On Small Roles

How to play a small role? I’ve no idea.

How to get into one? Read along…

It is generally acknowledged – in the world of acting – that there is no such thing as a small role.

A role is what you make of it. I firmly believe that, and that’s why I was actually pretty excited about this new role I’m playing (the maid) in The House of Bernarda Alba. I’ve always loved watching plays where the small roles (characters with less lines basically) blow my mind. I’m not playing this character with that intention but I’m loving the challenge of finding out who she is when there isn’t that much information about her on the text.

Some of my character’s lines are announcements for example, and I’m finding it challenging to play those lines intentionally but without pulling the focus too much. In some cases I’m not on stage for a long time and then I suddenly appear to deliver one line without interacting with anyone so I‘ve had to find a way of keeping things both simple but meaningful.

So how have I done this?

1. Going old school. Not only have I written a whole bio but I’ve gone detective mode and created a story board with objectives, obstacles, props to play with, timelines, etc. This has been crucial for me to know where my character is coming from, where is she going an why. I know a lot of actors do this with their characters but there’s a lot I’ve had to imagine/invent myself to fill in the gaps for all those scenes my character is not on stage.

2. Channeling my character’s inner animal. In this case, I’m a chameleon. Keeping that in mind has helped me to find my character’s physicality and even play intentions accordingly. I chose a chameleon based on the information I had of my character on the script. I then researched more about chameleons and with that I’ve been able to bring more playfulness to my actions.

3. Thinking about what my relationship is with each character. I stole this one from an actress I’m currently working with. I thought it was brilliant especially when you don’t have many lines. Sometimes a look can say much more than any word so thinking about how I relate to each character in the play has definitely given me something to play with.

4. Finally, squeezing the juice out of each word. Good writers are clever with their words even when they might not have written many for a certain character. Although I’ve intellectualised my character’s intentions, I’ve been warming up my voice by saying my lines and sensing how they sit in my gut. This exercise has made me fully understand my intentions, action them in a certain way or change them altogether.

So there, now I only hope this malarkey has actually been a sensible use of my time! It’s certainly been fun enough 🙂

Detective Style Character Story Board

Channeling chameleon

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‘This job is so mine’ (or is it?)


It is indeed awesome when you book a job after having given up on it ages ago. Sometimes you hear about a job rather quickly, but sometimes it takes a while. In those times, the wait is hard, especially when you felt like you nailed the audition – you mastered the script, took direction confidently, left everyone in the room smiling AND the casting director congratulated you for your amazing performance: ‘This job is so mine!’ Ah, but then you don’t hear back, you give it two days and then either you a) give it more thought (and get so low you consider giving up your acting career…because on top of it all it was for an educational video, not Stranger Things) or you let it go and move on to what’s next (let it be another audition or a heated battle with your strong-willed toddler to change his nappy 🙋🏻). You most certainly have a better time if you choose option b (believe it or not…), AND more importantly when they actually DO ring you to offer you the job it comes as such a surprise that you humbly realize you had indeed been awesome at the audition! There’s no room for cockiness in the audition room I think; with time I’ve learned that letting go is the best way to stay both humble and confident when the offer does come your way.

Chilled Mode – When Less is More

Hey! Been ages. Lots since I was last here. Been busy acting, been busy wife-ing, been busy mummying. I’m on my way to casting right now. This pic is of me today having breakfast at home with my little one before heading off.


My attitude towards my acting life has become much more chilled since becoming a mum. I have less time to worry or get nervous…or even prepare for auditions/jobs which I admit makes me a little anxious. However, the more experience I have in this business, the more I realize it’s important not to over-think or over-prepare. I didn’t think I did this but now I realize I did. I still learn my lines and do my research of course but I don’t have much time to prepare my delivery as I used to so I trust that my instinct will guide me…and it does! Sometimes I get the job and many times I don’t, but I’ve been absolutely loving being surprised by what I may bring to the table.

This change has been so crucial that I no longer fear auditioning. I actually look forward to the unexpected. I think that that makes me much more present and hopefully much more interesting to look at. It doesn’t always work of course; being a mum has also meant I’m sleep deprived and sleep deprivation severely messes up with your head so I struggle with being in the moment when all I can think of is sleep! However, all in all, the spontaneity that I see in my child everyday I’ve been applying at work and it feels, oh so very good.

