British actress, Kara Tointon is taking the screen and the stage by storm. Fresh off the finale of ITV’s “The Halcyon,” the star wasted no time and dove into the UK tour of “Gaslight,” psychological thriller and period piece, set in the 1800s. We caught up with Kara and discussed everything from what drew her to her role as Betsey Day on “The Halcyon,” her struggle with dyslexia and how she’s overcome it, what she loves the most about live performance, to her favourite genre to act in!
What was your first big break as an actress?
I started acting when I was fairly young. At the age of 13, I had joined an agency and was auditioning, although it was more of a hobby until I left school and started to take it seriously. A few weeks after leaving school, I got my first main role in “Teachers,” a Channel 4 comedy starring Andrew Lincoln.
In 2010, through a documentary, you revealed that you struggle with dyslexia. Has it hindered your career in any way?
No, I’ve been an extremely lucky dyslexic. I was diagnosed very young at the age of 7 and have always had the support I needed to get by without any real issues. Obviously there are times when I struggle, but I use different techniques to make things work for me so that I am able to learn my lines. It just takes me a little longer than it might if I wasn’t dyslexic. The biggest challenges are when I am not given a script well before an audition and then am asked to sight-read when I get there and the read throughs at a first rehearsal. This is when I get panic attacks. Another problem is my short-term memory, which is not good. However, I have found the colour tinted lenses (mine are green CERIUM) prescribed by Burnett Hodd and Tam Optometry, a big help with my attention span and making reading more comfortable.
You star on ITV’s “The Halcyon,” which you’ve said is like a sexier “Downton Abbey.” What makes it so?
Yes, I play Betsey Day, the jazz singer of the hotel’s house jazz band.
The first interview I did when wrapping the show started with the question “so this is the new Downton?” and every one since. It was a real compliment and this is obviously how I answered in a fluster at the time, but then I realized it never bodes well to watch anything, TV, theatre, or film with anything other than neutral ph 7. Otherwise, you’re comparing and it phases the intent. Not that this is realistic and I think every period drama on ITV will have a “Downton” tagline attached. “The Halcyon” is sexy, thoug…I think! Just because the backdrop lends itself to a massive scope on character and story line sizzle, then you have the jeopardy of war and how people live in the moment.
On the series, you play Betsey Day, the singer of the hotel’s band. Can you tell us a bit about her and what drew you to the role?
The audition came through and I loved the look of this part and really wanted it. Betsey is fun, sassy, and confident on the outside, with vulnerability bubbling underneath. Plus she gets to sing next to Sonny Sullivan, played by the amazing Sope Dirisu, and wear incredible dresses. What’s not to love?
“The Halcyon” premiered just over a month ago. What do you think is resonating the most with the audience?
When watching the show you realise the parallels of now and then. It’s our history but it’s recent enough for us to know family members affected directly. It is fascinating to think how we’ve come so far in many respects and yet we have learned so little in others. That’s what hits me and I think that resonated with viewers.
You’ve starred in an array of films and TV shows. What’s your favourite genre to act in and why?
I do like period pieces. I like the escapism; you get to learn about a time different to your own and the obstacles within it. When you put on a costume and enter the set it’s as though you’ve just got a free go in “Doctor Who’s” Tardis and you have the best ride of your life.
After so long in the industry, do you still get nervous before auditions? Do you have any preparation rituals before each one?
I hate auditions and everything about them. I’m someone who needs to feel comfortable and confident in order to do my best and auditions give about as much of that as a gun pressed to my head. It’s something I just have to work on constantly; some go well, some go horribly-that’s life.
If you could commission one director to direct your next project, who would it be and why?
Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers…sadly Nora isn’t here anymore but I watch both of these incredible women’s films over and over. They are my go to comfort.
Also Jon Favreau because he’s Jon Favreau and “Chef” has become one of my favourite films. Also Wes Anderson-what style-and Luc Besson. You can dream, right? Oh god I can’t pick one! Ok…Jon Favreau. If he acts in it too!
Aside from TV screens, you’re also taking the theatre by storm with psychological thriller, “Gaslight.” Can you tell us a bit about it?
“Gaslight,” written in 1938, is set in the late 1800’s (that’s not me being lazy, there is no exact date). I play Bella Manningham, a woman who’s been married to Jack Manningham for seven years. She is absolutely besotted with her husband, Jack, who, for his own reasons is mentally manipulating her to doubt her sanity. It’s been a really interesting piece to investigate, not only for the character but for all of us, working together to make an old piece of writing, written and set in very different times, to work for today’s audiences.
The play is set in the Victorian era. What was the most difficult part about preparing for this role?
What do you enjoy the most about live performance?
I love that the audience is the missing piece of the puzzle that falls into place after the weeks of rehearsal. You never know what they will bring to the atmosphere and you can feel it. Every night/performance is different.
Is there a difference with character growth on stage vs on the screen? Is it more challenging to evolve when a character repeats the same trials and triumphs in each performance?
Everything I’ve ever done filming-wise has been quite a quick turnaround so I really enjoy getting fully to grips with a character when doing theatre. It’s an enjoyable process. I enjoy filming for a different reason, it’s the total opposite…small, contained, and real. If we were to film Bella Manningham right now, I may break the camera. It takes a moment to readjust as to what the job is.
Besides catching your theatre performance in “Gaslight,” what can fans expect next from Kara Tointon?
I’m having a little break and then back to the old auditions. Wish me luck, or breaking of legs. Or both!
PHOTOGRAPHER & FILM DIRECTOR: Catherine Harbour
PHOTOGRAPHERS ASSISTANT: Ed Finlay
STYLIST: Karl Willett
ASSISTANT STYLIST: Juli Molnar
MAKEUP ARTIST: James Butterfield using Charlotte Tilbury
HAIR STYLIST: Oliver Daw using Colourproof haircare
VIDEO EDITOR: Samuel Marquez
INTERVIEWED BY REBECCA BESNOS
Post expires at 4:44am on Friday November 17th, 2017