PHOTO COURTESY: Arklin Wendel
How and when did you first get into performing?
I started at the age of 16. I had my first feature film “Different for Girls”, directed by Richard Spence, starring Richard Graves and Steven Mackintosh who I played in his school days. It was a very tough role for a 16 year old to play, where I was beaten in a shower and put through some tough scenes. One was walking through a corridor with hundreds of school kids who were abusive and throwing stones at me, which really hit me hard. I remember thinking at the time, being so sensitive to my characters struggles and challenges didn’t make me a good actor. When they were casting the hit film “Beautiful Thing” my agent told me the director thought I was not emotionally strong enough to handle the lead role. I was crushed, but I know now this sensitivity is what makes me the actor I am. As all actors know, rejection is part of the game we choose to play.
What type of training have you had, if any?
I was awarded a working scholarship at well respected drama school in London, formerly known as Corona Academy, that’s where my inspiration to act continued. Ravenscourt Theatre School has trained and turned out many inspiring performers on Stage, TV and Film.
At stage school, in the mornings we were taught all the normal academic lessons and my afternoons were taken up in the joys of training – acting/dance/mime etc and all aspects of theatre. As the school was attached to various casting agents, my week would also be spent being chaperoned to numerous castings. I learned from an early age how to present myself to agents, casting directors and how to perform in front of and behind the camera.
I was fortunate that I was selected for dozens of TV commercials, voiceovers and films which took me around the world. My first job was as a Kool-Aid Kid, I remember running in a harness hanging from the ceiling till I got dizzy to the point of fainting, but I was not wanting to disappoint the director. However, it makes me laugh to think about it now. After that, I was often cast in TV commercials, for McDonald’s, to the cool Heinz kid on the skateboard, or diving into a football sized margarine tub for St Ives Gold. I was on the set of Four Weddings and a Funeral at 14, Andie Macdowell told me I should model and gave me the confidence and encouragement to see some agents, which led to more photographic work.
I performed on stage in the theatre production of “Once upon a Mime” and took the lead as Bugsy in ‘Bugsy Malone’. At 16, I left Ravenscourt Theatre School as my interest in dancing grew. I was awarded a Scholarship at the renowned Urdang Academy of Dance. I was trained in all aspects of dance and graduated at 19. This is when I started my career on my own. I was a regular on shows like Top of the Pops which was a childhood dream of mine and CD UK. I have also appeared on stage in many UK venues such as; Royal Albert Hall playing the lead role in Adam and Eve and I toured with Girls Aloud on 3 UK tours as a backing dancer -this is where I found my lifelong friend Nadine Coyle (who I am now godfather to her beautiful baby girl Aniya) and performed with them at all the biggest venues in England, including Wembley Arena and the O2 and also touring around Europe. I also worked with Tina Turner, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls and many other great stars.
After many years working as a dancer and still hungry for my knowledge I trained at The Actors Temple in London. I rekindled my love and desire to become an actor and following further training I landed my first feature film “Wedding Most Strange” which was shown at the Montreal Film Festival.
My career took off internationally when I was offered to star in “Word on the Street” with my sister Ashlie. This was a BBC Worldwide Language Program which has been aired around the globe. It takes a fun way of combining drama with real life, helping foreign students to become more familiar with the English Language. Three series later and our fans of over 150 million viewers in 40 different countries are eagerly awaiting to see if it will continue into a fourth series. So, watch this space. Most recently “Obscene” directed by award winning Director Fred Olivieira was shot in Portugal at the end of 2015 and is an International short film which is currently picking up gold and silver awards across Europe and at the Film Craft Lusos Awards, Lisbon.
What has been your favorite role to play so far and why?
If I had to choose it would be “Word on the Street”, Sharing the screen with my sister really was fun and after shooting over five years, the whole crew and production team become a more like a family. Shooting and travelling are two of my biggest passions.
What has been one of the biggest achievements of your career so far?
Firstly, to be able to do charity work, like taking terminally ill children to Lapland to meet Santa Claus, that was the most rewarding thing that I’ve been able to do. Also, “Word on the Street” has helped so many kids all over the world come to grips with the English language even if they cannot go to school, its always so lovely receiving their messages of thanks and support, knowing that there’s young people all over the world who have benefitted from watching us.
What are your plans for the future?
I am presently looking forward to seeing more of the world and taking on roles that will really challenge me. I’m working on a film called ‘Boys’ which is inspired by losing a very close friend of mine and is being made in his memory. This is a collaboration with Mark Wakeling and The Actors Temple in London.
Who would you most love to work alongside and why?
I’d love to work with the director Michael Christofer, that would be a great honor! Gia and Original Sin are two of my favorite movies. Being in American Horror Story would be a dream gig for me and getting to play different characters every season. I would love that it would be so much fun!
This journey I am on, will be taking me to LA next and It feels right. I can’t wait to meet and collaborate with several of my friends and contact I have out there.
What is your best piece of advice to aspiring artists and performers?
My advice to all aspiring performers is to work hard, listen to instructions, make friends with those you meet along the way, be respectful and look after your mind and body- as it is your instrument. You will have many setbacks, challenges and obstacles and its not uncommon to question yourself sometimes but remember, never give up on your dreams. I was dyslexic as a child and acting was something I thought I would never be able to do. Paper work and scripts used to scare me a lot, now they’re actually helping me to travel the world and fulfill my dreams.