For an actor, working on Downton Abbey is a pretty huge deal. It’s a platform from which many an actor has bounced off into Hollywood and beyond. That makes Michael Fox a ‘one to watch’. He’s very much an exciting rising star.
But it hasn’t come easy for Michael, 26. Here he chats to List for Life about how hard work is essential, why trial and error is vital and how luck isn’t the reason behind his success. Aspiring actors listen up – you need to read this.
1. Talk me through your career journey so far?
I feel like I’ve had two separate careers, the first when I was a child actor up until I was about 13; and now since leaving drama school two years ago I’m at the very start of a new one. I’ve made a gradual step up from job to job, first getting killed off with no lines, to then having a line before the inevitable death scene, to then managing to stay alive for the whole episode. Before Downton I played Shem on BBC One’s ‘The Ark’ which was an amazing experience out in Morocco and I think that set me up well for the next step.
2. Is it difficult to get into drama school? Any tips?
It is difficult to get in because there are limited spaces and a lot of applicants but the process doesn’t have to be disheartening. I tried out three times for Central School of Speech and Drama because I loved the Collaborative and Devised theatre course there. Any drama school wants to see your unique qualities at the audition. They want to see something individual that excites and inspires them. So don’t try to be what you think they are looking for. Say what you want to say about a play or a monologue, and then if it doesn’t work that year, do what I did, and just keep banging on the door.
3. What would your advice be to aspiring young actors?
Two things: Hard work and be someone who is good to work with.
The industry is just made up of people, it isn’t some crazy huge beast of a thing that is impossible to get into. Progress is made bit by bit, day by day, in small rooms with casting directors and directors. So make sure that in those small moments you make a good impression. Come in fully prepared and with something genuine to spark a discussion. Those good impressions will come back in the future however fleeting they seem at the time.
4. What has working on Downton Abbey been like?
It has been a privilege to work alongside great actors and a wonderful crew. Right from day one I felt part of an amazing team, and I miss it already.
5. Do you think luck plays a part in people landing their dream jobs, or do you think it is always hard work or other factors?
You have to believe it’s hard work. I think luck is a useless term for actors, it doesn’t help us either way. If I think it’s just down to luck then I probably wouldn’t work as hard because I’d think it was in someone else’s hands. It would be an excuse for not doing the work. If I don’t get something ‘being unlucky’ is more difficult to take than just hearing ‘I was too tall’ or my ‘eyes aren’t blue’, or whatever, I can’t change that so I move on quicker. Equally, when you’re working I think it’s good be reassured that you earned it, rather than just being lucky and that you deserve to be in the room.
6. What are your hopes for the future?
I would love to jump between theatre and film, I think actors who find that balance sustain great careers. I want to play roles that excite me on the page, no matter where they are and then just see what happens.