had to find out what I could bring to the role. I think I bring vulnerability, as well as strength and authority. Also, as much as he is an authority figure, he is young and fun. That’s what’s different about this production. This Othello is a young general, so there is a young energy.
Do you have any self-care advice for actors taking on an emotionally challenging role like Othello?
Taking care of yourself is the most important thing. It’s about eating right. Also, I go running, go to the gym and meditate. It’s about finding those things that get you to a place that calms you.
Training: BA acting at ALRA (2012-13, 2018); Playing Up course with NYT (2010-11)
First professional role: Title role in Othello with English Touring Theatre (2018)
Agent: Jonathan Arun
Othello is touring the UK until November 24. More information is available at ett.org.uk