Acting: DC to London

Hey everyone, thanks for your patience - I know it's been nearly 7 months since I've posted.  Baby has been keeping me busy.

Thought I'd start with answering some questions a reader sent me many months ago. She's an actress from my home state of Maryland, got her BFA two years ago and is currently acting and writing in NYC:

1) How did your networking transfer from the US to the UK? Did you have to start over or could people in DC refer you?
When I first moved to London I had only two UK connections that I got from colleagues in DC: a British director who I worked with at The Folger Theatre and the uncle of an actor I knew from the Studio Theatre. Fortunately both were very helpful. The director, also an actor, recommended me to the first agency that took me on. My friend's uncle is an well-known American actor here. He not only showed me the ropes and became a dear friend, but was also a major reason I got cast opposite him in Oleanna at the Bolton Octagon (which turned out to be one of the most rewarding theatre experiences I've ever had).

So, yes I had some help which was invaluable, but I did essentially have to start all over again. Even my training and credits that were currency in DC didn't really translate in London. Networking is everything - so mine your contacts for anyone with a UK connection. You never know how it could help.

2) How many years had you worked in DC before moving to the UK?
Five years.

3) How did you find representation in the UK?
As I mentioned before, my director friend recommended me to an agency then I invited them to see me in Twelfth Night the Musical in Edinburgh. After that I had an interview and they took me on.

4) Are there many American roles available in the UK?
There are, but unfortunately quite a lot of British people get them. Or American celebs who fancy working in London. Yet, I have worked so there are roles and the pool of good American actors here is fairly small. Once you make yourself known as a strong American actor it becomes a little easier. But that takes time, persistence and hard work. And networking, strategy and intelligence. And youth and beauty don't hurt.

5) Are there many American actors in the UK?
There are a fair amount of North Americans over here, but only a small percentage work regularly. It can be done but it is a challenge. If you're young and able to go to drama school here in London that will be a big advantage. Also, American men seem to work more often than women but that's true whether you're American or not.

But let's end on a positive note. Yes it's hard but I know several North American actors in London who have inspiring careers here.  Some have worked at the RSC, the Royal Court, the West End, have thriving VO and video game careers, and a few regularly work in film and television. It can be done! Be bold, be brave, be positive and go for it.


Anonymous said…
It's true that finding work as a North American actor can be difficult here - especially as it's a small country to start with.

It's made more frustrating because as Kosha says, many American roles go to Brits. Why? All UK drama schools encourage 'mastery' of many accents, including standard American. Sadly, it's impossible to 'master' so many accents. Americans might think all Brits do great American accents, but it's not true. I've seen many an expensive London production with British actors, who have painfully uneven American accents. Even the productions that hire accent coaches!

Each time, I ask, "why didnt they just hire a native-accent actor, when there are so many here?" I think the North American Actors Association has been trying to encourage casting directors to consider 'real' North Americans. But it's an uphill battle.
Anonymous said…
If you are a young white male North American actor; or possibly a young white female, it's a bit easier to be cast here in the UK. If you're not super-young, or not white, it's much more difficult.

And even those parts often go to British actors. And 50% of the time, esp if it's an extended play, their accents are uneven.
Anonymous said…
Indeed, while many West End or off-West-end shows feature talented British actors doing good American accents, their efforts can be very uneven - especially if they're maintaining an accent for an entire show. One wonders how much of an effort casting directors make to find real American accents.

Case in point: DECADE, this past autumn, a play about 9/11 by Headlong (dir: Rupert Goold). An all-British cast. Many excellent and diverse American accents. But quite a bit of wobbliness - both momentary, and throughout some roles, attested to by these links:

Variety (review)

Wall Street Journal (comments):

Express UK (comments):

West End Whingers (comments):

Headlong did hire an accent coach, but his efforts seemed to be uneven, especially on the actress playing the waitress. A shame, because a play about such a historic and uniquely American tragedy entails making the audience beleive the accents are real. The wobbly accents ruined it for me, and the many North Americans I knew who saw it.

I wonder how many North American actors Headlong even saw for these roles.
Anonymous said…
I beg to differ. Managements are not concerned about charges of "discrimination" if they turn away whites. Non whites have the advantage and you will see evidence of it everywhere. I graduated a top drama school in London and had an offer from the National Theatre and still ended up tossed out of the UK due to not having a work permit. Meanwhile, when the gov't proceeded against an Indian family in the same manner it made front page status on various magazines. I discovered that the racial agenda of the Left (i.e. to "multi-cuturalize" the UK) does not include white Americans. Same for MP's. A number of people in Parliament advised me that there is no constituency for championing a white American whereas there is sympathy (and many votes on the line) when the issue is a non-white being threatened with deportation.

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