1 – When did you first know you wanted to become an actor?
Well I didn’t to be honest. Performing has always been in my being from when I could walk and talk. From the practising dance routines with my twin brother to Tom Jones’ ” KISS” at 7, hilariously serenading the household with my attempt to sing opera at 16 to pretty much taking part in all manner of performing arts that was provided by my secondary school (which is specially a performing arts school!). Street dance, choir solo lead singing, contemporary dance etc and throughout all of this I was the ever-energetic class clown, the “character”. Looking back, I think I knew the performing arts was what I was to do in my future but I didn’t know that acting was to be my vehicle for my success. I didn’t find acting, acting found me.
2 – What did you first do about it?
Well, first of all I wasn’t very academic and having the constant reminder that my twin brother was the academic one, panicked me. The additional stigma that black people couldn’t make it because they were black often acted as an anchor to the kind of thinking that it would require for me to make bold, confident and conscious choices regarding my future. But glory to God for great teachers that genuinely wanted to help me! With the help of a music teacher and eventual course mentor I went on to do my Diploma in performing arts with which I passed with the highest marks on the board and this qualified me for drama school at Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. The irony is that I didn’t actually want to go to acting school at first Consciously my first love had been singing and I had been so comfortable in this art that I wanted to go and study something along those lines instead but my course mentor insisted that acting would open more doors and widen and deepen my skill set! So! I took the plunge and auditioned for what would have been my first time (with professional intentions)
3 – When did you first call yourself a professional actor?
Ha! Well I certainly didn’t feel like one when came out of Rose Bruford.
I’d spent most of the time fighting off the level of ignorance within the walls of a drama school based in a BNP lead part of Kent. It was an underlying distraction. To be fair they’d probably say the same thing about me in regards to the ignorance because I just didn’t know what I was doing half the time. My skills were nurtured but when came down to what it would take to do good acting, it just flew completely over my head. I didn’t understand at all. I felt like a baby goldfish in an ocean and no one knew what to do with the black girl who was a consistent, almost uncontrollable ball of energy. So I felt alone and defeated in my thinking of being “a professional”. I just remember not having anyone from the selection of acting teachers that I could really relate to. When I got out of Rosey B, I spent two years in the industry and it had felt harder than ever before and that was when I attended Identity Drama school. Within the first class, everything that I thought wasn’t there, came to life. What had happened was I constructed and strengthened the foundations of the fundamental principles of acting because when I got to Identity, I totally got it. I felt an overwhelmingly delighted and beautiful freedom in my brain. I shone and for the first time and I could identify with professionalism and was doing it in a very organic way. For me, professionalism didn’t mean the being the popular actress that the tutors adored in the training room or having the agent for the sake of it. The desire was growth. Growth of self, growth in my learning, growth in the craft, growth in my self esteem.
4 – Has it met your expectations being an actor?
Not yet. My journey has allowed me to experience firsthand what it’s truly going to take to reach my goals in the craft and it’s pretty huge because I want to be the best of the best. It’s like one, big, fat training ground with God as my teacher and I am firmly standing on the foundations in which he has helped me build. As far as I am concerned the training continues. Understanding the craft is one thing to get your head around but the industry itself is quite another!
5 – What are your hopes for the future of the acting profession?
Well like fellow actor Alvin Ikenwe, I also agree that racial stereotypes need to be thrown in the bin. The truth needs to be told and there are a wealth of stories that have endless possibilities attached to them. The ratio of students that attend drama schools, the actors and actresses that walk the red carpets and win a bafta or golden globe and the negative messages attached to any representation in the performing arts needs to level out. Ethnic minorities need to STOP thinking they can’t be a successful performing artist because they are black, Asian, Chinese, Indian etc and have more examples to look up to, whether it be an actor, mentor, tutor, teacher.