The ninth of our chats with actors who left drama school without representation, but have gone on to achieve incredible things is with the fabulous @jess_i_carroll
Name: Jessica Carroll
What is your current/ most recent credit?
Fishskin Trousers at the Park Theatre which is a beautiful three-hander monologue play set in Suffolk written by the superb Elizabeth Kuti. My most current voiceover credits are the new Thierry Mugler Aura perfume advert and playing Caja in the videogame Elex.
How did you find leaving Drama School?
Disheartening. I’d been given such wonderful roles in the final year plays and was so proud of what we’d all accomplished, but leaving without an agent was tough. I was a bit older than others in my year and had acted a bit on the fringe circuit (with no agent) before LAMDA so I was really hoping to have the backing of a good agent this time around. I’ve always had my head screwed on with regards to the acting world (my father was an actor) and I knew that not having representation didn’t mean I had no talent or that this was the end. So I pushed on. I’d always been aware of the voiceover industry and I made it my mission to break in to it and make it my earner. I’d always been told I would be successful in my 30s and 40s when the lines from some of the tough experiences I’d been through in my life finally started to show up, so I thought I’d bide my time until then behind a microphone; still using the muscles, still improvising.
How did you get your first professional job?
My first professional job, after LAMDA, was doing a lovely radio play for the BBC with Penelope Keith called Life Begins At Crawley, which David Blount directed. David had taught us radio at LAMDA and I’d represented the school in the Carleton Hobbs Radio Drama Competition so he knew my voice very well. My first professional voiceover job came from harassment! I decided I knew my voice well enough to know what it suited so I wrote some little scripts and went in to a cheap but very good studio and recorded separate reels for commercials, radio drama, cartoons and corporate work and I started sending them to anyone I could think of. Things began to happen, one job led to another and after 3 years of getting my own work, I secured a great voiceover agent.
What’s been your favourite job so far?
Fishskin Trousers. It’s a play that will stay with all of us forever and I’m hugely proud of it. I was directed by the brilliant Robert Price who had taught me voice at LAMDA and who above all else trusted me. I was given stunning words by award-winning playwright Elizabeth Kuti who listened to me and gave me freedom to create the most complex character - Mab, who goes through every emotion and is both funny and painfully sad. It was an absolute gift and bloomin’ hard work. A monologue play is a challenge that all actors should do at some point. Talking directly to an audience for half an hour stints is a brilliant and terrifying way to learn if you can keep people engaged! It’s also the play that resulted in me getting a fantastic acting agent, at last.
What is the advice you would offer to young people leaving drama school or the advice you’d give yourself looking back?
Work hard and then work a bit harder. I worked with a director at LAMDA, Gadi Roll, who said ‘I’m only interested in working with actors who put in 24 hours worth of work at the end of an 8 hour day’. You wouldn’t expect to become a doctor without putting in some time, so don’t expect to be given jobs without investing some time and dedication in to the industry. Also, everyone’s journey is different. Don’t get bogged down with looking at what other people are doing in their careers - it’s so damaging. I spent years thinking because I wasn’t as thin as someone else that I would never work; a common thought with actresses sadly. I’m really enjoying the fact that women are rising up against this nonsense and women of all shapes and sizes are appearing all over film and tv at last. Let’s keep fighting the good fight so that race, disability and all genders are represented equally too. Oh, and don’t forget to live your life! If you’re not one of the lucky ones to leave with an agent straight away don’t despair! Go get some life experience to fuel your performances...travel, get interested in politics, get your heart broken, write, go on a protest march and stay positive! It took Imelda Staunton nineteen years to get her first big break!
What do you think of (RE)PRESENTED as a project (is it something you’d have gone for)?
I wish (RE)PRESENTED had been there when I’d left! It’s an initiative that validates performers who don’t have agents and that’s very important. It’s very easy to get lost in this industry and start to let questions of self-worth chip away at you. An agent does not define a person’s talent. It’s such a catch-22; if you don’t have an agent, it’s very hard to get in something and you can’t get a good agent without being in something. (RE)PRESENTED is a chance to get a professional credit and invite industry along to watch. I think it would be really special to create a project with passionate people who’ve also been used to fighting their own corner.
Jessica is now represented by Katie Threlfall for acting and The Voiceover Gallery for Voice work.
Our first (RE)PRESENTED play - COMET will open at the Pleasance on the 28th February please click here to help us with our Indiegogo funding campaign! And here to book tickets: https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/comet#overview