This is Mo's first blog post. This week he discusses how he became an actor, his experiences in drama school and the professional world of acting, and how he prepares for his part.
Transcript of Podcast
Becoming an actor
How did I get into acting? Well, when my parents split up, when I was a kid, I was home with my dad one Christmas Eve and he had to go to work. I was about six…I was at the house on my own and Bugsy Malone was on the TV and I watched it and I made two promises: I said I’m going to be in Bugsy Malone and I’m going to be an actor. And then we did the play at school and here I am! So that was it really. I just knew. I think it was kind of an escape route - being able to escape this life and be transported somewhere else.
I did amateur dramatics when I was younger. I was convinced I was the best actor in the world! We did a production of Guys and Dolls and I got one of the people in my children's home to come and watch me, convinced that he would be in tears. He was - but because it was so bad! I had a lot of work to do basically. For work experience at school, a lot of my mates went to architects’ offices and stuff, and I said I wanted to go to a theatre. The children's home was near Ashford in Kent and the nearest theatre - the nearest good theatre - was the Hazlitt Theatre in Maidstone and they were doing Godspell if I remember rightly. I was told I wouldn’t be able to do my work experience there but I fought and I got my to week placement. And I was in paradise!
I was fourteen at the time. There were all these really brattish kids who were working in the theatre and they went to a local stage school and I came back to the staff in the home saying ‘I want to go there. I want to go to that stage school.’ Now I’m really grateful they didn’t let me go and that instead I had to do my A levels and grind it out. So I did more amateur dramatics and applied for drama schools and got into Weber Douglas - it was just brilliant. I loved it. I loved everything about it.
When I was growing up in the children's home, I wasn’t allowed to go to the local grammar school because they made a decision - I don’t know why - to keep me at the comprehensive school. I was really cheesed off about it. All the people I used to go around with were thugs. Some of them are dead, some are in prison. I used to do my homework and they used to come and they would burn it - these were my friends! - and say, “You’re coming down the pub” so we’d end up getting drunk.
I’d been dumbing myself down in a sense, so when I came to drama school I remember (it's a bit corny) there was an old pub on the corner with sawdust on the floor with all these young, very pretentious people now looking back. I was wearing two different coloured baseball boots because I thought it looked really cool, a Converse red and black, I thought I looked really individual. And there was this friend wearing a trilby hat and a coat. When we got to know each other I admitted that I’d never worn those shoes before and he’d never worn that hat and coat. But it was cool because we were expressing ourselves.
Being an actor
I was doing really well, acting on TV and in films and going off on location for three months at a time but a lot of my friends are things like architects and doctors and stuff and I just thought what the hell am I doing? I got married and I was imagining my kids asking what did you do at work today daddy? Er, I dressed up as a girl. And so a few years in to my career I had a bit of a crisis - acting kind of didn’t make sense to me so I was retraining for a while, to take a degree in economics. I was really interested in that and that's something I will pursue I think one day. But then I got a really good part at the National and came back to my senses!
There was a period of time, where I was really ambivalent, for about seven years and it's really interesting. There's a big gap in my CV but I’m grateful for that…acting's good but it's also important to draw from other aspects of life because otherwise you’re just acting ‘acting’, if you see what I mean, and I think that's really boring actually. It's definitely important to be plugged into life. I would imagine that someone like Shakespeare I would imagine would have been very much involved seen or been privy to different aspects of and other walks of life it just makes for a richer experience for you and for the audience.
At drama school there was this teacher, Judith Jick, I don’t know how well known she was in the industry but she taught John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins at RADA so she was about 173,000 years old and she was brilliant. I remember getting up in front of the class to do Shakespeare and I said, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do it’. I was really nervous there were lots of girls and people at the school who were kind of posh and had stables and stuff. And she said to me, ‘What are you talking rubbish for? You’ll just make sense of it and say it. Don’t make a big fuss about it’. And because she unlocked that kind of thing around Shakespeare, and made it not just something for the upper classes, it let me in and I thought ‘Yeah, it's everyone's birthright’. You tap into it and think, ‘My God! It's a treasure trove’.
Funnily enough this is the first time that I’ve performed Shakespeare professionally. I left drama school in 1989 and I haven’t spoken Shakespeare professionally in all that time. Yeah! I can’t wait. I love it. This is my first love. My theory is that if you can do Shakespeare and Shakespearean comedy (because anyone can kind of rant and rave) if you can actually successfully do that I personally think you can do anything because it's just the most complex, brilliant and simple in it's complexity. But if you can tackle that you can do anything.
I think the reason I’ve not done Shakespeare professionally before is because people looked at my CV and saw a lot of film and TV. I entered the business for the art but when it came to payday I was corrupted! But now, without sounding too up myself, of course you want to do good projects and get paid loads but actually I would love regularly to do Shakespeare because it just nurtures. It's a multivitamin for the soul.
Preparation for the play
To prepare for my role I read the play and that's it. I just concentrated on the speaking of it. I kind of came into the Globe as a blank canvas. I wanted not to be putting too much into it and I‘m glad because there are so many good people here it's just great. So many big brains. I think it's going to be really exciting. The cast is fantastic and I’m so lucky because my character is only on stage at the beginning and the end of the play so I get to go to the bar in the middle! It's great. Aufidius goes on a complete journey and changes his mind about the main character so many times. I think the actor Brian Cox says I don’t mind how small the character I play is as long as the script has a beginning, a middle and an end and there's definitely that for my character. And I think he's as brave as or nearly as good as Coriolanus. I get to act with the main character and all the other excellent actors. And I get to have a sword!
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.