The Inspired Act Team is a diverse group of creatives working in film, theatre, television, music and radio. The team comprises of actors, dancers, directors, writers and comedy performers who are trained in improvisation and character development. We spoke to two members of the Inspired Act Team about their experiences working as professional actors in training and development roleplay.
Lucy and Javan are professional actors. Since graduating from drama school they have gone on to very different careers as performers and have both become valuable members of the Inspired Act Team. Lucy’s performance background is in musical theatre and she now works predominantly in voice over and independent film. Javan specialises in film and recorded media. I asked them what it was like working for Inspired Act.
Lucy: I love working for Inspired Act. You can get so trapped in the entertainment industry. It’s so lovely to become aware of the bigger picture; the outside world. Some of the roleplays are challenging, it can be really difficult to put yourself in the position of some of the characters. To be honest, true and respectful to the character and hoping that you have helped someone in their future career.
Javan: Inspired Act was a lifeline for me at the beginning of my career because with acting you spend a lot of time trying to build a profile for yourself and until you become established in that way it can be very quiet and Inspired Act helped me to stay afloat and keep my skill-set up to scratch.
How do you manage to fit working for Inspired Act into your career as a professional actor?
Javan: The good thing with Inspired Act is that it’s flexible enough that if a job comes up or an audition comes up we have a pool of actors that we can call upon.
Lucy: I went away from October until January and I started my first job back with Inspired Act the day after I moved back from panto. It’s like a really well put together puzzle.
What is Roleplay?
Lucy: Roleplay enables us to simulate a scenario that is as authentic and true-to-life as possible. So that the candidate can get a practice run at a challenging situation before they have to do it for real. It creates an environment where it is ok to do something wrong and realise the effects of that; how one small thing that you say, or the way you say it, or the way you sit when you say it, can have such a huge effect on the actor.
Javan: Roleplay effectively allows corporate clients and businesses to look at scenarios in a different way. Actors provide a sense of realism and spontaneity when clients are training their staff or want to present something in an interesting way. It takes it out of the classroom and puts it into a real-life scenario.
Why use actors?
Lucy: Actors are incredibly adaptable creatures. Training comes into it as well, having a background in improvisation and an ability to affect you and the way you feel.
Javan: A good actor is able to put themselves into the shoes of the character they are playing. Using roleplay they would bring a sense of realism to that character. In a learning environment it presents a person that you really could encounter.
How would you describe the Inspired Act Team?
Lucy: The IA team are a really friendly bunch. I think the clients know that IA actors approach each job with 100% professionalism. There’s always room for us to have quite a lot of fun on the jobs but ultimately the clients know that they can trust us and that we will put everything into each roleplay that we do.
Javan: I like it because it’s such a diverse group of people. Everybody’s great and they are all normal. I feel that the actors we have at Inspired Act are down to earth, clever, normal people that wouldn’t necessarily strike you as actors.
Can you think of an example of when a roleplay has been particularly effective?
Javan: I remember one of the trainees, he was one of the last to get up and do it. He was very opinionated and loud. He would be the one saying “You should do it like that.” It was his turn to get up and I remember he was completely thrown by the whole thing. The instructor stopped it, we spoke about it and we started again. Once he started to relax, to really listen and observe what I was doing in the scenario he started to respond in a really positive way. I think he definitely walked away from the exercise with more understanding. If it were presented to him in a real-life scenario he would be more comfortable.
Lucy: I was doing a scenario where I had discovered I was pregnant. The reason why it was effective was not because it went really well straight away, actually it was the complete reverse. It was just the most uncomfortable roleplay I’ve ever done. The instructor stopped the roleplay half way through and asked how I had felt. I gave my feedback and the student was genuinely shocked. He had no idea that what he said could be perceived in this way. When we tried again he was really thinking about what he was saying and the way it would affect me, which he hadn’t done before.
Javan: On the other hand you have people who are petrified about doing it (roleplay). They don’t want to get up and they don’t want to do it because they are fearful about what might happen. And then they jump into it. It’s good because we are people they have never met before so it doesn’t matter if they get it wrong. It’s a safe place to try. In a positive way we can manipulate the scenarios to cater for all character types.
Can you give me an example of a time when a roleplay has been particularly challenging?
Javan: I’ve seen people break down. I’ve seen people overcome prejudices. It’s great when we come in and present something and discuss it with them afterwards. People think twice about their own prejudices.
Lucy: I’ve seen people in roleplays learn so much and have huge realisations. I’ve spoken to instructors who have tried it with people on their team, without using actors and how it simply hasn’t worked. I’ve seen people, like the man I mentioned previously, who after having a safe space to mess up in, he went full circle and understood how he needed to talk to someone, to be able to communicate better, to be able to empathise with someone that is going through a horrible situation. It is so important because the next time they do this (use these skills) it could be with someone that is really needing somebody. This is really valuable work to be doing.