The second of our interviews with actors who left drama school without representation but have gone on to achieve incredible things is with the lovely @Shazia_K
Name: Shazia Nicholls
What is your current/most recent credit?
I've just finished a show at the Soho Theatre called The Scar Test. It's a play by Hannah Khalil about Yarl's Wood. A detention centre for migrant women in the U.K. It's been a huge challenge but also incredibly eye opening. I didn't know anything about detention in the U.K before and it's shocking. We're the only european country that allows indefinite detention and the system is in desperate need of reform.
How did you find leaving drama school?
Leaving drama school was terrifying at first because I didn't have an agent, and I really thought that was it! I didn't get a single meeting after duologues and and by the end of my final year I'd only had one meeting and no agent. I struggled to get auditions at first but eventually I was recommended for jobs by people I'd met at drama school and got an agent the following year. It's so easy to feel like you're getting left behind when other people are signing with big agents and going to huge auditions in your final year but even if you don't have an agent, people will have seen you in shows and will remember you.
How did you get your first professional job?
I was recommended by a friend of mine from drama school to a director he knew, Sara Joyce for my very first job, which was the Soho Young Playwrights' project. She hired me and is now a very good friend too and we've worked together several times since, including The Scar Test. The next job I got after auditioning for a casting director who saw me in my duologue showcase. I got my first TV job on Doctor Foster because a bunch of graduates were called on to do a reading for Mike Bartlett so he could hear the scripts. After a couple of read-throughs they offered me a part. At the time there was no way I could have ever imagined I'd get a telly job, I'd never even been up for a TV audition since leaving LAMDA!
Whats been your favourite job so far?
I love a bit of Shakespeare and earlier this year I got to do Twelfth Night for the Orange Tree theatre with the best group of people. We became really close and I know it sounds really cheesy but it made me realise how incredible it is to have a job where you're constantly meeting new people. I've also loved working on The Scar Test and being in a show that sparks debate and ignites a bit of passion in the post show discussions.
What is the advice you would offer to young people leaving drama school over the next few weeks, or the advice you'd give yourself looking back?
I know it's mentioned a lot and I definitely heard this advice before but I don't think I fully took it in: everyone's path and career is so completely different. Comparing yourself to others is exhausting and ultimately pointless. I spent so long trying to work out what I needed to do to get myself certain auditions or jobs, but the best jobs I've had have come out of nowhere. I could have had absolutely no way of knowing they were around the corner.
Keep in touch with people that you've worked with, let them know what you're up to and what they can come see you in. Write. Work with people in your year or other creatives that you know and make things happen for yourself. It sounds easy, and it isn't but it's worth it. Not just because sometimes they turn into opportunities for people to see more of your work but because they give you a chance to reconnect with why you want to do this job and the kind of work that you want to see put on.
Particularly as an ethnic minority actor, it can be frustrating to feel like the opportunities aren't there but it can be hugely empowering to develop work that you would want to see. At the moment I'm working on a web series written by a friend of mine, Bryan Moriarty, from LAMDA. Sometimes it is the quiet patches when you cook up the most exciting stuff.
Also the other thing I would say is no agent is better than a bad agent. I had a few experiences before my agent at the moment where I didn't feel the fit was right but I was very keen to be represented as soon as possible. I'm so fortunate with my representation at the moment because I know they understand and support the kind of work I want to do and that hasn't always been the case. So take your time and trust your gut.
What do you think of (RE)PRESENTED as a project (is it something you'd have gone for)?
I think (RE)PRESENTED is an incredible opportunity, and definitely something I'd have applied for. When I left drama school there was IdeasTap which was a great resource. It's so important to take the initiative yourself and apply for anything you can get your hands on. I had moments of waiting for things to happen to me or auditions to drop into my lap, but if you look around there are always opportunities to get proactive about and this is a particularly brilliant one.
Shazia is now represented by CDA Theatrical Agency.
To apply for (RE)PRESENTED please click here and fill in the online registration form. Applications are open until 1st November 2017.