I was fortunate enough to be asked to be part of this mentoring scheme, having been put forward by The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. And I was even more fortunate to be paired up with Michael Sheen. Being born in Port Talbot and being interested in the arts, from a young age, I was very aware of who Michael was. His name was used more and more as I grew up due to him getting more and more recognition. Wanting to have a career similar to that of Michael’s, I was intent on getting as much as I could out of this opportunity.
We started our walk where he began the final scene of The Passion in Port Talbot. As we walked down the back of Tanygroes street and he started talking about the birth of the play, I could see straight away that the passion that drove the project into becoming a reality over two years was very much still there. We directed ourselves towards the town centre and Michael got talking about his journey from drama school. Michael explained to me how he’d chosen to do plays that some people had advised him against doing, but his own passion and instinct told him differently. He has no regrets about the decisions he made and that got me thinking; is it better to be an actor in a high profile, weak play or an actor in a lower profile, quality piece of theatre? This conversation solidified which one I’d prefer.
After helping a few fans have a picture taken with the man who played Jesus on their own streets, we got talking about what all young actors fear… Unemployment. Michael assured me that he never suffered from that worry, because, although along the line he may have been ‘unemployed,’ he never felt it because he was always working on something – whether it was writing his own script, or starting up his own theatre company. The secret was ‘you make your own work.’ Those of us that got into the industry for the art and creativity have no excuse. We can make our own work just as easily as having it offered to us. It keeps you thinking, creative and alive. As Michael said, ‘Work breeds more work’.
As we came to the end of our walk, I unloaded my worries about being judged or pigeon holed because of my Welsh accent. Surely Downton Abbey would never cast me as I am?! The response was the best lesson I had all day. ‘Be yourself. You have nowhere to go if you’re already acting a character. Go in and show them YOU and how you’re best for that part. And if they don’t like you because of your accent, even if you smashed it? You probably don’t want to work with them anyway.’
As we said our goodbyes I felt a relief – a weight coming off my shoulders that had been there since graduation, I’d realised it’s not about ‘will I ever work?’ or ‘will I ever get my big break?’ I do this because I’m passionate about it and I love what I do. If you work hard and do it for all the right reasons, you can’t really fail. I may not be in a blockbuster film one day, but I can be recognised and proud of what I’ve done.
It was a brilliant day, and speaking to a successful actor who’d been there and done that, did wonders for my sanity. Now its just a question of waiting to see if his advice pays off!
By Luke Bridgeman
Luke is a graduate of RWCMD and recently appeared in the hit play “Land of Our Fathers” at Theatre 503. He is represented by the agency Emptage Hallett http://www.emptagehallett.co.uk/cardiff.htm