British actor, Jan Uddin has travelled with work all around the world and now resides in America.
- Welcome back to London… You’re here for the screening of your latest film at the Rain Dance Festival… what’s the film called, what’s it about, what character are you playing?
“It is called Lies We Tell, and is set in Bradford, Yorkshire. The film follows the story and life of a girl who is growing up in the Pakistani community, aspiring to be a lawyer in London, but finding it hard to break out from the underbelly of the darker side of the culture. Her ex-husband is kind of a psychopath; this is the guy I play. He is not totally evil. I relate to him. The film addresses a lot of subjects, and answers questions about culture and identity.”
Jan reveals layers in the ‘evil’ guy’s character in Lies We Tell, but looking at his portfolio of work, he hasn’t been pigeonholed into a specific role… From acting in UK soap Eastenders to starring in independent Brit movies like Shank, and now in Hollywood, f-ACT asks…
- You really show versatility visually, with your voice and acting ability… is this something you think you need to have to be a successful actor or is something that is developed as part of your craft?
“BOTH. It is good to have a natural interest in people and to be the type of person that observes others and their lives, and their mannerisms; the small things really count when it comes to acting and portraying authenticity. The way others talk and move, their expressions, their body language – in Lies We Tell – I was playing a character from Bradford – I moved there before we started filming, because the director really wanted Bradford in my bones so to speak. I think he believed I was quite soft and middle class – this is far from reality – but I went, and I had people to chaperone me, people I had to hang around… even from going to call centres to hang around with Asian guys from Bradford to immerse myself in the jokes, the comradery, the accent, and the culture. I went on nights out with people that would be classified as intimidating or dangerous people. In the physical sense this was method acting, but I mostly observe a lot ready for the characters I play!
I adapted the walk, how I moved my body. I use hand gestures a lot and I am quite light in my movements, so I added weight to my stance and gait and moved my hands less… I did all this about a month before filming and playing the character of Kade, all in preparation and so I could use these physical changes as markers giving me awareness that I was coming out of character. I had a dialect coach to refine the accent and a voice coach to bring my voice lower – all these things can be learned and you have training as an actor – but it starts with an interest in acting; in the role, the story. I had watched Four Lions – and I enjoyed that, so I naturally had an interest in that world and in the accent which I could train and be better at.”
- When you were studying these methods and techniques at acting school did you ever think you would make it to Hollywood? And was this always your professional goal?
“When I went to drama school I didn’t think I’d be doing acting afterwards – I was a little lost in life and I just wanted to study something – I thought it would be something interesting to do and keep me busy and entertained for a couple of years… when I was there, other people were looking forward to fringe or free theatre and I thought this would happen at very best, but I was fortunate to break into TV and film and I didn’t know I’d be doing this at all. I did know that, or at least I had a feeling that, I’d be doing something creative and different, just because of the person I am. I had learnt even then to be surprised by life and I knew crazy things happen to me, although I didn’t plan this at all – but now it is a case of carrying on with Hollywood basically or going anywhere where there are good roles.”
- How do you prepare for a big role?
“I only do physical method acting as mentioned before – not internal method to prepare. I have a sense of preparation of the lifestyle because I am somewhat of a nomad – I live with that availability and adaptability to this career – always ready to just go… and I like being able to do that too. Wherever I go I make that place a home instantly. I make friends in the community outside of the acting thing so it isn’t all consuming. I also prepare for a particular character by assessing what aspects I personally relate to and draw on past experiences more than I usually would and focus on them to ensure a real connection and performance.”
(You can download the movie to watch in full: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/lies-we-tell/id1329167883 )
- What tips or advice would you give an aspiring actor in what is known as a tough industry?
“Stay grounded so that you know who you are outside of your role. Deep conviction is good; to know deep down how you are made, how you are wired and what direction you feel your life should go. If you have a desire to be in the arts or to be a performer and it’s not just a flash in the pan desire based on watching a reality TV show one day and you thought ‘I wanna be a singer’, or “I wanna be an actor’… You need to possess a deep knowing or longing for this career and if you feel this longing, then work really hard! And live holistically… Try not to take it all too seriously as you only have one life and one chance to live it well. You must have all cylinders burning, so take care of your family, your friends, you know… that kind of thing. Take care of yourself, so put all of your effort into this career, but not all of your self-worth, if that makes sense. If you are an aspiring actor then get another skill or interest too that can pay the bills when work is thin on the ground… like a barber or something you can do to use your hands… a skill that want go out fashion – you can take it anywhere and make money. Always have another thing cooking in background just in case.”
That’s it – thanks so much for joining us – good luck with the film and the future.
Find out more about Jan: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2833973/
Jan Uddin on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jan.uddin/?hl=en
Rain Dance Festival Images: