Anna Jobarteh started working as a healthcare assistant four years ago when she needed something flexible to fit around her acting. She tells Giverny Masso how her acting experience has helped in her medical role…
How did you get into acting?
I started when I was 13 years old. I joined Scream Theatre School in Blackpool, which had an agency attached. I started going to auditions and getting the parts. My first role was in Paradox on BBC One, then I did Waterloo Road for a couple of years and a few bits on CBBC. I did musical theatre when I was 16, then I went to college and got more into theatre. I’ve done more TV but theatre-wise I did a piece at London’s Park Theatre at the end of last year called When My Mama Was a Hittite.
When did you start working for the NHS?
Four years ago, I left college and I needed something flexible between acting jobs. I’d always been interested in medicine when I was younger; before acting came into my life I wanted to be a doctor or a vet. I ended up wanting to do nursing but I was told I needed to gain experience, so I got this job as a healthcare assistant where I can pick my own shifts and I love it. I decided not to study nursing because acting jobs kept popping up and it wasn’t practical. So I’ve been doing that for four years.
What is it like working during the pandemic?
I’d booked an acting role and was supposed to go away to start filming it at the end of March, but that’s on hold. So I’ve been doing full-time hours and there are still some regular wards in the hospital, but it’s all changed because we have to wear full personal protective equipment. I can be on a 13.5-hour shift and have to wear it all day. I can only take it off on breaks, which is very strange. I’ve been sticking to the general wards but there have been a few cases when I’ve had to go through the Covid-19 wards and it is incredibly sad to see what’s going on. Hats off to everyone who is working there all the time.
Has your acting experience helped in your medical job?
Being an actor helps me empathise with other people. We have to be in touch with our emotions as part of the profession, so that helps a lot. In cases of dementia patients that I’ve looked after, role-playing comes in handy, because sometimes they’re in a moment when they’re completely somewhere else and transported back to their childhood, and if you pull them out of that and try and say “you’re in hospital” it can distress them. So it’s about going along with whatever story they’re telling and being able to flow with that.
What are your future ambitions?
I’d love to get more involved in the theatre world. I’m a big fan of the National Theatre – I’ve been watching all the things it has been streaming online. Also, Shakespeare: In my acting classes with David Johnson – he’s brilliant – we were working on a lot of Shakespeare before we had to stop. It was something I was terrified of, but now I want to sink my teeth into it.
Training: David Johnson Drama (2016-present)
First professional role: Dionne in Paradox, BBC One (2009)
Agent: Mondi Associates
For more: thestage.co.uk/qa