Friday, 26 June 2009

The end of the moonwalk?

My hairdresser Luigi and I have a theory. We think that Michael is still alive and well. That he isn't dead at all.

Actually, our theory goes further. We think that there's a mystery island somewhere in the Pacific (where else?) where mega celebrities retire to when they get tired of being icons. It's by invitation only. Their death is announced, they are buried, their families, fans and the world at large go into media coverage meltdown, and their estates make a a mint from the PR.

What actually happens, is that they pack a little suitcase (there's a hand luggage only policy) and board a chartered flight to this mystery island where they live out the end of their days in peace, wearing simple cotton clothing, no make-up, no entourage, no phones, no cameras, no TV's and no computers. They fish, they weave, they do yoga and tai chi. They grow pot bellies and beards (or armpit hair if they're women) and no longer care about wrinkles or bald spots. There are no mirrors, no press, no gyms and it's sunny everyday. They wear big floppy hats to keep the sun off and live in simple huts made of local materials.

They eat simple island food. No special diets, no ordering off menu.

It's a great crowd: JFK, his brother Robert, and Marilyn (but not Jackie O), Elvis (Michael's ex-father in law), Robert Johnson (he of the deal-with-devil-at-the-crossroad fame), John Lennon, George Harrison and Linda McCartney, Nathalie Wood, Lady Diana, Robert Maxwell and of course now Michael Jackson. This list is not exhaustive and there are other famous people there as well.

So that's our theory. Michael had had enough and decided to join the ultimate celebrity club.

He'll have to lose the sequined glove and face masks and the toys and antiques - and the monkey (no pets allowed). But that's ok. Me and Luigi think he's ready for a change.

Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life Michael, rest well my friend, you've certainly earned it.

Monday, 22 June 2009

I have a lazy soft palate

I now it sounds at best like something rude (and vaguely pornographic) and at worst like some alien deformity of the maxila but it's neither. It's a concept that comes up when you're doing voice or pronunciation exercices or - as in my case - taking accent lessons.
First of all, let's define "soft palate". Run the tip of your tongue (try not to do this in public) from the back of your top teeth towards the back of your throat. At one point, you'll find the palate lifts a bit and becomes spongy - rather than hard. That's the soft palate.
Some people are can raise and lower their soft palate very easily. Some of us struggle with this - because we have a "lazy" soft palate. One of the signs of a lazy soft palate is an unwanted nasality (which means honking sounds through your nose) on some sounds. One way to check for this is to say: "fill this up" and then repeat it but this time holding your nose. If both versions sound the same, then there's no nasality, if they sound different, then you may have a lazy soft palate issue.
It's reversible, to a point. They give you exercises: gegegegegegegegege GA, kekekekekekekekekekek KA, etc... to wake up the soft palate and hopefully allow you to make certain sounds the way God intended.
Believe it or not - and contrary to what some non-native speaking accent coaches will tell you, not all vowels are nasal in the General American Accent. Actually, surprisingly few are. So if you pronounce them with nasality, you're off the mark.
In many ways, an actor's training is closer to an anatomy class than people realise. It's often about bits of your body that don't behave like they should. And here's the thing, they're not a problem in everyday real life. No one would notice a thing. But when it comes to acting, these little imperfections can really show up like great big flaws. None of them require surgery - plastic or otherwise - only good old practice and training.
And here's the catch: as soon as you stop practicing... the problem comes back! The body naturally gravitates back to what it's always done. So there's no letting up. It's practice practice practice, day in and day out. Whether you're working or not.
I have a lazy soft palate. Gegegegegegegegegegege GA!

Friday, 19 June 2009

My First Interview

I had my first interview this morning.

Really? Cool! Who with? Vogue?


Marie Claire?


The Daily Telegraph?

No. I don't fiddle with my taxes or expenses.


Yes I'm here.

Hello the magazine!



Oh please!

Who then?

Southwark News.

South what?

No. Me neither. It's a local paper. Part of Heinz's grassroot (read free) PR around their new "invisible bottle" advert for ketchup in which I play a starring role.

Oohh. Did you get to sit in a posh hotel lobby?

