Acting may conjure up images of glamorous film sets and a director yelling "Cut!" as a sunset fades into the backdrop of Hollywood. But is this the reality?
We speak to Penelope Granycome, a London-based actress who lifted the veil on the daily challenges of working in her craft, and how she manages to keep balance and sanity in a competitive and demanding industry.
TheTalko (TT): Hi Penny, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What made you want to become an actress?
Penelope (Penny) Granycome (PG): I have always felt a need to tell a story somehow, to communicate a shared experience or one that is not my own in order to move or affect others. I love the innovation and collective effort a theatre piece, film or commercial requires. It is a massive collaboration and requires dropping your own ego while embracing playfulness. Relationships and the humor and contradiction intrinsic in being [a] human being, it is certainly about revealing and not pretending.
TT: What does an average day look like?
PG: It varies. For so many actors unless you have a major profile you have to have other means of support. It’s erratic and unpredictable so having a ‘bread and butter’ job is crucial. I have worked extensively in the city and for many profile companies, which at times has been very enjoyable. It has also opened my eyes up to how people can operate in constrained and artificial environments. But it is life and it teaches you so much. A day with a quality casting, audition or job is always a good day. Even a day just being creative, writing or taking classes is food for the mind and soul.
TT: What's the biggest challenge you face as a working actress?
PG: The unpredictability. You have to let go of outcomes. You cannot get attached to success, just keep your own internal fires of motivation going. And let go of anyone not on your team as in this business you cannot afford to take on the negative projections of anyone else. Holding on to self-doubt does not serve you in castings and auditions. Kiss the naysayers both external and internal goodbye and good riddance.
TT: What is the best thing about your job?
PG: The people, from my fabulous agents to the crews, the many talented writers, actors and directors, who are dear friends and unwavering and determined in their path. I love bringing the parts of yourself to the table you don’t get to show in real life, because vulnerability is what bonds us. Yet we live in [a] culture where we want to deny it in ourselves but lap it up vicariously through characters on stage and screen. We have a desire to identify with a hero, in order to feel less alone. We were telling stories in caves!
TT: What do you do to achieve balance in such a tough industry?
PG: For me it is Yoga and diving. Spending time with family and friends who just level at you and ground you in humor. They keep you in the present. It is an industry where for all ‘rejection’ is the norm. So it is crucial not to internalize and have other passions as well. I love anything that takes me out of my head. I dive as much as I can with my club, SMG Scuba, often in the Red Sea. Yoga grounds and centers, getting me back to my body and I have made the most amazing friends through these passions.
TT: Do you feel pressure to look a certain way?
PG: Not for me so much, I am tall with an unusual I am told striking look. Although I modeled a fair bit in my 20s /30s I always prefer to explore whatever a director seeks. Get out of the way of yourself and embrace all your emotions and qualities. I love a bit of dressing up, yet I am not beholden to piles of makeup. I would rather drink water (or fizz) sleep and be happy to make my face look at its best.
TT: What are your top tips for wellness?
PG: Accept yourself
Find your team
Laugh and do not take yourself too seriously
Let go of what no longer serves you
Love with all your heart
TT: Thank you, Penny.
What a refreshingly honest insight into a constantly evolving and competitive industry. Penny gave us all a gentle reminder that however we visualise certain careers in our heads, going behind the show reel always paints a different picture.
Following one's passion is never easy it takes guts, hard work, and lashings of motivation. Though isn’t following your calling and truth the only way to become the best version of yourself and live your best life? As in the words of Mary Oliver, “The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative power restive and uprising and gave it neither power or time.”
Penny has recently shot four major commercials and auditioned for a Hollywood feature. She is an inspiration to us all to go confidently in the direction of our dreams, embrace the challenges and remember it's all about the journey, so don’t take it all too seriously!
That’s a wrap.