For me, 2021, turned out to be a great year in which I carried on my Jekyll and Hyde existence flip-flopping from serious science writer to frivolous and fun acting.
January and February 2021 were pretty interesting months. I wrote articles ranging from using different types of biomass measurement (number of cells) in a bioreactor to articles on how to use a new type of bioreactor for growing microbial cells for vaccine production. As in 2020, SARS-CoV-2 vaccine production articles were still keeping me busy.
While the UK was in lockdown, most of my days were the same (it was like living in perpetual groundhog day). During the week, I got up, showered put on make-up, did my hair, and walked down the garden to my office. Once there I started the day with two coffees to get me buzzing and then I would write articles most of the day or have WebEx, Zoom, Teams meetings to discuss articles.
However, my other life as an actor took off in 2021, I think it was because all of a sudden in January, and February they needed someone who looked like a professional or middle-class woman, who wasn’t shielding, and I fitted that profile. My strength was my availability!
In January, I was cast as a police officer in a short film, here I am trying to look like a police officer. This is the first time I have been cast in this role and I quite liked it. I even had a line, which involved me picking up the phone in reception and saying to the man behind the glass screen “hello how can I help you?” in about six different ways. He then said I have come to confess to murder so a short role for me but at a pretty crucial point in the film!
In January and March, I was lucky enough to get cast in an Amazon Prime Series called The Power. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10369484/. I played Gina Van Hague, a travel booker and campaign worker in the Mayor’s Office and it was so much fun as we were filming with Lesley Mann https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005182/ and Tim Robbins https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000209/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 at Canary Wharf in this fabulous office building that overlooked the city.
I spent most of my time walking up and down the office with a file, talking to colleagues in person or on the phone, or pretending to type important emails. It was a great production to work on as I met some amazing performers on set. I loved working with Rain de Rye Barrett https://www.instagram.com/rainderyebarrett/?hl=en, Helen Lauren https://www.instagram.com/helenlauren11/?hl=en, Ally Henson https://www.instagram.com/allyhenson_/?hl=en Shina Shinko https://www.instagram.com/shina_shihoko/?hl=en, and Tony Pickering https://www.instagram.com/tonycommercial/?hl=en. They all made it so much fun to be with and it was probably one of the best shoots I have ever been on.
During filming, it felt a bit weird being the only people in the city as everyone else was working from home and there was nobody there and it was so easy to drive around London. Since the call times were really early (6am most days) as we all had to have COVID tests before we could go on set I often stayed at the Premier Inn at the Excel Centre and I had to have a letter from production to say that I was allowed to stay in a hotel. It almost felt like being on a little illicit holiday as I’d get back from set by about 7 on most days and then order a takeaway, usually KFC and watch a film.
Here I am in my trusty jacket, which I love looking suitably corporate. This is an Autograph jacket from M and S and was a charity shop bargain that cost me £5, as I often have to provide costumes for roles I spend a lot of time looking for good quality clothes in charity shops.
Playing a corporate worker in The Power
In March I had my first lockdown birthday, it was good but a little different as we couldn’t go out to celebrate as we would normally. We celebrated it with takeaway curry and watched News of the World with Tom Hanks.
I started another 12-week acting course at the Actors Cafe https://www.actorscafe.co.uk/, which was great as we were allowed to do in-person classes. By the end of the course, I had a new showreel, here is the link https://youtu.be/vuyghwhK4bg if you want to see it.
My next highlight from 2021 was in April when I was playing a mean boss at a funeral in a web series called Bad Influencers. This is the most lines I have had to learn and I loved playing this part alongside the very talented Maddie Kain https://www.instagram.com/madeleinekain/?hl=en. If you want to see us in action here is the link to it: Bad Influencers, clip from Pilot Episode https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJHoB_Q1Zs8
In April, I also had another stint on The Power, this time I played a campaign worker and even had to use my American accent. We filmed at a fabulous hotel in London and this time round I enjoyed working with Emily Alleyne https://www.instagram.com/p/CYLtbgpKJr-/and Xander Turian https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5315729/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_1 both of whom made me laugh so much.