No. It was a phone interview. Had a call from a girl at the Heinz press office this morning, apologising for the phone interview not taking place last night as scheduled (they were meant to call between 5 and 9pm... you'd think that was a big enough window...) and wondering if I was free "now." As she'd interrupted my American Accent practice session, I thought I might as well go through with it "now."

Two minutes later, my phone rang again. The journo was on a bus. And only had a few pence credit left on her mobile. (I'm not making this up.) So it had to be pretty quick. She asked me how long I'd lived in the area (a long time), how long I'd been acting (not very long), how I got the part (my agent was doing his job), where I was from (kept it vague - she said I sounded South African), and finally, what I contributed to Southwark as an area (council tax). Then she said thank you, good bye. I said thank you and good bye. And she hung up.

It was overwhelmingly anticlimatic really. Plus I have PMT and a mysterious crink in my neck so I wasn't at my most sociable. Could I possibly have made more out of it? No.

Still, the Heinz ad is getting huge coverage. I've had an editor I know contact me about it, ex-colleagues from my advertising days, the manager at my local Virgin Active gym, a total stranger in my Pilates class, my favourite yoga teacher George etc... I'm just hoping the casting directors are seeing it too and making a mental note to cast me in EVERYTHING from now on.

Monday, 8 June 2009

You've got the face for a mineral water advert

I finally got an audition for a mineral water TV commercial, to run in France!!

Let's keep our excitement under wraps as... uh.... I don't have the job yet.

But it was promising. First of all, I've got the face for it. Healthy glowing skin even with minimal make-up, and a general healthy vibe. A face that says "I don't drink, smoke or do drugs, and I don't party like a wild animal. I eat healthy. And I go to bed early, me."

I also had a healthy glow because I had just walked to the casting session from home, at a good clip, in 40 minutes.

I flirted shamelessly with the boy at the front desk and he agreed that I deserved the part more that any of the other girls they were seeing that day. It made me feel good. Shame they won't be asking him for his opinion.

There were 2 girls waiting to go before me. One was a very tall, very drawn and thin (her knees were thinner than my wrists), and quite frankly rather unhealthy girl with lanky blond hair and sallow skin. I don't think she screamed "natural vitality and mineral water". The other girl had a nice athletic build (and a bottle of branded water in hand. Bitch). But she had a very hard rather agressive set to her face, that didn't look like friendly vitality to me.

Then it was my turn.

The character's name in the script was Isabelle. That's always a good sign and I made sure to mention it to the casting lady. I think she thought I was a bit eccentric.

The audition was quite tricky actually. Casting wanted me to be energetic but with a natural delivery straight to camera and show three different states of mind for the three bits of the scripts. To be delivered in fluent French.

BRING IT ON BABY! That last bit went fine. My French accent is flawless (afterall, I grew up there) but as I know I'm naturally quite theatrical and dramatic in my manner, a natural delivery is always a bit tricky (I usually end up doing "depressed") but I DID MY BEST.

They had me do it twice. They said "that's all for now." which I immediately assumed meant that I would be seeing them again and then I was out into the sunshine. And on a current of optimism and mineral water-induced well being, I walked all the way back home.

Oh, and I did all this with the dregs of a really bad cold I've been nursing since last Friday. What a pro!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Baby, you age well!

The text message beeped on my mobile. It was from my agent. They have this snazzy new system that alerts you to the time, address and contact for an audition, plus sends you more details by email. FAN - TAS - TIC.

It was for a feature film. E - VEN BET - TER.

With two up and coming casting directors. GREAT!!!

When I called my agent to confirm, we hit a snag.

"You're going to have to look a lot older."

"How much older?"


"Well, that's not too bad. At least it's not 80!"

"I told them that today's 45 look 30. I guess it all depends on how old the girl is that they'll be casting as your daughter. She's meant to be 25-30." (It turns out that my part was mean to be 45 -55.)

"Will do my best!"

"Try not wearing any make-up." (Unfortunately, I tend to look younger without any make-up. Tired and drawn, but younger. It's strong make-up that ages me.)

So here I am. As it happens, I slept badly and I've caught someone's cold so I'm definitely not looking my freshest.

The thing is, this is all good news. Thanks to my agent's doggedness, I'm getting in front of not one but two young and hungry casting directors.

Watch this space...