Coronation Street, Law & Order: UK, Casualty
What did you want to become when you were a child?
All sorts of things! A vet, because I love animals, a dancer on ‘Top of The Pops’ ( a British music chart show that was hugely popular when I was growing up!) and a writer. I really enjoyed creative writing at school and I guess that my love of storytelling has continued on in my job as an actress.
How did your friends/family react when you told them that you wanted to become an actor?
I don’t recall them being anything other than supportive. There wasn’t one specific moment where I stood up at a family dinner and announced my ambition to be an actor so it was more of a gradual thing. I was a member of a Youth Theatre group and took part in school plays etc so they knew that it was something I had a passion for and they encouraged it. My grandma used to make my costumes for school plays.
Which performance(s) confirmed that you wanted to be an actor?
Again, I’d say that there wasn’t one specific moment or role that made my decision definitive. I just knew that Drama was my favourite subject at school and the thing that I most enjoyed doing in my spare time. I was pretty shy as a young child and acting definitely brought out another side of me and allowed me to express myself in a less self-conscious way.
What aspects of your job do you like best/least?
I love that I get to work with such a variety of interesting, creative, funny and talented people. From the age of 17 I was working with children, people in their 70s and 80s with fascinating life experience, and everyone in between. That’s both unusual and a privilege. The worst parts are the unpredictable nature of being self-employed and the inability to plan things ( although that can also be thrilling). Also the traveling (often required) can be both a blessing and a curse ( depending on how tired you are!!).
You had a lot of heavy material in 2018. Do you have a technique that allows you to ensure you leave the "heavy baggage" at work once the day is over?
I’m not sure that I always can. There’s definitely a negative accumulative effect from playing that kind of drama day in day out over a long period. When you’re playing someone who is emotionally distraught your body doesn’t know that you’re acting, if that makes sense? I guess for me, when I’m going through those busy periods, the most important thing is to look after myself by getting enough sleep, eating well and grabbing any chance to get fresh air, either going for a run or just a brisk stroll. The outdoors is definitely good for my soul.
Whereas Toyah had a heart 2018, 2019 saw her find love with Imran, become at odds with her sister Leanne and get her job back. What can we expect for Toyah in terms of storyline/s in 2020?
2019 was a relatively quiet year for Toyah, storyline-wise. I obviously can't give away any spoilers for 2020 but there is some drama on its way! I am hopeful that we will see more of the relationship with her sister Leanne, especially as Jane (Danson) and I love working together so much. I think it's also important to discover new developments in the dynamic between Toyah and her boyfriend Imran. On paper, they are chalk and cheese and there is the possibility that we may see some tension arising as they often have differing standpoints. I adore working with Charlie (de Melo), so of course I don't want them to necessarily split up but I do think we need to see more of them and what makes them tick.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
I remember as a child having a moan to my grandma about a girl in my class at school who was annoying me or had been mean to me. I don’t remember the specifics but I DO remember my grandma telling me not to judge her as I didn’t know what might be going on at home/causing her to behave that way. Basically it was her way of teaching me that old adage about being kind because you never know what private battles people are fighting.
How do you handle criticism when it comes your way?
There’s a huge difference between criticism and constructive advice so it really depends on the situation. I’m lucky enough not to feel criticised on a daily basis. If it’s someone on Twitter trolling me, telling me that I’m a terrible actress or unattractive or whatever then I guess I’d refer back to my previous answer. We are all entitled to have opinions but when that tips over into criticism that is cruel I think it says more about the unhappiness of the person dishing it out than it does about the recipient. That’s not to say that criticism can’t hurt but I try and only give it any credence if it’s coming from someone that I know and respect ( in which case they would deliver it in a way that wasn’t cruel in the first place and was genuinely constructive/helpful).
When I am scared to do something, I tell myself to:
Oh gosh I wish I could finish this sentence with something all powerful and strong and life-affirming but I can’t! It depends on where I’m at in my head at the time. Sometimes I feel brave and full of fire. Other times I want to run away and hide under the duvet! I guess this is what makes us human.
What advice do you wish you could give yourself as a 16 year old?
It’s okay to say ‘no’ to things! It’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. Likewise, sometimes you should push yourself and say ‘yes’ to things that sound out of your comfort zone, but could bring great adventure. Stand up for yourself in the way that you will stand up for other people. I know, this last one is easier said than done and I’m still working on it. Oh and write a diary!
What do you most value in others?
Kindness, loyalty and integrity. But mainly kindness. Kindness is everything.
Which movie instantly puts you in a good mood?
Oh anything that is just joyfully silly, like ‘Anchorman’. Also growing up I loved the daftness and warmth of actors like John Candy so pretty much anything with him in it.
When was the last time you laughed so hard/much that you ended up crying?
Listening to the podcast ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’. It makes me laugh so hysterically that I had to stop listening to it in public places (like on the train!) I save it for long car journeys now and it makes me howl!
What is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Social Media! I think it can be a force for both good and bad but I definitely spend too much time on it. I do give myself enforced breaks from it now and again though. I think we can become obsessed with checking it and that’s not necessarily healthy.
A meal that I serve which I know will be a crowd please is:
I like to think I make a pretty decent risotto and it's a really comforting and satisfying dish. I often make it with leeks, garlic, roast chicken and tonnes of fresh herbs and butter. Served with roasted asparagus and some nice crusty bread.
What do you wish to achieve in the following decade?
I’m not a great planner. I’ve never had a 5 year plan or even a one year plan to be honest so it’s hard to say! I guess if I’m still working and am able to make a living doing the thing that I love and balancing that with travel and time for my loved ones, I’ll be pretty happy.
Any advice for those wanting to become actors/live their best lives?
Again this is difficult because my path into acting wasn’t entirely traditional. I intended to study at drama school but was lucky enough to land my first gig at 17 so I dropped out of college early. I think if you’re fortunate enough to work as an actor then it’s just about remembering to be appreciative and respectful of everyone you work with, across the board. This job is always about being part of a team and no individual is more important than any other.
Any last words?
Thank you for having me! Xx
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