In terms of bits of work I’ve done recently, I’ve been doing quite a bit of acting corporate jobs which are always cash-nice and I recently was in a short film called Conscript directed by Oliver Brown which is being selected for different film festivals (fun), and another short film called Babies by my mate and awesome director Martin O’Brien.

Have been auditioning, have been being rejected, have been working, have been having lots of fun. Grateful I love my job.

My encounter with broccoli and a note on Acting 101.


So as some of you may know, I got cast in a BBCOne show called Apple Tree Yard, starring Emily Watson and Ben Chaplin. This is my first TV job and I am THRILLED. I’ve got two scenes and literally two lines in total so please let’s not start talking about winning a BAFTA.

One of those scenes was shot last week and I’m here to tell you about how it went. Actually, that’s not true, it went well so there you go. I’m here to share with you about the two most momentous moments (alliteration!) of the day.

Firstly, I was happily hanging out with myself in my trailer when someone knocked on my door to tell me that lunch was ready…As I sat down and started munching the yummy food away, I suddenly realized I was frantically cutting the broccoli on my plate. I then saw that the rest of the food  had nearly disappeared. I was hungry but there was no need to devour the food like that. Or was there? I was so anxious about the whole experience I was frantic, rushed, spinning. I held the last piece of broccoli on my plate with my fingers, looked and it and took the decision of eating it as slowly as I possibly could. I tasted every single bit of that broccoli, my chin muscles relaxed and consequently everything in my body too. What I learnt? Quite literally, be delicate and careful in your moves, as it translates into delicacy and carefulness in your soul.

Secondly, I was on set, we were nearly at the end of the shoot, my scene being the last one. I had said my line quite a few times already, it felt like at that point I knew what I was doing. Then the director said: ‘Jimena, can you hear the audience giggling?’ (My character is sort of talking to an audience in the scene). I said: ‘Yes, I can’. She said: ‘Could you react to them?’ I mean, hello?! 🙈 That’s embarrassing. To be honest, I think the director genuinely wanted to know if I could hear them so she could ask them whether or not they needed to be louder. I internally excused myself by saying: ‘Oh, I don’t think my character would mind them so I chose not to react to them’. Except that, that internal thought was a lie. I did hear them but I was so selfishly focused on my ONE line delivery, I just didn’t care about anything else. What did this remind me of? Real acting is not about ME but about the people I’m playing with. The real magic comes from my character reacting to what the other actors are generously (or not,whatever ) giving me. I learned this on my first acting class ever, so going back to basics is always a good move I guess.

More soon! X

Mum is Back

Hello there,

It’s been a while since I last wrote something here. My life is SO different now I sometimes don’t know who I am. HA! That’s sort of funny and slightly worrying. It’s like I’m living in a blur. A lovely blur. A tiring blur. A challenging blur. Definitely the best blur of all. It’s been tricky but I wouldn’t change being a mother for the world. I feel complete. Completely messed up. Lol. That was a joke. Although there’s truth in jest. I’ve been so busy with mum duties that I haven’t put much thought into my career. But life is funny isn’t it? And Murphy’s Law seems to be the bread and butter of every actor’s life I know; when you want work there’s nothing for ages, and when you’re not looking everything comes up at once!

Well, the latter is what’s happened to me. I wasn’t even close to thinking about acting when all these auditions/jobs started to come up within a space of 2 weeks. I had mixed emotions when it happened; I was mainly excited and also anxious which led to me having a bit of a manic reaction. In a way I couldn’t wait to do something other than mummying, but in another way I wondered if it would be actually possible.

Despite the natural chaos a baby brings, I have a very chilled life at home. I never thought I would say this but I felt out of my comfort zone when thinking about working in London. This wasn’t because I wouldn’t be able to cope with the city or anything like that but mainly because it meant I’d be miles away from my baby. He has been breastfed all his life you see, and he’s not too keen on taking the bottle. That combined with the very little notice you get for these jobs, meant that taking these opportunities on board would be a bit of a stretch.

Thank God for that though. Stepping out into the unknown is never as hard as one originally envisions. For the first job where I played a Bulgarian maid, the director was so ultra cool and understanding that he welcomed me, my baby and nanny (aka husband) to the set for a whole day of filming!


Scene with Trinity filming Pinklehurst Road.

