Esme Sears balances careers in dentistry and acting. As part of a series of Q&As celebrating the contributions of theatremakers during the coronavirus crisis, Sears tells Giverny Masso about how she has been working alongside her mother in a care home during lockdown…
How did you get into both dentistry and performance?
I loved science at school, as well as performing. I did dance since I was three and have played an instrument since I was five, so was always a bit of an all-rounder. I applied for dentistry, but missed my grades by a tiny amount, so I’ve taken a very long route. I studied microbiology, then business. While doing that, I reapplied for dentistry. I went to dental school and decided to keep up all my performance skills, so I kept up singing, joined numerous theatre companies and kept playing instruments. I finished dental school, worked for a couple of years and saved up everything I could. I ended up in one job at a hospital where I was very unhappy, so during that time I started applying for drama schools.
What happened next?
I took the leap and went to Drama Studio London, and more people were supportive than I expected. Some thought I was mad, and questioned why I was giving up a full-time career, but I thought: ‘Life’s too short’ and I would look back and regret not going when I had the chance. My motto is to follow your dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. That’s why I came into this industry and did the dental career as well.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
I’ve been writing music and I play the ukulele, so that’s kept me occupied. Obviously my dental work ceased, and my mum suggested I work with her, which is at a mental health home for older adults. I have an interest in mental health and I’ve found it very rewarding. I work alongside my mum, feeding residents and keeping them entertained – I did sing for them once.
Have your acting skills helped in this role?
Communication is a massive part of healthcare and I spend a lot of time just talking to the residents. There’s a lot to do in terms of general care, but sometimes they just need someone to chat to, and they tell you lots of stories about their past and their families. As actors we love finding out about characters. I can be quite shy and have found that working in healthcare, you don’t need to say much, but can listen quite a lot because people want to tell you things.
What kind of work do you want to do more of in the future?
I want to do work that tells stories about people like me or my cultural heritage; I’m a black British actress of Caribbean heritage and I haven’t really had that opportunity to tell those stories. I don’t know if it’s because there are not a lot of pieces that tell those stories or whether I’m not getting those opportunities yet, but that’s something that’s important to me. The Black Lives Matter movement is something I’m passionate about, and I think we are going to see some big changes in the industry.
Training: Postgraduateacting diploma, Drama Studio London (2013-14); musical theatre course, Associated Studios, London (2017)
First professional role: A Christmas Carol, Derby Theatre (2014)
Agent: Simon and How Associates