Sitting at my prize giving ceremony, amongst my peers, I glanced in the ceremony booklet. Many of my fellow classmates had their intended course and university of choice next to their names. I got to my name, and it was blank. Something inside of me jolted. Had I failed? Was I making the wrong choice? Little did I know that 6 years after completing my A Levels, I would be doing my dream job.
The life of an actor is never an easy one, especially getting started in the industry. Everyone has their own path, and some argue that professional training is not a necessity. But since I can remember, drama school has always been something I had wanted to do; training for 3 years to grow, make connections, and provide me with the skills necessary to make my career last a lifetime. However, this is all easier said than done.
After finishing A Levels with decent grades and no real prospects ahead, a gap year was on the horizon. But what to do with my time out? The answer: work, work, work. I got a Christmas temp job at John Lewis as a Sales Assistant, worked at a school in the kitchen (yes, I was a dinner lady), and also joined the after school care programme in the evenings helping 6 year olds with their homework. At the weekends, I taught dance at my mother’s Stagecoach franchise. I have always loved working with children so this was fairly fulfilling but hard work. Alongside this, I was desperately trying to fuel my passion for theatre, getting involved in every show under the sun, taking classes at my drama group (AGF Performing Arts), and getting as much experience as I could. But the big thing on my mind was my first attempt at auditioning for drama schools.
Which school was the one for me? How do I find the right monologue? I aim high, and always have, so after some research and time spent on various summer courses, I decided to audition at four schools: RADA, Bristol Old Vic theatre school, LAMDA and Guildhall. Go big or go home, right? After a little success, the inevitable rejections came. I knew that getting in first time would be a challenge but it still knocked me. In hindsight, I definitely wasn’t ready to train. I was diagnosed with type one diabetes in February 2008 and up until three years ago, was not in control and quite poorly. It took going to drama school to really sort myself out.
Then fortune struck, but not in the way I had ever imagined. One of the teachers at the school I was working at was moving back to her home in Vancouver, Canada. I knew her fairly well and had also looked after her two young children in after school care. She was in desperate need of a nanny, and wanted one who knew the kids. I simply asked what the job was, and in no time at all I was applying for a working visa (which was accepted), and moved to work as a nanny in Vancouver from August 2011-July 2012. I knew that all I would realistically be doing for the next year was auditioning again for drama schools, working more temp jobs and being stuck at home, so why not go and live a little? I can honestly say it was one of the most terrifying but wonderful experiences of my life. I learned so much, and took real responsibility for myself for the first time ever. Life experience counts, and I definitely gained a lot during those 10 months.
On my returning home, I booked to do two weeks at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school on their summer courses. Bristol had always interested me; when I first auditioned there I loved the vibe and felt it was somewhere I could be happy. And after those two weeks, I had my heart set.
The time came once more to put in my applications, but this time I broadened my choices; Bristol, RADA, LAMDA, Guildhall, Royal Welsh, RCS, Drama Centre. And on top of all of those, UCAS applications for two universities; Warwick and Queen Mary. Although I had never intended to go to uni, my parents were anxious for me to ‘get on’ with my life, and so for safety more than anything, advised me to apply for a couple of university courses I could be happy doing in the event that drama school was a miss.
Luckily, Bristol accepted me, against all the odds. And I haven’t looked back. I am now performing in my first professional show at the National Theatre in London. I was fortunate enough to work with the director, Sally Cookson, back in April on one of my grad shows. Life has a funny way of working, but keep the faith, prepare yourself for some serious knock backs, but most importantly, love what you do. I have had a little success so far, but I have plenty of failures to come. On this occasion, I was very lucky. And that has a massive part to play. Just know that 9 times out of 10, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the talent. But keep going…
As my dad says, “Best of luck, and score some goals!”
Jessica Temple, an Actor.