The second job was doing ADR work for a feature film to be released this autumn ( I can’t say which…). This was my first experience doing ADR. I loved it. On the first day I traveled into London with my baby and we hung out at The National Theatre for a while. I thought I was being naive when I put him in the sling for a nap; with lots of things going on around I thought sleep wouldn’t happen…but it did! I found hiding under the stairs particularly dark and useful. In the afternoon, I went to my job and my husband took over. On the second day, my husband helped out as well and off I went to work. Yes, I’m lucky my husband has a flexible job and yes, he’s pretty darn cool too.

Baby sleeping at The National Theatre.

The biggest ‘mummy’ challenge I faced doing this job was plainly said, managing my boobs. I brought my pump to work thinking it’d be easy to pump during breaks. HA! We did have breaks but they were way too short for me to glamorously relax on the toilet seat… luckily I was wearing a blazer thick enough to cover the huge circles of milk leakage on my shirt.Oh, and the pain! I won’t go into that but it was bad. Lol. Professionally speaking, the challenge of this job was saving my voice. I was asked to literally scream and at one point it dawned on me that I had to sing a song for an audition a couple of days later!

So yes, that crazy week ended with me going for a theatre audition at the New Diorama Studios. My husband couldn’t take any more time off to help out so my mother in law came to the rescue travelling all the way down from Nottingham to be with my son for about an hour. A star!


The Ace Team before audition.

Preparing for this audition was uber fun mainly because I kept getting distracted by my little one crawling towards my props and chewing them away. Thankfully and surprisingly I found this hilarious rather than stressful. I incorporated an element of clown into my devised piece which my son loved so I kept doing it over and over again; I learnt it and he giggled so that worked pretty well. I also had to prepare a song. Easy peasy, I mean what baby doesn’t like a bit of singing no matter how lame it may sound? I confess I would have liked to have more time to prepare but I also realised that preparing just enough is good enough. Over preparation can kill creativity and with a baby you have to make the most of the little time you have.

On the day of the audition, travelling to London wasn’t as smooth as I hoped. My hair was a total mess, my trousers were covered in carrot purée and I was debating whether or not to nurse five minutes before auditioning. I did have about 3 minutes to breathe and focus before going in and as soon as I entered I was in a different place, a place that felt like home.

…..ahhhh….bliss all day afterwards….what a gift it is to love what you do…

So….I got the job (yay!) which goes to show that sometimes things work out better when you try less. This goes against the philosophy I grew up with (work work work work); and I mean, there’s nothing wrong with working hard but I know it wasn’t only hard work that got me the job. It was also enjoying each and every moment of the process: the limited preparation I had and being in the moment at the audition without giving a damn about carrot purée type accidentals.

Woohoo! More soon…je suis back!

heART Yoga Retreat – a note on FEAR

I think I never actually wrote about this retreat I went to last summer in Tulum, Mexico. It was an utterly fantastic experience. I think that one of the things I enjoyed the most about it was that I went on my own. I had had a very busy year in England working for an amazing theatre company for about a year which required me to travel a lot each week, so having some down time in my home country was a great way to reconnect with my roots.

I found the information about this retreat on the internet and it sounded like it was just what I needed: beach, sea, sun, yummy food, yoga and art = perfect!

About two weeks before the retreat started we were contacted by our lovely host Laura Lowery who told us that there were only two of us booked in the retreat. Things just couldn’t get any better I thought…as much as I love meeting new people, knowing about the low number attending the retreat made me happy. I can do long, intimate and friendly conversations with a small group of people but in big groups I sometimes tend to distance myself; especially if I’m at a point in life where I need space, peace and calmness.

Cool things were revealed to me in this retreat but I think having had a little bit of interaction with fear and what it means to me was really important. I knew I was scared of the sea and big spiders for example, but then being able to get into the sea and trust in mother nature or sleeping in my room knowing (because I could see it) that a big black spider was walking on the wall was challenging (in a good way) for me to experience. I also addressed deeper levels of fear like fear of failure, fear of loneliness and fear of change which is interesting because for a while last year there wasn’t much work happening (fear of failure?), I was feeling homesick (fear of loneliness) and now I’m addressing the fear of change by soon becoming a new mum!

During the retreat we were given time to let serendipity flow and on one occasion I went for a walk by the sea and an idea occurred to me. I wanted to somehow (artistically ideally) represent FEAR and how one would be able to get rid of it…

This is what happened.

I found this kind of tree, which I think looked a little scary so I thought I could use it to represent FEAR.

