Nancy Zamit: Don’t be afraid of changing your stage name – do what feels right
As a young actor, people tell you when you first join Equity or Spotlight, or do your first panto in Hounslow shopping centre, that this is it. Whatever name you have written in that box is you for the rest of your life. You can’t change it because you have become a “professional” and you are your own “brand”.
This is something that for a long time I truly believed. I was scared that if I changed my name, all the training and hard work I had done would be lost, appearing on a old IMDB page from 1996, never to be seen again. This might scare you too. It shouldn’t.
I am currently performing in the West End. My company, Mischief Theatre, is behind The Play That Goes Wrong, Peter Pan Goes Wrong and The Comedy About a Bank Robbery. All three shows will be on in the West End this Christmas, and next year, I may move to New York to take The Play That Goes Wrong to Broadway. Still, I guarantee you that even if you’ve seen every single Mischief Theatre show over the last seven years, you will know me as “the smaller, slightly Hispanic-looking girl from that comedy show”. That is fine by me.
I recently got married and changed my name and, in turn, my stage name. This seems to have ruffled some feathers among my actor friends. People have been asking: “Why? What will it do to your career? How will people find you to employ you?” And I’ve had some slightly more risque reactions, such as “that’s quite an insult to your father”, “that’s not very feminist”, and “sounds a bit foreign – that’s not good for your casting bracket”.
Most of these are logical concerns, but it’s a bit iffy when people start questioning my fight for women’s equality for wanting to have the same name as my husband and future children. It’s even worse if you’re worried the person auditioning you might think your name sounds “too foreign”. These are not people I want to audition for. As for my father, when I told him I was changing my name, he said: “Your name could be Mudflapp Parchment for all I care, you’re still the same person.” He genuinely said that. I think he’s fine with it.
I am under no illusions that I am in an incredibly cushioned environment to change my name. I am under the umbrella of a company that is producing a lot of work at the moment. I understand how lucky I am for that.
The thing is, I am certain I would have done this at any point in my career because to me the best “branding” for yourself is to be happy and comfortable with your name, not feel like it’s lingering from when you first joined Equity as a freaked-out, overly ballsy drama grad.
I would much rather be “the smaller, Hispanic-looking one” to everyone than be stuck with a name that doesn’t feel like me anymore. To other performers thinking of making the same jump, I’d say: if Cheryl Fernandez-Versini can change her name that many times and still have a career and baby with Liam Payne, then so can you.
Nancy Zamit is appearing in The Comedy About a Bank Robbery at London’s Criterion Theatre
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