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Q&A With Actress and Writer, Adele James.

What was your journey into the TV and Film industry?

My journey into the industry was non-traditional, I suppose. I didn’t go to drama school. I actually went to the University of Bristol and studied for an academic drama degree, because everybody was telling me that I would go to university and I would decide that I didn’t want to be an actor and I wanted to do something else actually. Deep down I knew that wasn’t true and alas, here we are however many years later. But my route was still very much one of training. I’ve trained part time since I was a teenager and after university I continued to train and I still train to this very day. My first jobs were mainly in theatre and then I started to dabble in short films and gradually as I gained more experience and met more people in the industry, I started to transition into television just before the landemic. It’s been really interesting actually because my first TV gig was only at the end of 2019 and so the trajectory of my career within television has been really quite exponential and I’m super grateful for that.

Did you always know you wanted to go into acting?

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a teacher for key stage one children – I love the little ones! Also at one point wanted to be a flight attendant, I wanted to work for virgin media, specifically. And I would say I’ve always enjoyed performing, but I didn’t ever really consider that it could be a career prospect, until I did a show when I was maybe 14 at school. I played the understudy of a lead role in the school play, so I only got one night of performance, but at the end of that show my mum came up to me and said “I think we found your calling” – and if I’m honest, it’s just been a straight shot from there.

What’s the most challenging role you’ve played and why?

I think every role I play is challenging, because the job of an actor is to transform meaning I am always trying to leave myself behind by using myself which in and of itself is a complicated thing to get your head around. I think. Tina in Casualty was definitely a very, very challenging job – not only because of the storyline itself (being about domestic violence and coercive control which are so very outside of my own personal experiences of life), but also because it was the first really significant role I’ve ever had on screen – certainly on television. I feel like every day I was learning so much about screen technique and craft, and how to manage myself as a person on a job of that scale; but I also had this really important storyline to lead where I had to find a way to honour somebody whose actions were so reprehensible to me, as if they were my own – almost to justify them. So that was really a remarkable learning experience for me as an actor and I’m really proud of the work that I did there. But as I say, I think every role I have been gifted with had been really complex, nuanced and interesting and so they’ve all been challenging, which I am so grateful because I love a challenge!

Do any personal experiences inform or shape the characters or projects you choose to be a part of?

I think fundamentally, I am really interested in stories and characters who have something interesting to offer the wild in terms of a point of view. I feel really fortunate that I have worked on many stories that have had a large or profound social impact. That’s absolutely my bag. I think that probably comes from growing up belonging to several marginalised communities – being working-class; being black mixed; being a woman, let alone a woman of colour; being Neurodivergent. I guess I just feel like diversity- and especially diversity of thought, is a really exciting thing to celebrate and represent; and being able to represent underrepresented people is one of the main reasons why I love doing what I do. I think there’s a healing quality to that, because I’ve been healed by that- by seeing myself be represented in art. So that does definitely impact the choices that I make with regards to projects that I take on. 

A company goal of ours is to be able to mentor emerging creatives as often as possible. You mentioned on Instagram that you are supporting 30+ actors, if you’re able to speak more about this, why is this important to you? 

Well big up yourselves because I think giving back to the community that you are part of is super important! Two years ago, I made the decision to officially start coaching actors and I set up a business called In The Room. What I wanted to do was help actors learn how to navigate the industry more effectively based on what I had learnt about navigating the industry successfully in my own career; and also to feel more confident in their audition technique to raise the chances of booking the jobs that would elevate their careers to the next level. It’s been such an adventure and I’m so grateful to have been let into anybody’s journey, but now I have a community of over 115 actors (and counting). It’s deeply personal work because we (actors) are the work, we are the vessel- our proximity to the work is so close. And two years on, I am continuing to expand and grow the coaching community and support by offering coaching services that aim to nurture healthy actors. My main priority is helping actors help themselves to be able to go the distance in their career. I believe that fortune favours the perseverant in this industry; and to persevere you need to have a healthy outlook on your career and on the industry at large; to pursue your acting career with a business mindset as much as with your beautiful creativity; and to live a full life outside of being an actor – the last one is especially KEY!

As well as acting, you have also written and developed your own original TV concepts with major broadcasters and production companies, such as Channel 4. What does your writing process usually look like?

My writing process is really intense once I find an idea that I am passionate about. I can write very, very quickly, but I have to be passionate about the idea or else I really struggle to set myself down and get on with it. I really enjoy writing, I have found it very freeing and of course, it’s given me more opportunities act which has been incredible. But similarly to the projects that I take on as an actor, I feel like I’m most interested in writing and most successful at writing when I’m writing something that I feel is offering something valuable to the world in terms of a different point of view or an alternative point of view, or tackles a subject I feel we need to address as a collective.

When you aren’t working or on the go, what brings you joy? 

I get most joy from the people in my life, my friends and family, my community of actors from In The Room. I also really enjoy mindful practices like yoga. I’m working on the worlds hardest Paint by numbers as we speak! And I really love feeling the Sun on my face. I’m so pleased that we are now moving into summer and I can be outside and feel it on my face more and more.

What has been the most beautiful moment in your career so far?

It’s really hard to isolate a moment when I feel so lucky to have had a really rich career thus far. Even though it hasn’t been the most consistent, I wouldn’t say, I do really feel like it’s just been so rich. One moment that immediately did stand out to me when I thought on the question though, was the day I did the understudy performance of nine night by Natasha Gordon, at the Trafalgar studios. I was playing understudy Anita and I mean it when I say pretty much all of my friends and family were in the audience that day. It was a free show in the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I think, but everybody showed up and it was so epic because this was the one of the first times I was really truly playing someone so close to home and definitely the first time I was playing a character whose heritage was my heritage completely, where that was a major part of the characters story. It was just amazing to be on that stage in front of those people: my grandparents, my parents, my friends and peers. It was a really emotional experience actually, I feel emotional, even recalling it.

What’s next for you and where can we keep up to date with your work?

I am continuing on pursuing my career and helping others to pursue their own. New work soon come! For updates on me and my work, I would direct you to my Instagram page, which is @adele_jjames. For the coaching pursuits and for some solidarity from a fellow actor, I would direct you to the In The Room Instagram page, which is @itrcoaching, or to the website where you can sign up to be part of my community mailing list if you should wish to: www.stepintotheroom.co.uk

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