Often, we start to hear about actors when they are cast in a major role and their career is taking off. However, before this moment can happen, there are the years of auditions, drama school and a lot of hard work. We wanted to know about what really happens in the early stages of an actor’s career. For this series, we interview a different actor about their career so far, about whether they went to drama school or not, and what they have learned along the way. This week: actor Hayley Mcfadyen, actor, writer and co-founder of the creative collective House of Rhymes.
RC: Hi Hayley! How did you first get into acting, and when did you realise you wanted to make a career out of it?
Hi! I first got into acting when I was in school, I realised when I was about 16 that I wanted to make a career out of it when I took it for GCSE and just fell in love with it, I got such a thrill out of performing and that’s why I am pursuing it now.
RC: Instead of going to drama school full time, you decided to do shorter courses at schools such as Central School of Speech and Drama, Identity School of Acting and American Academy of Dramatic Arts. What were the biggest benefits for you to study at various schools?
I feel like studying at multiple places gives you such a wide range of skills, different teachers teach you different things so why not have a choice of what training you wish you take forward in your career. I didn’t like everything I was taught, you have to find your own style and what works for you. I also loved how many people I met, the way forward in this industry is honestly about who you know, and I have met so many people and to this day I have had opportunities through those people.
RC: How do you think each school shaped you as an actress and what did you enjoy most about drama school in general?
Every bit of training I have had has meant that as an actress I have really experimented and explored my craft, when I studied in America it definitely took my confidence to the next level, I was one out of two English actors studying in the middle of Hollywood, I stayed on campus and was thrown straight into the deep end. I had singing lessons! I do not sing! By the end of the course I had to perform my own musical number with a pianist, if someone told me I had to do that before going I would have been terrified but I just felt so courageous in a different country, it made me really go for it! I had travelled all that way so why the bloody hell not! My short course at Central was unbelievable, I still have a very very good friend now from that course, which is so special. The training was such a high level and again I was really challenged, the course was filled with completely different people, different ages and abilities and it worked so well, I learnt so much from the other people as well as the teacher. What I enjoyed most about Drama School, in particular Identity, I was there for a year, was working alongside people for such a long period of time, the relationships really grew and therefore you become much more confident with each other and can really explore. I noticed myself growing a lot as a an actor working with the same people, its so sad when it ends, I hate things ending!
RC: You also trained with Frantic Assembly, a Physical Theatre Company, something that might not seem like an obvious choice compared to more traditional methods of study: what did you enjoy most about this different technique, how did it help you grow your craft?
Frantic Assembly are my favourite company, their shows give me chills every time, they are so clever and experimental and in my opinion really changed the direction of theatre. They push boundaries, and that’s why I was so eager to train with them. Their technique isn’t about the words or the script, the words come after the movement, its so unique and it blew my mind working with them, after my training that’s when the ideas for my play really started to grow in my head. It helped me think outside of the box, and how to work with sound and music, the training was so physical and it made me realise when you want to produce good work, working physically hard really benefits you, it gives you this adrenaline to push for more challenging ideas.
RC: With your career now steadily taking off over the past few years, what have been some of your biggest struggles in these early stages? And how do you keep yourself motivated to keep going?
I definitely struggled with hearing the word ‘no’ at the beginning, getting knock backs is hard but when it’s happened so many times you honestly just get used to it. I also struggled with knowing what jobs to go for, what jobs were right for me, only now do I know what direction I want to go in. I try to keep myself motivated by literally not stopping, might not be the best thing ever, as sometimes I burn myself out, but if I get a knock back, I am straight back out there looking for something else, its done now so keep moving forward, that way you don’t dwell on things or over-think. When you over-think that’s when doubt comes in.
RC: You have started writing your own work and co-founded House of Rhymes which centres on spoken word poetry. What made you get into writing, and do you find that it helps with your acting?
I got into writing a few years ago, after a break-up which is very cliche. It helped me get everything out of my head, my head is very busy all the time, if you cant tell! Writing naturally goes hand in hand with acting, after learning I could write poetry and spoken word, I wanted to tell stories with it, which led me onto writing a play. Im going to be honest, its really bloody hard, poetry and script writing are very different but I am determined to create something. Poetry has definitely made me look between the lines, when I read scripts I sometimes feel like I understand them better, maybe its just the poet in me, over thinking feelings haha, but it has definitely widened my knowledge of writing.
RC: The acting industry can be a very tough business to be in, especially in the beginning of your career. How has your experience been so far, are there any positives/negatives? What changes do you think the industry could benefit from?
My experience has been very mixed, I have had so many amazing opportunities that I am so grateful for, but it has also been a tough road with lots of tears! With that being said I don’t want it to be easy, its not meant to be easy, and then you don’t learn! Thats a very tough question, the Industry is so big and diverse. I think not just acting but any creative industry would benefit from providing financial support for artists, I understand you have to start somewhere 100%, but being paid for your craft beginning or not, should be a given, some credit to you for your talent should be a must, this is with all creative industries.
RC: As for the future, what are your biggest goals you hope to achieve?
Currently my biggest goal is to have my work performed, complete what I am writing and have people watch it and resonate with it! It makes me emotional even thinking about people seeing my work, how ridiculous! I also hope to play my dream role, whether that be something I have written or someone else, a role that I can really grab hold of.
RC: Lastly, what advice would you give someone wanting to go into acting?
I say go for it, you have nothing to lose! The journey itself is unbelievable anyway, so imagine making it at the end of that journey and how that feels!
Stage or screen?
All-time favourite performance?
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Saoirse Ronan in Ladybird
Best acting advice you ever got?
Whats your intention, that’s all that matters
Actor you’d love to work with?
Emma Stone, I love her so much
Follow Hayley here.
Photo by Ginny.