Film, TV and theatre actress Claire Louise Amias talks touring, filming and making a living through performing.
Claire, tell us where you’re from and when you first decided you wanted to act professionally.
I’m from Wolverhampton, and I first got interested in acting when I did work experience at the Harrow Arts Festival with Jane Ward, who was the producer. I got to talk to professional actors for the first time and they told me about the realities of the industry. Jane also runs the Central Youth Theatre in Wolverhampton and so I then did several plays with CYT.
How did you go about learning your craft and making it into a career/income?
Firstly I did a BA in Acting at Bretton Hall and started acting professionally whilst studying there. I even got into trouble for doing a show at the West Yorkshire Playhouse which overlapped with the first few weeks of my final ‘Professional Year’ at Bretton Hall. However, it was worth it as ‘Carnival Messiah’ was a fantastic show and having the WYP on my CV certainly helped me to get my first role after graduation. Some years later I went back to drama school and did an MA at RADA.
What was your first job? How was it?
My first job out of Bretton Hall was a touring production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, rehearsals for which started the day after the final performance of my last drama school show. It was an outdoor performance which toured around stately homes and castles. I had a whale of a time… I don’t think it was particularly well paid but I have a vivid memory of performing on a clifftop next to a stately home while looking at the sunset. The cast were lovely and when I finished the job I missed them all terribly as I’d felt they were a kind of family. Now I’m hardened to it, and I’m used to getting close to people and moving on to the next job.
How did you then go on to get further work?
From that job I got my first agent and did a fair bit of touring theatre, then I decided to move to London, did some fringe, got a new agent and landed some roles in feature films and commercials. I then did quite a bit of screen acting for a few years and that’s when I decided to do the MA at RADA to focus more on theatre again. Now I do a balance of stage and screen which makes me happy!
Tell us about life on a long-run in one venue and touring. What does a typical day/week/year look like?
I love touring (the novelty of seeing new places each week) but you have to pace yourself. Give yourself and other people space, yet still, socialise. But if you go out too much you’re burnt out before the end of the tour! You get into a rhythm of relaxing in the mornings and slowly revving up in the afternoons. And if you’re on tour and trying to dash back to see your partner for 24 hours per week you learn to reserve your energy. And be good to your body (find time to do exercise, and not drink too much or eat rubbish).
You’ve done work on stage and TV. Tell us how the processes differ for you Whether rehearsal time, time of production or anything else you’ve noticed.
On screen, you often get little to no rehearsal time with the cast and director, so it’s much more about your own preparation than on stage. You don’t have the same time to discover the role that you have in a theatre rehearsal process, or a long run of a play when the role will keep developing. However, it can be really exciting to find something in the moment on screen and then it’s captured by the camera… a moment that might not have been repeated. And of course, you get to do it again if you do it badly or mess up a line… if that happens live on stage you just have to try and make it work. Also, I do like the distillation of character and emotion that happens on screen.
What are your casting techniques and after that, preparation work for a play/TV show/film?
I like to have learnt my script and made some choices before the casting whenever possible. I try to think of an audition as a chance to perform rather than a test because then I can enjoy it.
When I’ve got a role in a play I’m a big fan of actioning and unit-ing a script (which takes a long time), but when working on screen I usually only split up a scene into units (bigger chunks of action), as I like to feel that I’m reacting to my fellow actors in the moment. I find Meisner technique great for this.
You’ve also done voiceover work. Tell us a bit about that process.
I’ve worked on audiobooks, commercials, documentary narration and corporate films. I’ve worked in studios and from home. I’ve set up my own mini studio and increasingly voiceover work is done this way. It can be very tiring but very rewarding artistically (particularly audio books and narration when it’s something you are passionate about). The kind of direction you get in the studio sometimes seems less creative than a rehearsal process for a play, but I try to reinterpret – so if they want it quieter, I might imagine telling it softly to a person in their ear. Similar result, but I feel I do a better job that way.
What have been your most interesting and challenging productions? Any interesting stories? Travelled much for work?
Working on a one-woman show has been one of the more challenging things I have worked on because it’s just you out there, no one to save you! Also, I worked on a German TV series where I was acting in English and everyone else was speaking in German. It turned out really well, but it was confusing at the time! The most travelling I’ve done with acting was a children’s play early on in my career. It was supported by the British Council. As well as touring around Europe we also went to Bahrain, which was culturally very interesting and an eye-opener to me at 22 – I’d never been out of Europe before then.
Are there any acting myths that people believe starting out that you can reveal aren’t true?
The idea that the profession is saturated with actresses, and there aren’t enough male actors is a false one. There are just way more roles for men on stage and screen and so there are more women going up for each female role. I helped out on a survey for ERA (Equal Representation for Actresses) and the ratio of male to female roles on screen is shocking – 3:1!
What advice can you give to somebody wanting to be a professional actor?
Get some training, be nice, be true to your own goals and don’t compare yourself to others or you will go mad!
Tell us what you’ve got coming up and what you’re up to at the moment.
I’m quite excited to be in a feature film, ‘Borley Rectory’, which is doing the international film festival circuit at present. It features Reece Shearsmith of ‘Inside No 9’ and ‘League of Gentlemen’ fame and it’s about a real-life ‘haunted house’ which was investigated by the famous ghost hunter Harry Price (played by Jonathan Rigby). I play one of the terrified residents, Mabel Smith, who lived there with her husband in the 1920s. It’s going to New York, Sydney, Toronto as well as a host of UK dates. I was recently at the screening at Grimmfest in Manchester and I took part in the cast and crew Q & A, interviews and signings – which was great fun.
I’m also touring my one-woman show about the first professional female writer and spy – ‘The Masks of Aphra Behn’. It’s an exciting Restoration tale which has had some lovely reviews and there are just two dates left at the moment – Stafford Gatehouse (on 20th October) and New Wimbledon Studio (on 28th October).
Information about the show can be found here: http://www.amonkeywithcymbals.co.uk/#/project-4/45...
And here is my personal website: http://www.clairelouiseamias.com/
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