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10 Questions for Actress Clare-Hope Ashitey

November 28, 2018

 Photo courtesy of Matt Doyle

 

1. Hello Clare, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to be an actress?

 

I was born and raised in Enfield, North London. There was a long list of things I wanted to be as a child – lawyer, shopkeeper, strawberry farmer – but actor was never one of them. I started going to a stage school (for fun, on Saturdays) with my sister when I was about 12 and, at the age of 17, was lucky enough to be cast in a film (Shooting Dogs) via the school’s agency. It’s been a long and winding road since then; after my first film I went back to school to finish my A Levels, then I went to uni to study Anthropology and, after graduating, did my fair share of shitty office jobs. I went full-time as an actor in 2014 and it’s been tough but I don’t regret it for a moment.

 

2. What projects are you working on at the moment?

 

I’m currently coming to the end of shooting a new Amazon show called The Feed, which will be out in Spring 2019.

 

3. What do you do to stay at the top of your game as an actress?

 

I didn’t train so I don’t necessarily have the most academic approach to acting. But I think it’s important to constantly broaden your range of experiences so you can understand and interpret any kind of character. I watch a lot of films, read a lot of books and listen to a lot of music. It’s all useful. I think it’s especially important to step outside of your comfort zone and watch/read/listen to things that maybe you think you wouldn’t like and try to find something in it you understand.

 

3. How do you deal with rejection?

 

Personally, I try to focus on delivering a good audition rather than how much I may want a job. As long as I have given the best read I can, I can be satisfied that there is nothing more I can do. About a week after an audition, I forget about a job. If it does resurface, it’s a pleasant surprise. And if not, I’ve moved on. Dwelling on jobs that could have been and what I could have done differently in a meeting is a sure and steady path to madness.

 

4. We do a lot of mindset work in Flow, how important is it to have a healthy mindset as an actress and how do you keep yours healthy and positive?

 

It is definitely important to have a healthy mindset in an industry with so much uncertainty but taking care of your mental wellbeing is generally important for everyone. If something goes wrong with our bodies physically, most of us would seek help of some kind. The same should go for mental health issues. I understand it’s not necessarily as straightforward – I am not a talker or sharer – but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve experienced the massive difference being open can make to personal mental health. By the same token, just as I eat well and exercise to look after my body, I try to engage in activities to maintain my emotionally health. The big three, for me, are:

  1. Exercise

  2. Getting enough sleep

  3. Maintaining a hobby

 I’m rarely happier than when I’m alone in my kitchen baking something or other and this time will often reset me if I’m feeling low or overwhelmed

 

5. You are currently starring in Seven Seconds on Netflix Congratulations! Did you ever visualise that sort of success?

 

Thank you. I don’t think I’ve ever really created a clear picture in my head of “what might be” in the future. I’d be too disappointed if it never came to be. Instead, I just try to take one day at a time, one job at a time and enjoy the moment I’m in.

 

6. Do you notice any differences between the entertainment industries in the US and the UK?

 

For sure. There are similarities, of course. But also a lot of differences. There’s a huge amount of money in entertainment in the US and I think it’s made the industry into a much more corporate machine than here at home. That brings positives and negatives. There are also a lot more opportunities for ethnic minorities, which is great in terms of how much work is available. However, at the same time ethnic minority roles often tend to fall into a handful of trite stereotypes. That is changing. Just slowly.

 

7. There are a lot of negative connotations in the arts,  you have to be this or that in order to be successful. What is your take on that and what is it that drives you to overcome these limitations?

 

I never trained formally. And I’ve done a lot of other jobs besides acting. So most of my circle comes from outside of the industry, which means I don’t really “live in that world”.  That’s helpful and unhelpful. But I think a positive is that I maybe don’t feel/am not aware of some of the pressures experienced by those who are a lot more involved. Of course I’m not completely immune to pressures to be thin/beautiful etc but when I’m not working, I live in a very normal world with very normal people so I don’t feel that all of the time.

 

8. Getting an acting job often seems like it’s in the hands of the Gods. Do you believe it is or do you think there are things we can do to turn things more in our favour?

 

Yes and no. It is very tough. We do a job where being proactive – trying to make connections – can often be counterproductive, which is the opposite of how things should be.

There are of course basic things that you can take care of. With auditions – be on time, be smartly-turned out, be off book, deliver the best read that you can. I do often think that minds are made up before an actor even steps into the room but if you can change a mind – that would be the time to do it.

 

9. What advice would you give to actors just graduating from drama school?

 

Not sure I’m the best person as I didn’t study acting. But I think, in terms of logistics, the first hurdle is getting an agent. Life as an actor is almost impossible without one. I know drama schools can give a lot of guidance with this step.

Speaking more generally, I would say it’s important to prepare yourself mentally for the ups and downs of this industry. It’s hard and there is a lot of competition. There’ll be a lot of rejections but if you allow those to fester in your mind, you will be broken.

Have something outside of this world – friends/hobbies/education – will help keep you sane and balanced and give you a starting point if you decide acting isn’t working out for you.

When you start to work, treat your profession as just that. There is a sizeable minority of actors who act the fool in various ways and, as a result, we all get treated like children. We are creatives but we are also adults at work.

And an important piece of on-set advice – the crew are your colleagues, not your employees. Treat them accordingly and you’ll develop lasting friendships with some of the best people in the world.

 

10. And finally, what is one piece of advice you’ve been given as an actress that you find invaluable?

 

I’m working with David Thewlis on The Feed who said something along the lines of: “you don’t need a ‘process’; I don’t have one.” And I found it immensely comforting. However you do your work is the right way for you. Be professional and polite, be on time and prepared – there are no other rules.

 

Thank you!

 

 

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