April also saw the release of the episode of Autopsy, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt14539590/ where I was featured as Debbie Harry. Here is a clip of it https://youtu.be/NtOTq4dlc94 and you can judge if I managed to look anything like her!
In May, I did my first self-tape audition to play the role of a headteacher and got the part in a short film called Moth. Here’s a clip of me https://vimeo.com/669344440 acting alongside the brilliant Sean Earl McPherson https://www.imdb.com/name/nm4667815/
May was a milestone month as Feisty daughter turned 18 so I no longer have any children in the house. She celebrated with friends and was finally able to order and drink cocktails and other alcoholic beverages legally in Spoons in Hitchin, a favourite haunt for many of her peer group.
June and July were very busy months, Smart son finished his exams and moved back home from Sheffield bringing tons of washing and a range of stuff accumulated over three years of living at university. Feisty daughter also finished her animal management course and began looking for a job as she decided to defer for a year before going to university.
In June, I was also lucky enough to be cast as a scientist for the first time in a Channel 4 show called Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10112036/. I played a hapless lad rat alongside Mark Silcox https://www.imdb.com/name/nm7735920/, whom I really enjoyed acting with as he is just the nicest man to work with and made me lots of cups of tea! I did four days of filming on this and was featured in three episodes, so I was very happy about that.
The only downside during the filming was having a car accident. Luckily I wasn’t hurt and the car was soon repaired. I was very grateful to Churchill car Insurance who did a great job of not making a drama into a crisis. As my brother would say it’s only metal and glass and as long as you’re OK then all is well!
In July, Mark Silcox very kindly invited me and Feisty daughter to come and watch the live recording of one of the shows in July, where we met Joe Lycett https://www.imdb.com/name/nm3899396/?ref_=tt_cl_t_1 and Stephen Mulhern https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1336619/?ref_=tt_cl_t_17. They were lovely and were very interested in chatting to Feisty daughter about her house plant collection, which is huge and is slowly taking over her bedroom and is popping up in other parts of the house.
Here’s a clip of the show, where I am being electrocuted to test the if you pop can you stop theory with Pringles https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/644473326 and a picture of me in the lab with Mark.
During the same week, I also played a spoof red carpet actress Judy Bench in a video game, called Not for Broadcast thttps://www.imdb.com/title/tt11238716/ and it was a lot of fun to do.
July and August saw lots of changes as Feisty daughter passed her driving test and got a new job. She is now driving my car and I haven’t really seen the car much since she passed her test! Smart son also got his maths degree, got a job in Sheffield, and turned 21 all in the same week. We did a lot of celebrating in July and August.
At the end of August, we had a short trip to see Smart Son in his new flat and went walking in the Peak District, which was lovely as the weather was kind to us so we were able to cover a lot of ground in a short time.
September and October were fun months where I again played Judy Bench in the video game and also had a role as Sister Katherine in a horror film, which is yet to be released. As you can see I look quite different for these roles!
In November, I was cast in a microfilm, called the Beach Hut https://vimeo.com/670797880, where I played Dorothy a supportive friend to a woman who has paid too much money for a wreck of a beach hut. I enjoyed working with Cathy McManamon https://www.instagram.com/cathymcmanamon/?hl=en and Angus Michie https://www.instagram.com/angusmichie/?hl=en
Playing Dorothy in The Beach Hut
I finished off the year by being cast in an Amex commercial https://youtu.be/czhRjUUX49Q as a book shop shopper, (blink and you’ll miss me at the start). This was a fun shoot to do.
In my final microfilm of the year, I was cast as a mum playing a practical joke on her son. This was great fun to do as I had to trash his party preparations dressed in a monkey suit – there’s never a dull moment with acting! I enjoyed working with James Hoyles https://www.spotlight.com/6938-0160-3814 who played my son and Aishwarya Pardeshi https://www.instagram.com/aisha_pardeshi/ who directed the film.
By the end of 2021, I finally had enough commercial acting credits to become Spotlight registered https://www.spotlight.com/3570-8946-9008 and had enough clips for a new showreel – which you can see here: https://vimeo.com/678763366
All in all, 2021 turned out pretty well and I’m looking forward to what 2022 brings.