This is Shaun's first blog entry for the 2006 production of Titus Andronicus, in which he talks about becoming an actor, acting for television and theatre, and preparing a role.
Transcript of Podcast
Becoming an actor
That's quite a long story. I’ve been acting since I was about seven but I didn’t really decide I wanted to become an actor until 2 or 3 years after drama college. It was my drama teachers at 16 who asked me what I was doing and I said ‘I have no idea but I’m not going to go to college with all the other mugs to do 2 or 3 years of subjects that I really don’t want to be doing’. They said ‘Fair enough, why don’t you do a drama foundation course?’ and I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about but it sounds good!’ It's a bit of a charmed story really - I’m very lucky. They got the applications forms for me, helped me fill them out and rehearsed my speeches with me and then I got into this drama foundation course. So I never really made the decision, I never said ‘Ooh this is what I want to do’ it was actually just the only thing I enjoyed doing at school. Then I got into drama college, went to RADA, came out when I was 21 but it was only about three years after drama college that I said to myself ‘Actually this is what I want to do so I better do it properly’.
Getting serious about acting
I think it was when a particular job went wrong that I thought that I had to make a living out of this for the rest of my life, like my dad who was a builder for all of his life and put a lot of work into it and is to this day still doing what he's doing, I just have to put the work in if I want to have any sort of longevity. If we’re working on the premise of potential, of my potential, then the premise is I’ve got to reach my potential before I die! I wasn’t in any way going to be reaching my potential the way that I was going. So I realised that I have to care a little bit more. I coasted a lot, I didn’t really work as hard as I could, didn’t really concentrate that much. As a result I could see that watching myself sometimes or having people comment on things they’d seen was different. I was very aware that I wasn’t doing as well as I actually could. That became boring to me. Since then, I’ve done everything that I could. For someone like me, for the longevity of my career it pays to have fingers in pies. I didn’t do theatre for 5 years because I was aware that there would always be a bit of theatre for me to do, but there wouldn’t necessarily always be the TV work there and I hadn’t done a lot of TV work at a certain point in my career way back then. So I decided to take some time out of theatre while I concentrated on film and TV. Now I’ve gone back to a play a year almost.
Differences between television and theatre
What I’m realising is that a lot of people used to say that acting for television and theatre is different and technically they are different because for television you don’t have to find that man who is 15-20 rows back, up in the Gods. That person in the theatre has to hear you, whereas there is no one like that on TV or film, you don’t have to be concentrating on that or those elements. I think the preparation that you put in, the way you work on your character, the questions you ask your character and the way in which you perform is pretty much the same.
Preparation for my role
Well I’m not very good at Shakespeare so I’ve had to go and work on this play myself. I had some help as well from my ex-RADA drama teacher, helping the sense of what you’re saying because Shakespeare is not in any way shape or form close to anything that I grew up with. So I need help. I’ve only done Shakespeare twice, professionally. At RADA we were doing it almost every day. The first time was 12 years ago and this is the second. The first time I did Shakespeare I played Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet. The way I prepared for that was very different to the way I’m preparing for this. That was in the days that I hadn’t quite worked out if I really wanted to be an actor or not, and so I didn’t work as hard, didn’t prepare as much, didn’t really care as much. I worked enough to know the lines, but as far as the deep preparation that we are putting in here is concerned I couldn’t really compare it. The Globe is very different, it's luxury here for the actors. You get the experts who are just around at your beck and call to help you with the sense of the text or the voice or the movement and Alexander technique and things like that. You can do the work yourself but you can also have someone sit you down and say ‘that's what that means’. That is luxury for me.
These comments are the actor's thoughts or ideas about the part as s/he goes through the rehearsal process – they are simply his/her own interpretations and frequently change as the rehearsal process progresses.