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Then I wrote the word FEAR on the sand just in case it wasn’t clear that the tree was representing FEAR…although I think I was mainly waiting for some sort of inspiration to come at this point.

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And then inspiration came!

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A big wave arrived and destroyed FEAR! In one second, my artistic desire to find a way to represent how to get rid of fear was gone! As soon as I planted the tree and wrote the word FEAR, the sea came to erase it all. It was as if God was literally looking down and saying: Fear? What fear? There’s no need to fear anything? Let me get rid of it.

And He did!

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Since then, whenever I feel fearful about something I try to remember this moment. The thing with fear is that you can’t think too much about it because it can paralyse you. Fear is beaten by a bold choice, a strong will to say: Fear, you are here, now F-off and let me be (obviously easier said than done…but when it’s done, it works!)

Here I’ll leave you with another pic of us. On the left is Laura, then me, then a nice a girl who came with us to this excursion of Sian Ka’an but wasn’t part of the retreat (can’t remember her name, oops) and Lucie from Canada who also came to the retreat and was very awesome too.

Lol. Look at us smiling! That’s what an overload of Vitamin D can do to you.

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Peace out!

Climb Every Mountain Planting Colourful Flowers

We all know The Sound of Music is a classic but I’m not writing to discuss why that’s the case. The Sound of Music has a very special place in my heart because it was one of the few childhood films which encouraged me to dream. I know now that I didn’t quite understand all of its depth when I was a little girl, but I was fascinated by it for a reason. Deep down, I think I knew there was truth and nobleness in the film.

A few weeks ago, my mum in law got the movie for me. I was the HAPPIEST person on earth when I watched it again after so many years. I had goose-bumps throughout; if I could feel my baby, I’m sure s/he must have been jumping all over. However, there was something that struck me about the ‘Climb Every Mountain’ scene when I watched it this time. I know the lyrics by heart but I don’t think I had actually sat down to think about what they meant…

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.

Climb Every Mountain is a song about finding meaning to life by living it to the full. That doesn’t sound too revolutionary I know, but I think it is. Life is not about reaching a dream (as we are often told), but about finding it, and the only way we can find it is by stopping to try to find it.

YEAH!

A year ago a very spiritual man prayed for me, and after a few minutes the Holy Spirit gave him a vision: it was a vision of me standing in the middle of a long path planting colourful flowers. Although the colourful flowers were brightening everything around me, I kept looking at the end of the path desperately wanting to know what I would find at the end of all the planting! LOL. It makes me laugh every time I think about that vision because I am so totally like that; I miss so many cool moments in the present because I can’t wait to see what will come next! We’re all a little bit like that I reckon…

Anyway, listening to the song reminded me of that prayer; it reminded me that I’m called to live by giving love as a woman, a wife, a daughter, a mum (eek), an actress, whatever. Then the dream, my life dream will reveal itself. In fact, perhaps I’m already living the dream 🙂

Here I leave you with the song. I’m gonna sing it and belt it!

So, what have I been up to lately?

Well, I’ve been mainly baking a baby in my tummy!

As soon as I got back from the Shakespeare tour in The Netherlands back in March, I got pregnant. It wasn’t intentional to get pregnant that quickly, it just happened. Thankfully, I didn’t have much work lined up then because all my body wanted to do was sleep. I feel so lucky that most of the work I’ve had over the past few months has been work I’ve been able to do from home. I have been to a few auditions though, and I’ve quickly learnt that I must not leave the house now without a selection of snacks! About 2 months ago; I was about 7 weeks pregnant, I had an audition for Doctors at the BBC. I decided to drive there; the audition went fine but the drive back home took me 3.5 hours! I had no snacks in the car and I literally almost passed out. I couldn’t see any services on the way and I was 100% stuck on the M25; no cars were moving. I had to call my husband because my brain wasn’t alert enough to think and he told me that the nearest place I could stop for a bite to eat was Heathrow Airport. I quite enjoyed stopping at the airport for a snack actually; I literally devoured a ham and cheese panini and that gave me enough calories to face the M25 again.

