Spotlight profile

I have a guilty pleasure of putting salted caramel on most savoury foods. It could be chicken wings, beans on toast, scrambled eggs. There aren’t many things I wouldn’t put it on.”

© Michael Shelford

What kind of actor do you aspire to be?
I want to be the kind of actor who is studious. One who’s preparation combined with a wild imagination is the fuel for which I can have total freedom in a space. Since embarking on my drama school journey, it’s been important for me to be well versed in social affairs which has enabled me to form a unique perception on social occurrences. It’s crucial that I have a strong set of principles and values for which I can reunite with no matter how far a character might pull me from them. Always working from an open and generous heart and readily available to be changed in ways that I didn’t expect. I wish to tell stories that I have a visceral connection with, and in doing so, with a sharpened sensitivity and always fully committed, hopefully I can positively impact someone in the process. In partnership with those qualities, I never want to lose my sense of humour and the relaxed energy that I bring to an environment. I aspire to be an actor who’s humility is at my core, who’s respect and gratitude is always present and unwavering.

What performance piece did you choose for the showcase and why?
I did a piece from the film, ‘Collateral Beauty’, written by Allan Loeb. I came across this piece in the midst of the moments where we were seeing the Coronavirus at its most fatal state. Families were losing loved ones prematurely and still are all over the country. The NHS was at the point of being inundated with the amount of people needing to hospitalised and everywhere you turned there was a communal feeling of fear and dread. The piece personifies death, and through this, recognises the need for family and friends left behind, to allocate liability for someones early passing. The majority of the world understands that this virus running rampant and claiming the lives of so many isn’t one person or one sole entity’s fault, but I don’t think this dissolves the feeling of needing something or someone to be responsible, out of severe pain and anguish. I wanted to give those people a voice, a way in which they felt they might expel some of their frustrations, even if for a moment, so they could just breathe. The monologue does an exceptional job at authenticating the thoughts and emotions of a person who has lost someone too soon. Despite all the platitudes that people offer to aid the healing of someone’s grief and the promises of life after death that is at the foundation of many religions, there is a person in true pain. A pain that makes irrelevant people’s condolences and words of healing (though I’m sure they’re appreciated) or any scripture that talks of eternal life. All of this is of no importance when the only thing that can make a person struck with this kind of grief feel whole again, is the return of the one they love.

‘Collateral Beauty’ by Allan Loeb

© Michael Shelford

What book, theatre, film or TV production has most inspired you?
To date, the most inspirational series I have watched is ‘This is us,’ on Amazon Prime. Aside from the show’s incredible storytelling and the phenomenal writing, this show has a unique way of making all the characters so incredibly relatable. Each character has a story to tell, and no character’s main use is to usher the movement of a more prominent character within the text. The characters you love the most, possess flaws you didn’t know such inherently good people could have, but this is why they are so true to life and easy to empathise with, because life is full of good people who at times make bad choices. The show gifts the audience the opportunity of seeing life through the perspective of the people dearest to us. Family, friends, colleagues etc. and allows us to be affected by the pain and triumph of people’s realities we may possibly never come to understand until we walk in their shoes. It was after this show that a new appreciation of my parents came to be. As children we never really think about our parents having a whole reality that we’re not at the centre of. Struggles they may have, be it financially, tensions within their relationship and widowhood among other things. This show offered to me a true and accurate understanding of what parenthood is, giving me an even more resounding sense of gratitude toward my own.

© Michael Shelford

How have you been keeping creative during lockdown?

I spent a lot of time during lockdown recording new music and bettering my skills in the production of music. Music to me is so collaborative and I often come up with the best ideas when I’m bouncing them off inspiration from my incredibly talented mates. Sticking at it over lockdown was hard at times considering it was just me and four walls, but lockdown has taught me to be kinder to myself. Not everything I create will be a perfect masterpiece, sometimes it was out of my failings that beautiful things emerged.

Emile John’s Spotlight Prize video diary