I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak to a young actress and singer, Michelle Cox. Unlike most of my previous interviewees, Michelle is trying to make her name in the British television and film industry, read on to find out how she is progressing with this dream. Please do click the links throughout the interview in order to find out more about Michelle and to hear her gorgeous voice!
I am a 25 year old actor and singer, I have been performing for about 15 years now. After university I started my own theatre company to try and give back something to the community whilst raising money for charity. All of the monies we raised from our shows went to local charities. We tried to get kids interested in theatre from a younger age. I started branching out from live theatre into film and TV which is where I’m mainly focused now having done a feature film last year and a variety of short films and TV appearances. I’m also moving to London in September having just signed with a big London acting agent.
Which feature film were you in?
It was a high action Bollywood film called ‘Tezz‘ that was released in cinemas worldwide in April starring Anil Kapoor.
How easy was it to start your theatre company? Is it still running?
Initially it was difficult because I was straight out of University and people didn’t want to invest, so I had to call in a lot of favours and eventually got the company up and running and within 4 months we’d put on our first show, a full scale Pantomime from which we raised over £600 for charity. It is still running today, my business partner is keeping things ticking over while I’m off in London. We’re hoping to open up a youth section sometime next year.
That sounds fantastic! So at the moment it is adults only?
We did Snow White for the pantomime last year so we obviously had to use children for the dwarfs, so our youngest member is 8 years old but it was an exception for that show, hopefully next year we’ll be able to cater for more youngsters.
I think theatres that cater for child and adults alike are more beneficial to the young in getting them used to performing with a wider variety of people.
Yeah absolutely, I think having adults and children is extremely beneficial. The children can learn from the adults the basics of being on stage, you know backstage discipline and etiquette, whereas the adults can feed off the children’s enthusiasm and learn a lot from them. It’s definitely a win/win situation as a director.
What made you initially want to become an actress and who were your inspirations?
When I was in high school, drama was a way for me to escape the politics and melodrama of being a teenager. I could be someone else and not have to think about what I was doing. I think the first time I decided ‘I want to do that!’ was when I went to see a local pantomime when I was about 10 and just looking at the joy and admiration on the other kids faces at the people on stage and I just thought ‘That is where I want to be. I want people to look at me like that one day’. In terms of influences, of course people like Dame Judy Dench, Meryl Streep, and Dame Maggie Smith have had a huge impact on my career. They are so mesmerising to watch and every character is completely unique.
How easy has it been for you to find suitable auditions and jobs on TV and films? What problems have you had so far?
The biggest problem regarding auditions was that I wasn’t registered on the Spotlight website which is a huge network for professional actors in the UK. Anyone wanting to get acting work needs to be on this website. When they finally acknowledged me as a professional actor and added me to the site, I started getting much more work. I went from work as an extra to leading lady in the space of a few weeks. Now that I have my London agent I’m very hopeful about which new opportunities it will open up for me.
Was it difficult to find a suitable agent?
Finding an agent is always challenging, particularly in London where all of the big agencies are. They have such a high demand of actors wanting representation that it’s tough to make yourself stand out and make them take notice of you.
How did you make yourself stand out?
I think having such a varied acting CV definitely helped. The fact that I’d been performing 15 years, been to university to study Drama and Performance, was qualified to a grade 8 standard in singing and then started my own company, I think it showed that I had a lot of drive and wasn’t afraid to try new mediums in acting. It’s very important for them to know you’re versatile. The more you can turn your hand to, the more work they will be able to find you.
Have you ever auditioned for shows such as the Glee Project or others that use singing and acting?
I did apply for the Glee Project this year! Unfortunately I didn’t hear from them, they did say they weren’t looking for international contestants this year but I figured I had nothing to lose. I have since sent my headshot and resume to Robert Ulrich himself in the hope that he’ll at least consider looking at it. You never know if you never try!
Absolutely, you do not lose anything by trying!!
What is your dream role?
In terms of on stage, it would have to be Christine in Phantom of the Opera. It’s the role that made me want to sing like that! On screen, I’d love to play Elphaba in a movie version of the hit Broadway show ‘Wicked’. That would be incredible!
I have always looked out for a film version of Wicked and been surprised there is not one. Maybe you could convince them!!!