I’ve been pencilled for a couple jobs but nothing concrete has happened lately – acting wise. My bump is actually showing a little now; it was hard to hide it in my last audition. I think soon it will be obvious that I’m a pregnant actress. I’m quite excited about that; who knows which work opportunities will come my way, but the ones which will certainly come are those that I create myself! I don’t want to say too much about that at the moment, but I’m working on something personal, fun and creative…

Anyway, I want to tell you about the main non-acting job I was involved in over the past few months. It was actually a writing job which I did in partnership with my husband. We were given the mission of writing primary schools resources for an amazing charity called Apostleship of the Sea. Have you heard about them? Here: http://www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/

The set of resources we wrote is still under revision but it will be on their website soon. We were trusted with this task by Martin and Clare O’Brien – directors of Ten Ten Theatre – with whom I’ve been freelancing over the past three years. What I loved about this job (apart from its flexibility) was learning about something completely new for me. Fishing, fisheries, fishermen, fish stocks, International Labour Organization? I knew very little about this subject so it was a brain challenge which couldn’t have come at a better time. The thing about acting, is that when you are ‘resting’, your brain (or at least mine) still needs to be stimulated, otherwise there is free room for self-doubt to creep in. Anyway, I’m not going to give you a lesson about what the current situation is when it comes to fish stocks in the world. I’m sure you already know that what we’re doing to the environment is shocking. However, what I found even more shocking was that the conditions in which some seafarers work (not all of them of course) are appalling; there is a lot of illegal fishing going on, where trafficking, exploitation and abuse are the norm. Thankfully, there are world organizations like the ILO and Apostleship of the Sea (amongst many others I’m sure) which look after seafarers; so there is hope.

Anyway, I hope I didn’t bore you too much. I just thought it’d be nice to give you a little update. More coming soon!

Pencilled, off-pencil.

It’s not only the rejection that actors need to deal with; it’s the ‘I was so damn close’ situation one must somehow learn to brush off!

Two recent stories…

I went to my first TV audition at the BBC a couple of weeks ago. It was for Doctors and I had to play the role of a Colombian woman. Man, it was literally SO much fun preparing for it. Thankfully I have friends who have much more experience in the showbiz than me and I was luckily able to chat to them about the Do’s and Don’ts before I showed up at the audition.

When I got there I met with both the Casting Director and Director of the show. They opened the door and said: ‘Hi, take a seat. Welcome to Doctors’ (big smiles). I was immediately put at ease to be honest. They guys were really chilled. I got into the room already speaking with my well rehearsed Colombian accent but then the first thing they asked me was ‘where do you come from?’. I said Mexico and thankfully they immediately started talking about my beautiful country. I was wondering whether or not to say that I was ‘of course speaking with Colombian accent’ but that just didn’t feel right. Going with the flow did.

They asked me to read about 5 scenes. I had prepared well so I knew what was going on in the script and I had fun with it. The worst part of it all was the 4 hr drive back home. That was poo!

Anyway, I left and after 3-4 days of not having heard back, I knew I had probably not been cast. Regardless, my ace agent chased them up for some feedback and all they said was that my recording had been sent to the producers.

Rejected? No. For me this is an achievement – well of course I wanted the actual job dammit – but the fact that the guys thought my work was ‘producers material’ meant I was probably competing with strong contenders. That puts a little smile on my face.

Next time.

Argh.

Now this week. Went to casting. It went well. I was pencilled, now I’m not. That’s it. It sucks. I’m sure loads of actors know the feeling. Yeah, it will pass. The world keeps on moving. I have another life.

But still; I think I’m going to invent a coping mechanism for the next time I’m told I’ve been pencilled. Being pencilled is like having your tongue 1 mm away from the tastiest chocolate ice-cream; so when you don’t get it, man it makes me wanna kick something. Lol.

The reality is that despite these unpleasant feelings, when I think about the fun I had auditioning I wouldn’t change it for anything. I once heard someone say that the audition is the work. I believe that. The audition is when you get to be totally creative and show what you’ve got, what you’ve made of. It is a gift really. Some people will like it and will nod with a pencil or a job, some people will not. It’s business after all. I need to remember that it’s business and I need to remember that I’m not in it because it is business but because it is life.

Enough said.

Peace out.

PS. For those actors out there who believe in God, this might be of interest. For the past few months I have prayed to do a good audition (whenever I’ve had one). God has so vividly answered. I haven’t prayed to get the job not because I don’t believe God will give it to me but because I sense it’s the wrong prayer. On the other hand, praying to do a good job at the audition feels right. In terms of the outcome of the audition…well, I leave it to Him and I trust (sometimes impatiently, frustratingly, sadly or irritatingly…hardly ever happily lol, still working on that). I trust.