Chris Connaughton [intextperformance]
How did you begin acting?
Like many others, I began acting as a hobby in school when I was about 14. It was just about the first time I had found something that I thought I was any good at, and that I really enjoyed. Of course it improved my self confidence and that made me feel good about myself and made me want to do more.
At what stage in your career did you realise that acting could be something you do professionally?
My drama teacher helped me to get into Manchester Youth Theatre when I was 17. Acting was still just a fun hobby at this stage, something I never really thought I could earn money at. At youth theatre I met up with other people my age who were already applying to drama college and talking about it as a viable career. Some of them already had their Equity cards (British actor's union, and pass to working professionally in Theatre, TV or Film) I saw them taking it seriously and thought, 'I'm as good as them, why don't I try?'
My experiences there eventually led to me taking the plunge after my A level exams, to try out for drama colleges in London.
Please list an Internet address where one can see something about you.
I now run my own company, Intext Performance which produces plays, stories and drama events for young audiences. go to www.intextperformance.com to find out more.
I also write fantasy adventure novels for children. www.thebeltheronpathway.com has lots of info about the books, the world of Beltheron, extracts to read, artwork etc (and a shopping page so you can buy the books!)
You can follow me on twitter as well @intextchris
Please list the most important or defining jobs of your career.
Working with Durham Theatre Company in the 1990s allowed me to develop my acting skills and technique with a couple of great, fascinating (and difficult!) directors, Cliff Burnett and Steve Rawsthorne (also from Hull Truck Theatre). The plays I acted in under their direction pushed me into a whole new area of thought. they opened me out into a more rounded performer. The two handed play 'Exchanging Glances' written and directed by Rawsthorne is possibly still the play I enjoyed being in most.
Meeting and collaborating with Paul Harman was probably the single most important professional connection I ever made. Paul has worked for over 30 years developing Theatre for Young Audiences, is a respected figure throughout the world, and made me work harder than anyone else!
After 10 years of working on my own material and running Intext Performance, Shelley O'Brian asked me to work with her company to play Benedick in 'Much Ado About Nothing' during an open air season of plays. It got me back into thinking as an actor in an ensemble. The whole company was a joy to be with and that has to stand out as my favourite all round experience.
Please list any famous performances that have helped you in reference to your evolution in acting.
I will never forget seeing Derek Jacobi playing Cyrano de Bergerac at the RSC in the mid 80s. He was at the height of his power, the production was full-blown, over the top, exhilerating, funny, unbelievably exciting to a 20 year old student actor.
Robert Lindsey's Hamlet directed by Braham Murray for the Royal Exchange Theatre revolutionised how I thought about performing Shakespeare (when I started playing my Hamlet, years later, there was his ghost on stage too!)
Please list three actors and three actresses that you like.
Three? Only three? OK today it's Kenneth Branagh, Paul Newman (all time movie hero) and Tom Wilkinson, but there are so many, and for so many different reasons.
Judi Dench, Amy Adams and Susan Sarandon, but again, ask me tomorrow and I'll give you three more...
What type of psychological, physical, and emotional preparation do you do before a performance?
General voice and body warm up, stretching, singing, etc.
Quiet before the performance. Running over what I have to do in the next hour or so. Focus on the moment.
What is your criteria in determining which projects you select?
Nowadays I'm lucky, I pick and choose projects that I want to work on because Intext Performance (just about) pays the bills. So I only do things that interest me, things that I would like to watch, or that offer a new idea I haven't come across before.
In the old days, as a jobbing actor, I have to be honest and say I took a job because it paid.
What type of communication do you normally establish with directors?
You have to be open to their ideas, but ready with some of your own. It differs with every director. every one is looking for something different out of you.
What is the archetypal character in which you tend to be typecast?
Don't think I am.
Has there been a role that has been especially difficult for you?
Not a role, maybe a production or two!!
Do you see yourself working in this field in twenty years?
Until I drop!
What do you do to kill time during waiting periods at casting calls?
Don't get them any more (see above re Intext Performance). Used to watch the others coming in and going out.
Are you continuing to educate yourself through acting classes, seminars, or other courses? Do you combine this with your normal job?
Haven't for some time, although I know I should. I go to festivals as a delegate, which has kind of taken over.
Is there any fetish role you haven't interpreted yet, but that you have in your head to do one day?
According to your experience, please describe the best and worst of each medium: cinema, theatre, television.
Cinema and TV: The worst - The waiting around. The Best - the money.
Theatre: The Worst - the money. the best - the sound of the audience, communication with them.
Is there any scene or role that you would never interpret due to personal morals, principles, or taboos?
I could never do anything that positively endorsed a political point of view (or a religious standpoint) that I disagreed with - but I would relish playing someone that made you actively think about the issues involved. Anything else I could do without question.
Morals? You're asking actors!
Could you say that your tools as an actor pertain to a certain school or concrete method?
No, your method and technique should grow and develop with every job and every experience you have.
Which director would you like to read this interview? What type of role would you like for him/her to offer you?
Kenneth Branagh, and I would carry a spear for him.
Have you ever thought of giving up on the profession? If yes, when and why?
Yes, in the past, when it looked impossible to actually make a living without doing acting jobs that were just bad and uncreative.
Nowadays I just give up on what the tabloid media imagines the profession to be.
One personal reason why to keep doing this work
I am alive when I am doing it.
How do you feel when people recognise you on the street?
Oh for that to happen! Occasionally children recognise me if I've been to their school, or if a show that I was in has been repeated on tv. Happy and a little embarrassed I suppose. Hope I haven't got spinach in my teeth.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in acting?
See everything you can, get involved in as much as you can (safely, with reputable people) read as much as you can.