Definitely, there was rumour of them doing one with the original Broadway stars Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenowerth but nothing has come of it. Hopefully one day though, when I’m not too old so I can still play it.
You were at the Glee Convention G2 recently, why did you not perform there?
Oh G2! I’d been looking forward to it for months; one of the guests, Curt Mega, had said he’d like us to duet together so it was all really exciting. Then the day before, I woke up with a horrendous sore throat and cold and literally could barely speak. So even though Curt asked me again a few times during the weekend, I physically couldn’t speak let alone sing. I was heartbroken. There’s no other word for it. When your hero and mentor ask you to perform and you can’t it just broke my heart.
Maybe next year at G3? Or maybe by then you will be a big star and be one of the guests?!
Well that would be the dream! But I will definitely perform at G3!
Apart from Curt have you made any other well known contacts that are helpful to you in the business?
I have spoken to a lot of people in the business on various productions I’ve been involved in but none have taken quite as much interest as Curt. He inspires me everyday to be better and work harder. He is my inspiration and my mentor. I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am today without his constant encouragement and guidance. Curt made me realise that if I wanted this, I needed to go and get it. It wasn’t going to fall into my lap. I need to push myself and work hard.
Curt is an inspiration to so many. He is the reason I found the courage to restart this site.
What type of music do you sing? Do you write your own?
I’m classically trained so I can sing light opera as well as musical theatre, pop, jazz. I’m pretty versatile when it comes to singing. I love to sing musical theatre the most though, purely because the story of the song is always so interesting and I try to bring that out when I sing. To tell a story through song is such a powerful thing. I have recently started writing my own material with a friend of mine who is an incredible pianist so I’m excited to see what that brings!
For me it’s not about being famous or well known, it’s about being successful and appreciated for your talent, not your bank balance.
Have you ever auditioned for any West End theatres or let them know that you are available?
I haven’t actually, I’m hoping my new agent will help me get these opportunities. The main thing that will hold me back is that I’m not a trained dancer, so a lot of the musicals won’t even consider me. I’m aiming for more leading lady anyway, shows like Evita where it’s the acting and singing that carry the show.
What has been your greatest success and biggest struggle so far?
My greatest success is where I am right now. Doing what I love everyday and bringing joy to people through my work. I have proved to all the doubters that they were wrong. That yes I can make something of myself in this business. That persistence really does pay off. My biggest struggle for sure is self doubt. I see others doing so well and I wonder if I really am good enough to make it. But then I see a lot of other artists with the same negative thoughts and I know it’s just a part of this crazy path. The constant rejection is hard, but you just have to dust yourself off and get back on that horse. If you want it badly enough, never give up.
How have you managed to work through the self-doubt, sometimes it can be hard to keep picking yourself up. How do you manage it?
It really is a case of how much you want it. You have to realise as well, that like 98% of auditions will result in a NO. You just have to hold on for that 2%. Just because you don’t get a role, doesn’t reflect on your ability as a performer. It means you weren’t right for that character, or not quite what the director wanted for that part. It’s all about thinking positive. It really does wonders for you!
Have you ever been tempted to go to LA and try your luck over there or do you particularly want to perform in British programs and films?
I think I need to establish myself as a British actress first and foremost. Get the experience, the contacts and then see about LA. An actor friend of mine is out there at the moment, and is returning to the UK soon but going back to LA in February ready for the main casting season. I’m tempted to go with him, I must say. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out if the opportunity arose to audition over there.
Like most things, it could not hurt to try, see where you are in your career come February then decide.
Do you have a good support system and how beneficial do you think it is to have?
I don’t have a bad, support system. I mean my parents were very supportive with the theatre company, my dad is the stage manager for every show. But with my acting ambitions and moving to London, they are a little more reserved I think. They obviously believe in me but they are cautious about being unrealistic and getting my hopes up when it’s such a competitive industry. They would never stop me from doing what I love, that’s for sure and I guess that makes me lucky. It is beneficial to have the support because you need someone to push you and remind you that it’s ok to chase your dreams. However, it’s not essential. If you’re determined enough, you can make it.
Do you have a particular genre or period that you would prefer to be a part of?
I’ve said for a while that I would love to do a period drama. Downton Abbey or something like that would be quite a fun thing to be a part of. I’m pretty open to all genres, I don’t think I could pigeon hole myself into just one.