An actress speaks: Thought process

by Hayley Mcfadyen

As actors we are always working towards some kind of personal goal: whether that’s Film, TV or Theatre, we all want to act, but what we want to act in is specific to each of us. Working towards a goal non-stop is hard and you need to be mentally prepared for it. Sometimes I burn myself out and I’ve only just started to get to grips with how to make sure that doesn’t happen. I don’t think that I’m an advocate for positive thinking all the time, no-one is, but there are things that help me that others may benefit from, or at least resonate with.

After an audition/self-tape I tend to think about it all the time, analysing it over and over again, wondering if I impressed them, over thinking my outfit choice, really stupid things that are not important, I massively over-think with lots of things, maybe too much at times.

 It’s important to always be improving yourself and sometimes thinking about it can highlight things you could do differently next time, but there is no reason to overthink it once it’s over. When it’s over it’s over.

After an audition there are various things I do. Sometimes I go and do something different to take my mind off it. I will try not to think about the possibility of getting the job or the feeling in my stomach if I don’t get the job; I just fill my day with something else. I enjoy people watching, I think most people do. I like sitting down and having a good coffee somewhere where I can people watch. Sometimes it’s nice to take the focus off of yourself, especially when the audition was so intense. It is easier said than done, yes, but I find that it helps me to not feel so consumed by the audition, and allows me to actually have a day to myself. If that doesn’t work and I find myself thinking about it and I can’t distract myself I allow myself 10 minutes to think about it non-stop – think about all my worries – but only for 10 minutes. Once that time is over I challenge my thought process to stop thinking about it and move on. If either of these exercises fail, then I turn to writing. I will either free write or try to concentrate on actually writing a more organised piece. The writing helps get your thoughts out of your head and on to paper, plus it creates some work out of your anxiety. Some of my best writing comes from feeling anxious, from writing in the moment without thinking too much.

One of the biggest obstacles we all face as actors is rejection. It can either push us or hold us back, depending on how we deal with it. Everyone is different in their response to it. I have found it varies depending on various circumstances: what was the job or how I felt at the time. I personally find that believing that some doors close for others to open helps me rationalise the rejection, and also trust that it wasn’t meant to be. You are not going to get every job you audition for, obviously, and sometimes that rejection makes you work harder, because it makes you want the next job even more than the first. If I get something too easy I don’t appreciate it as much, I also fear that if it happens too often I can get lazy. This means that the job/audition isn’t challenging me. I like to work hard, I feel like most people get a buzz off of working hard, and I think after a lot of rejection, it is a much better feeling when you finally get something. It feels like you have earned it, and also deserved it.

Being female amongst an abundance of other females – all striving to find great roles out there – can be hard. Especially as our job can be a lot about comparing: we are constantly being compared to other actors, that’s part of the auditioning process, but we also constantly compare ourselves to others. I am definitely someone who looks at people and thinks ‘I wish I looked like them’, and that is so bad! I should never wish to be anyone but myself, but I feel like I am always comparing myself to other people, always wanting what I haven’t got, rather than appreciating what I have.

It is hard to stand out, when every other actor around you looks the same in some auditions. But that is why you have to figure your own thing, which takes time. I haven’t exactly found mine yet, there are still bits I need to figure out, but I am definitely heading in the right direction and know what twist to put on a script to make it different to me. Working with Lee has allowed me to find my take on a script, to not just do it like everyone else, but like me. Every actor out there is different in their own way; if Jessica Barden played Christine in the film ‘Ladybird’ it would be completely different despite the script being the same, because she brings her own uniqueness.

I find that I have this tomboy side of me, this part of me that’s laid back, to the point and masculine in some way. This is where I would enjoy playing gritty roles, maybe even dark ones. I believe this is unique to me as I can switch it on with any script, even if the script doesn’t naturally read for this casting. I don’t think that I have it all figured out, but I do think that we can get wrapped up in wanting to be someone else, or wanting to be like another actor when really – that is the opposite of what we should be doing. The industry needs new and fresh people with their own take on a script

About Hayley: An actor, poet and co-founder of House of Rhymes, a spoken word and live music evening based in London. House of Rhymes took on Vault Festival at the beginning of the year and sold out, along with its two other events since being created. Hayley has performed at the Cockpit Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre as well as the Lyric Hammersmith as part of the 2019 Evolution Festival. Hayley is currently writing her own play, as well as collaborating with artists to create some sounds for her spoken word, striving to create tracks, in the hope that people will resonate more with poetry.

An actress speaks: Pressure

by Hayley Mcfadyen

I personally suffer from the pressures of most things around me in life, not just acting and the overwhelming industry itself. Pressure can benefit us and push us, some of my best work comes from being switched on. But it can also cause problems which don’t need to be there. Pressure mostly comes from myself. I have very high expectations of myself and sometimes if I slip up or mess up an audition I am the only one that I disappoint. Only now have I come to terms with the damage it can cause when you overwhelm yourself with pressure, and over time the more I have relaxed the better actor I have become. 

As females I think we have quite a lot of pressure to deal with. It is very easy to compare yourself to other people, especially with how we look and how the media can portray us. As actors how we look is – unfortunately – key to what roles we play, not all, but some.

Casting types are there for a reason, the director wants to tell the story, writers have an image in their head that they want to fulfil and that’s okay. However, it is also okay to not fit that. If you are too tall or not the right size it is not the end of the world, I think it’s important to know what roles you fit, and not buckle under the pressures of fitting everything. This helps the feeling of being disappointed, there are some roles out there which I may not be able to play and never be able to play, this can be for all sorts of reasons, some older roles can have great depth which I like, however, I need to be patient until I can play those roles, focus on the things that are in your control right now. On the other hand I definitely feel like we can alter areas to fit the role, Alicia Vikander trained really hard for her role of Lara croft, her tiny frame was transformed into muscle so she could do her own stunts in Tomb Raider. There are definitely things everyone is capable of if they put their mind to it, and we don’t always have to play our casting types, we can escape that box if we believe we can do it.

