This bulletin was composed with questions sent in by the schools that adopted James Garnon.
Transcript of Podcast
How do you cope with warm weather in costume?
It has been very, very warm in costume. The only way to cope is to sweat. A lot. And drink lots of water. We also have a bucket with cold flannels backstage which we slap on the back of our necks when we come off.
Do you think it is vital to go to Drama School if you want to be an actor?
It is not vital to go to Drama School; I know working actors who didn’t, but I think I’m right in saying that all of them wish they had. It is invaluable to have so long to really concentrate on developing your own skills. You also learn so much about how the industry works that is difficult to learn otherwise and can help you to get a good agent when you leave. Having a good agent really is vital.
What are your goals for the next twelve months?
I try not to set myself goals. As an actor one has so little power you are more likely to become frustrated than achieve specific ambitions. I have been offered Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream in February, however, and hope to do some TV before that and then I’d like nothing better than to return to The Globe next Spring/Summer. Here's hoping.
Would you like to play Romeo or do you think Mercutio is more interesting?
Romeo is a very much harder part to play than Mercutio. Not only is it longer and requires many more emotional states to be played, but the writing often makes Romeo less attractive than people think he should be, so audiences can be disappointed with the actor even if he plays it well. I also don’t think of myself as a leading young actor, more as a character actor. This may change but that is where I think I am now.
Do you have any special tips for learning lines?
All I do to learn lines is start with the first one, learn it, say it, move on to the next, learn it, say the first and second lines, move on to the next, learn it, say the first, second and third lines and so on and so on until I can say the whole thing. I have no tricks or tips. It is long and slow and painful and there it is (of course the longer you’ve been doing it the easier things go in). Oh! One tip with Shakespeare is to learn your lines beating out the poetry stress (called the iambic pentameter) which goes di-dum / di-dum / di-dum / di-dum / di-dum. That way you always know when you forget a word because it won’t scan.
We are putting on a production of ‘Grease’ at school in July – did you take part in any school productions when you were at school?
I did act at secondary school, yes, though never in a musical – not having the sweetest voice. I didn’t act much then but played Edward IV in Richard III by Shakespeare, and the Judge in a play called Whose Life is it Anyway? as well as lots of sketch/comedy shows we wrote. I didn’t act much at school because I think I was kind of put off by all the “theatrical types” that did. I was always quite shy at school. It took me a while to discover I had no need to be.
How do you deal with critic's reviews?
A critic is only one person in an audience of many. As an actor, you work for weeks on a play and have to tell yourself you know it better than anyone. If the critic says unkind things, you just read them and decide if they are right or not. If they are right you try and change it, and if they’re wrong, you ignore them. The key though is whether or not you think the audience as a whole is happy.
How did you become an actor?
When I left University and sat down and thought “What do I do well?”, “What could I do for the rest of my life?” I thought of journalism, and the Law and things like that, but all of them seemed to me to involve making people unhappy somehow. Hopefully an actor only makes people unhappy in plays and cannot hurt anyone. Besides, acting is fun, so I applied to Drama School and I was lucky and got accepted. That's all there is to it.
Which scenes do you find hardest to act?
For me, the hardest scenes to act are always changing. Just when you think you’re getting something right, you see something else that could be better. All scenes are the same like that. The hardest scenes to rehearse, however, are the ones you die in or kiss in or do something else that makes you feel embarrassed or silly. You just have to screw your courage up and forget about it.
Where did you train, and for how long?
I trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London for three years. It was fantastic. I was lucky and got an agent when I left, and have worked more or less ever since.
What's the difference between playing Mercutio at the Globe and in a more modern space?
Playing in the Globe is different mainly because you get to talk directly to the audience members. We have no stage lights so we can see them all and use them as people you talk about. The audience is always the biggest character in the play at the Globe. Mercutio is especially good fun to play here because I get to talk and play so much with that biggest of characters.