So yesterday, Steph and I met with Almeida Steph who led us down to Billie’s dressing room (which also happened to be the dressing room I used during ‘Encourage the Others’!). Here’s how the interview went:
Billie Piper who plays Carly in the current production of Reasons to be Pretty at the Almeida Theatre, London, is famous for her TV roles in Doctor Who and Secret Diary of a Call girl. Young Friends went out to talk to Billie about acting for both TV and stage and her advice on getting into the theatre industry.
YF: Hi Billie, what inspired you to be an actress?
Billie: I remember watching Samantha Morton, she’s an amazing actress, I remember seeing her in this programme called Band of Gold which was about the darker side of prostitution and I remember seeing her thinking, “She is so extraordinary, I would love to be able to do that” and that’s when I started going to drama classes.
YF: As you have done a lot of television work yourself, how did you find the transition from television to theatre?
Billie: It’s a totally different medium so you perform in a totally different size, the intensions are all the same and your desire to tell a story remains the same but the way you do it technically is very, very different and that just takes a bit of getting used to. When you are on camera you are told to do everything very small as the camera enhances everything and too much on TV is overbearing whereas on stage you have to fill the whole auditorium and you need to be heard, you need to project and your body language has to be physically larger so it’s a technical difference that you have to be acquainted with and that comes from rehearsals and (laughs) advice.
YF: Do you have a special way of preparing before you go on stage?
Billie: We do a warm up together which usually results in us messing around but it starts off with good intensions. Me and Sian do an accent warm up which we basically read lines to get our mouths and tongues used to the muscle memory in our mouths and then we go on stage to do some projection and physically warm up, it’s not really that exciting (laughs) but I think it’s quite necessary, remember all day you have kind of been contained and then you need to get used to the spacing so its helps you fill the stage, just be there if anything else.
YF: A lot of our young friends are interested in getting into theatre industry/television; do you have any advice to give them?
Billie: Everyone is different, but I think getting a good agent is a start, if you want to move into television especially, someone that understands the things you like and the kind of performer you want to be, kind of company you want to keep and you know it’s really good to make that marriage work, so you’ve got someone rooting for you, but often that comes second to just getting out there doing local stuff. Studying really helps, studying peoples work, read, become familiar with certain texts, that’s always puts you in good stead.
YF: Do you have any favourite films/productions/television programmes?
Billie: I like so many things, I really like Paul Tom Anderson movies and love Samantha Morton, I think she is one worth studying if you want to be an actress. I like gross our comedy, a real kind of mix of stuff.
YFS: I was just wondering what you did after drama classes what was your step between that and professional acting?
Billie: Drama School. I got an agent when I was about 8 or 10, something ridiculous. I went to Drama School when I was 12 for 3 years and that’s kind of just living and breeding it. My mum and dad couldn’t afford it so I got a scholarship and there aren’t many scholarships going so it’s not always easy to do that but I think drama classes are good enough, you know if you get a good teacher who inspires you but there is nothing like doing the work to teach you, you can do all that technical stuff which is necessary but at the end of the day its actually working which teaches you most of it I found, but you just have to get to that position.
Billie: “I got an agent when I was about 8 or 10”