by Sherif Awad
I’m mixed heritage of English, Cuban and Jamaican. I was born and raised in Derbyshire, it's a very pretty countryside location. I grew up with my mum, it was just the two of us for a long time as my mum and dad separated when I was three. I loved dancing and I started taking classes when I was around 4 or 5, I absolutely loved it. I did Ballet, Tap and Modern and continued until I was around 14. I also used to play the Saxophone and was always in the school plays and I think I just always loved arts and entertainment although I was the only one. Nobody else in the family was particularly interested or had worked in these industries so it was a little difficult at first when I was young to explore my interests but I think if it’s what you love you will do it regardless!
-When I was a kid I loved Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. I had the film Moonwalker and I used to play it over and over again, Smooth Criminal and Bad..He was just incredible! Janet Jackson was amazing too and I used to play her albums in my bedroom a lot! Before I got into acting, I remember watching Al Pacino in TheGodfather and Carlito’s Way and Robert De Niro in Good fellas which were inevitably quite violent films however I was completely in awe of their acting despite them being males too! Females actors, I loved Jennifer Aniston growing up. My mum and I were obsessed with Friends and we had all the episodes and every series, and we would watch them all the time.
-These days you can be a creator and an artist without necessarily studying it however I do think it helps it is a better choice to study. I think with a lot of artistic subjects you feel this deep connection to it and for me I felt like I had so much inside me I wanted to express and do and I always came alive and at my most happy doing performing. I actually got a degree from university in Media and Cultural Studies from Nottingham Trent University which was quite a general degree, and I was dancing and modelling work outside my studies. However, as soon as I finished my degree I began working as a dancer and model before going into acting as well. I then studied at Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and Identity School of Acting. For me its more about the people you meet, learning about your craft and profession is just priceless. You can achieve things without studying but having the knowledge in your area of expertise is so empowering plus you can create a safe creative community and work with people who are into the same things as you! So there you go... Go study :-)
-I’m feeling in a very happy peaceful place in my life right now which is important especially with how 2020 has gone so far! I think it will be a year nobody will forget in a rush! I’m not attracted to stardom however I think my younger self got wrapped up in the idea of fame but in reality stardom is quite low on the priority list. I think most actors and artists would prefer to just be able to get the opportunities to create and work and share as much as they can to as many people as they can. At the core of it, that is what it’s about, not the money or fame.
-For me, I haven’t really had too many issues with my gender in my profession now. However, race and social class, I think, has been more of an issue. When I first started out in acting my first talent agent told me I would only get roles as prostitutes or as a maid. I was really confused as to why but also the perception of my place in society. It was a really hard time as it felt like every door was firmly closed trying to breakthrough with acting and women of colour were not getting exposed or given a positive image or inspirational roles in acting. I do believe things have changed now a lot though.
-I think with everything happening with coronavirus and the pandemic it has changed the creative industries a lot and how people work. I think it can be an exciting time going forward as it’s a good time for new creations and artists and content to be made and capturing the mood post-lockdown in the UK will be interesting. It has been a huge year politically with Brexit and the pandemic and protests with BLM. The arts and entertainment industry is changing a lot from this and I personally feel like its progressive and optimistic changes.
-Casting is always a tricky business. Well my experience of castings has been vast! I’ve been to many! Rushing across town trying to find the studios. I’ve had a few funny ones, I remember my agent sent me to a commercial casting once. It was for a Chinese product and they wanted me to speak Mandarin to camera promoting the product! Needless to say, I didn’t get the role. Nowadays, there is a lot more done virtually and I guess with castings it’s just about building those relationships with people and finding your ‘people too’ There is a whole range of tastes and people working in the industry and you need to connect with people who you are comfortable with and can work with.
-For new offers, It really depends on what the work is. If it’s an acting role, then I like to talk with the director first and just learn about the character and story that is going to be created and build that vision together. Then it’s about doing your job as an actor really and what you can bring to the role.
-Probably my first ever acting job was my best achievement so far. I did a play in London in the west end, it was only a profit share but I was so proud of myself as breaking into acting before I had trained too was really difficult. I found the job myself and approached the writer and director and they offered me an audition. I was handing out flyers for a gym on The Strand in London when I got a call. I got the part and it was such an achievement and the beginning of me really falling in love with acting when I was doing that job and also the start of my career!
-I also teach Zumba and a programme called Flex and Flow which is Yoga and Thai Chi. I love teaching Zumba. It's so much fun and feel- good energy plus the music is just the best! Yoga and Thai Chi are also amazing and I think really help me too with my acting especially if you are doing something that is taking a lot of energy mentally and emotionally.
-My advice to newcomers would be to don’t be afraid to explore your creativity. If you want to get into acting, look for classes in your area and go and try it out! Research people and stories you like. Read plays and find things you want to perform. If you really want to take acting seriously, you must be prepared for the life you have chosen and do not have any expectations from it as it can be a tough road and from my own experience I think you need to be strong to keep going with it but enjoy it! Acting IS a fun job but be prepared for a lot of work.
-These days, I really like to keep my private life separate from my professional work as I find it gives me much more peace and balance not to have everything feel like it is all running the same. Everybody is different but I do prefer to have my work and personal life as different entities so I have a little safe sanctuary away from everything else! I think it is much better.
-I’m currently teaching Zumba and Thai Chi/ Yoga online. I've partnered with a sports travel company called No Boundaries, you can check them out at www.noboundaries.co.uk and subscribe! I’m finishing a script I have been writing for a few years now. I’ve written a few sketches before for screen however this is my first full length feature. I’m also working on a filming project but with lockdown and the pandemic this year, it has been delayed and it's still in the early stages, so I cannot say what it is yet!
You can keep up to date with everything going on with me on my website at https://www.annishiacamillalunette.com/