THE BLOG

In at the Deep End

14/04/2016 17:29

"Have you read this script?" shouted my husband. "Yes, of course." I replied. " There's a scene in which you have to swim underwater, right?" "Well yes, I know, but they might drop it." "Can't see that happening, you'd better learn to swim."

For me though, water was my biggest fear. I was swept away in the sea in Egypt when I was a child and very nearly drowned. Since then the thought of splashing about in an ocean or jumping into a swimming pool utterly terrifies me.

For an actor there is nothing quite like hearing the words "You've got the part." That is all that matters. To get that part you might have to stretch the truth a little. "Can you ride a horse?" "I was a show jumper as a child."

"Can you ski?" "If it's downhill."

"Can you swim?" "Erm... yes, yes."

So having landed the role of Philippa In Kicking Off I now had to not only overcome the feeling of blind panic, I also had to learn the technicalities required to manoeuvre my body in water. Swimming lessons ensued, or rather a couple of hours of me flailing my arms about whilst hyper-ventilating. Fail to prepare, prepare to drown.

The toughest thing about being an actor is dealing with failure. Audition after audition where you lay yourself bare in front of a couple of strangers and a camera, only to walk out the door without ever hearing a thing. It's difficult to dispel the nagging self doubt that comes with
rejection.

I suppose, though, the constant disappointments make it even more joyous when you get a call back.

I remember getting the news from my agent that I was in contention for the role in Kicking Off. The feeling of elation was tempered, however, when she told me that the producers were going to come and watch me perform on stage (I was, at that time, performing Responsible Other at Hampstead Theatre).

Theatre is nerve-wracking enough without the added pressures of having a couple of potential employers sitting gawping at you from the second row. Somehow though I held myself together and the part was mine.

Eventually filming for Kicking Off started. It was wonderful to be working, especially alongside the brilliantly talented and hugely supportive Warren Brown, Greg McHugh and Alistair Petrie.

Days went by, scenes were shot, fun was had, but creeping ever closer was 'watergate'.

When the day arrived I still hadn't told the director and producer that I couldn't swim. I still hadn't told them that I had been attempting to learn but my phobia was so overwhelming that I was not the slightest bit confident that I could see it through.

In fact telling Matt Wilde (Director) and Andy Thompson (Producer) of my lack of mermaid-like qualities was almost as terrifying as the thought of entering the enormous tank of water itself.

"You can't swim?" they said almost in unison. "But you need to swim underwater wearing a wedding dress." "I know....I'll do my best."

To be honest what followed was as comical as it was scary.

Firstly they chucked in huge amounts of milk to make the water murky (it was meant to replicate a canal). Wedding dress on, I slowly eased myself into the tank.

I needed to swim underwater in a serene manner towards the camera. I managed to conquer fear number one and put my head beneath the surface, but panic quickly set in. I tried again. And again. Getting under the water wasn't the problem, staying under was a different matter.
At this point Warren and Alistair came to my rescue. They got in the tank along with a diver. They were not only very encouraging and full of advice, but actually pushed my head down to enable me to get deep enough (this is starting to sound rude) so as not to keep resurfacing. I'm
not sure how many hours I was in there for or how many takes it took, but with a lot of help and sheer determination not to let everyone down, we finally got it.

There was a real feeling of relief after and not just from me. There was also a great sense of achievement, but I promise you this, I will not be swimming again anytime soon. And I will not be telling any more lies at castings... actually that's a lie.

Kicking Off is in cinemas from 21st April 2016, and on DVD and On Demand from 25th April 2016

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