I think one of the biggest pressures I face as a female is saying yes, and feeling obliged to do things, rather than being comfortable with it. Everyone has a personal limit and a comfort zone and to come out of it you need to feel comfortable, that comes above anything else. I am a very open person and I am usually very good at coming out of my comfort zone but there have been times when the boundary has been crossed and I wasn’t honest and it bothered me later on that I never said anything at the time. As actors we are constantly putting ourselves in vulnerable situations, going into auditions, meeting new people all the time in different places.

It is important as a female to be streetwise and be careful when walking into rooms. Sometimes you may not even know what the audition entails until you walk into it and you need to be confident with your boundaries. If you feel discomfort for whatever reason, just because you are in the room doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, most people would prefer you to speak up than do something which you’re clearly not comfortable with or confused about. Obviously every situation is very different, and what I say does not relate to all of them, but what I am trying to say is to be more mindful of yourself, you should always be feeling comfortable and happy with what you’re doing. This will also in turn create a better performance because you are more relaxed and comfortable to play. 

Another pressure which I have only discovered recently is the pressure of questions. Questions from all kinds of people outside the industry. What we do in our own time is personal, what jobs we have in the pipeline we don’t always want to say, superstition and all of that. Therefore I find that I am constantly dodging the conversation with people about how my auditions are going or what I am up to.

Maybe this is just me, I don’t know, but I do think some people will resonate to some parts of what I am saying. This industry is hard and we wouldn’t do it unless we loved it and sometimes taking on such a big challenge can create pressure to prove to people that we can hack it. Sometimes not having anything to say to people that ask me questions can get to me, try not to let that happen, you know yourself and what you’re doing in terms of your craft.  Sometimes keeping things to yourself is okay, I personally don’t like to jinx things. It sounds silly, but I hope other actors will understand this: when a job is really exciting you don’t always want to talk about it incase it doesn’t happen, you don’t want it to become real until the very last minute. Keeping things to yourself is okay, don’t feel pressure to always divulge. 

About Hayley: An actor, poet and co-founder of House of Rhymes, a spoken word and live music evening based in London. House of Rhymes took on Vault Festival at the beginning of the year and sold out, along with its two other events since being created. Hayley has performed at the Cockpit Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre as well as the Lyric Hammersmith as part of the 2019 Evolution Festival. Hayley is currently writing her own play, as well as collaborating with artists to create some sounds for her spoken word, striving to create tracks, in the hope that people will resonate more with poetry.

Objectives: If you’re excited so are we

Finding an objective is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of preparation for an actor. Regardless of the approach/philosophy or practice, finding the character’s objective is paramount for understanding the text and enabling yourself to “step into” the shoes of the character. So why does it still trip so many actors up?

Firstly, for anyone completely new to acting an objective is 1 of 2 things and sometimes both. What does the character want from the scene? What does the character want from the other character(s) in the scene?

Why is it 2 things?

More often than not the objective requires one character getting something from the other character in the scene. This is typically what an objective would be. However it is important to take into consideration the master objective too, the through thread of the story, the hero’s journey. By the character getting what they need from the other character it may well enable them to get closer to their master objective.

I’m going to use an example from Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Please watch the clip below (up until around 1:30 as this is where the objective changes) and come up with your own objectives for both characters:

Okay, so a seemingly self explanatory scene, some of the more common suggestions from my students were:

Alonzo wants to explain why he murdered the guy.

Alonzo wants to defend himself.

Jake wants Alonzo to understand he doesn’t agree with him.

Jake wants Alonzo to follow the rules of the police.

Okay cool, so there were some other options/variants but mostly in the same ball park and whilst these are valid objectives they’re not hugely exciting and won’t help in enabling you to find the stakes in the scene.

Once you’ve made a decision on an objective that you’re happy with I want you to get into the habit of asking yourself why?

This small added step will revolutionise your ability to choose a strong objective.

Acting’s about humanity right? It’s why we watch films and theatre, we want to relate, want to see human beings experiencing life to perhaps exorcise our own demons, to not feel so fucking lonely, to see that “oh shit, people feel like that too.” I chose depressing reasons on purpose, of course sometimes it’s nice to just relax and have a glass of wine too, but we still want to be moved.

As actors it’s our job to put that humanity into the script, our own humanity – because that’s all we have. So lets make our objectives something to get excited about. Choose an objective that turns you on. Yes. You should be excited by your work or else what’s the point? 

Here’s my suggestions for this scene:

Alonzo wants to show Jake that it’s a fucking dog eat dog world, get real or get killed.

Jake wants Alonzo to wake up and see that he’s completely morally bankrupt and no better than the criminals

Okay? Bit better. That’s something that makes me want to get up and perform. I understand that, it sparks a feeling in me, something deep and primal! And just like that I’m loaded and ready to go, no emotional prep, no sitting in silence for 5 minutes whilst I “get into character” – give me the script and let me at the other actor. 

That’s what an objective should be and that’s why you should always ask yourself Why?

Alonzo wants to explain why he murdered the guy.


He thinks Jake’s soft. He thinks Jake lives in a cotton bud world. He thinks Jake’s green. Alonzo wants Jake to stop being so naive and get with the program etc. You see my point here, let’s tap into the imagination, let your mind run wild for a moment and then come back to the text. 

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. Get your prep right. And it starts with the objective.

Thanks for reading.