“I feel incredibly lucky that I got the opportunity to make my mistakes, and learn vital lessons at drama school” – Naomie Harris
Moonlight and James Bond star Naomie Harris has emerged as an actress who can tackle both blockbusters and award-winning indies with her immense talent. As a patron of Intermission Youth Theatre, Harris is very open about her belief that education is imperative for aspiring actors. Speaking with Vogue, Harris explains what value she derived from her acting education and why it’s important for aspiring actors to follow a similar path.
Harris argues that aspiring young actors aren’t prevented from practicing their craft through lack of trying. Instead, she says it is from lack of financial support to pursue that career. She says, “Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are being put off from entering the profession because they just don’t have the money to pay for training, which would once have been either free or subsidised by the government. This is a loss to those talented young people, as well as a loss to the profession as a whole as it’s not being fed with the diversity of talent it once was.”
While it won’t replace funded training, Harris eagerly shares the best advice she ever received while pursuing acting. She reveals, “I worked with Dawn French on a corporate training video when I was 19, and she told me that I needed to develop a thick skin to survive the acting profession. She was 100 per cent right! No matter how successful you become within the industry you will STILL encounter rejection and hear ‘NO’ on a weekly, if not daily, basis. To survive that, you have to develop strategies to protect the sensitivity and openness you need to act, while also creating a protective shield around you that ensures that you don’t take rejection personally. You have to be courageous and keep picking yourself up and going for auditions no matter how many times people in the business say ‘No’. ”
Other than that major piece of advice, what else does Harris recommend to aspiring actors? She’s willing to speak at length on the importance of training:
Training, training and more training! You need a very wide skill set to be an actor, as you never know what you’re going to be called on to do next. That’s both the joy and challenge of the profession. The best way to ensure that you are in the best possible position to secure your next job is to be versed in as many skills as you possibly can, and one way to do that is through training. As an actor, along with the basics of singing and dancing, I’ve been asked to horse ride, scuba dive, learn a new accent in the space of just a few days, speak a foreign language, fire machine guns, perform stunts and so much more. If I hadn’t gone to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and been trained in basic stunt work, and had the opportunity to perform a wide range of characters with different accents I would definitely have been at a disadvantage when auditioning as an aspiring actor. I feel incredibly lucky that I got the opportunity to make my mistakes, and learn vital lessons at drama school, rather than on a highly pressurised film set, or in a professional theatre. Young aspiring actors need to be provided with that same opportunity, it’s not a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity.