Saturday, May 03, 2008


Weekend Words...with Audrey McCoy

Welcome to this week's Weekend Words feature which sees me leave the politics to one side and instead take a look at the individuals helping to shape Irish popular culture. Taking my questions this week is Irish actress and one of the stars from RTE Two's Hollywood Trials, Audrey McCoy.

My thanks to Audrey for taking my questions. So then, without further ado, let's begin...

You've been on Irish screens the past few weeks in the TV show Hollywood Trials. What prompted you to try out for the show?

When I first read about it, the series seemed to be a great opportunity to get an insight into the LA industry and to gain valuable training. I hoped that if I performed well and gave it my best shot I could help boost my career at home. I understood it can be a risk doing a documentary series, but once I had a few meetings and understood what the production company was aiming for, I had no doubts about taking part. With Margie Haber, Declan Lowney and Ros Hubbard on board I was thrilled to be chosen!

The show sees yourself and nine other actors attempting to make it in Hollywood . What was the atmosphere like with everybody?

We are all professionals, but of course it is difficult living and working with a group of people for a whole month, especially with the added pressure of feeling exposed in front of the cameras and wanting to perform well. Overall it was easier than I expected and I felt we turned to each other for support and advice.

You could be having a great day, but another person could be having a tough time and we had to learn to be sensitive to that. There was always a lot of humour and lightness, also when the pressure was on.

Competition for the final places looked tough. What goes through your mind when you're put in a competitive situation like that?

I felt quite exhausted after the three-day audition process. You never knew when you would be called to perform, so the adrenalin was constantly going. It was either fight or flight. The worst fear is letting yourself down and that fear lingers constantly. I kept telling myself to take it step by step, otherwise I would get overwhelmed, but my legs were shaking at one point! I am certain all the actors involved could deliver strong performances. The tough part was being good under pressure with time constraints and with cameras distracting you. Trying to remain focused on each task as it came to you was the key to staying relatively calm. We all have a tendency to try to compare ourselves to others and how they’re doing, but that’s just spreading energy where it won’t do you any good.

I understand that you have a twin sister who is also an actress. How did your sister react to the news you were going to LA for the show?

Sharon was absolutely ecstatic and the first person I called. Throughout the auditions she helped me prepare in the evenings. She knew how much it meant to me to go and kept leaving messages of encouragement on my mobile, including recordings of songs I love to keep my spirits up! She’s very proud.

On the first show I noticed you said you'd probably end up being the mummy of the group. Is that how things turned out?

I think Annemarie deserves that crown! But I had my moments. The guys were the best cooks, but the worst housekeepers!

On one of the episodes the actors all got cosmetic assistance and advice and you remarked that you weren't going to be a Barbie. Was that a fear held by the girls on the show? That they would be asked to alter their appearance?

I was surprised that the other girls were also anxious about meeting the stylist. I don’t particularly enjoy that aspect of it, but I was sure I’d be the only one. We all had our fears I think. There is a certain LA look that a lot of girls seem to aim for and I personally don’t feel like I fit into that or want to. We did pick up some good fashion and makeup advice though.

Looks and presentation account for so much, especially over there. As a businesswoman I have to learn to make the most of that, but as an actress I am aiming for something more organic. I tried my best to grow while staying true to myself and I think the other girls did too.

We saw examples of size zero, too much plastic surgery etc. It’s frightening when girls cross a dangerous line. It was hard, but we all had a sense of humour about it and were willing to make certain changes. We also recognised that they push the envelope there. What else can you expect from an industry where people look for ways to stand out and compete against each other? I take it with a pinch of salt. Most of the actresses I admire don’t actually conform to that look either. There’s also a lot of pressure on the men over there to look good.

I understand that you studied English and German at UCD. While you were at the college did you get involved with any of the drama societies there?

I spent most of my free time in Dramsoc, hanging out and watching plays. For the sake of my studies I only took part in a couple of shows, but wish I had had the time to do more.

What are some of the Theatre productions you've been involved in and how does that compare to being on camera?

I performed in a range of theatrical productions, mostly fringe and independent theatre. They include dramas, musicals and pantomimes, and before Hollywood Trials I performed in the chorus of Carmen at the National Concert Hall. My favourite role so far is Ermelinda in The Heiress of the Cane Fields – a Portuguese novel set in 19th Century and adapted for the stage and performed in the Greenwich Playhouse in London . I played a young girl falling in love, whose spirit is crushed by her Godmother who has extreme religious beliefs.

I love theatre. I work well in an ensemble and thoroughly enjoy the rehearsal process and the excitement of a live audience.

Film is a very different discipline, which I feel I adapt to easily. It’s great seeing the finished product, but the process feels more tedious and you have to be very patient. It has different rewards. I am probably more influenced by film than theatre overall. The Golden Age of Hollywood and its stars has left its mark on me.

I read on RTE's website that you once worked at Madame Tussauds' Chamber of Horrors in London. What are your memories of that?

That was such a fun experience! It was an ideal day-job for an actor, as flexibility to attend auditions was part of the deal. We got to dress up in crazy make-up and costumes and hang out with other actors and dancers. They actually gave us a workshop on scare techniques and the set had all sorts of hiding places, cages and effects. There were set characters you had to play. I was either a serial killer or the hag with her stick on Jack the Ripper Street . It was always dark and spooky. No one liked being down there on their own! They gave the best Halloween parties!

Ideally what kind of acting roles would you like to be involved in? Would you prefer serious roles? Or maybe something to do with comedy?

I want to try as much as I can, even if I make a fool of myself! I see myself mostly as a dramatic actress. I had my first comedy classes in LA and was surprised at how much I loved them. Comedy is very difficult, but I’m certainly going to jump on an opportunity to give it a shot. I adore musicals and love singing. I can’t dance a lick, but to do something like The Sound of Music or Guys and Dolls would be a dream.

What do you feel you've learned from your experiences over the past twelve months?

My experience of Hollywood Trials has given me a lot of personal reassurance, but also a wake up call. I feel that I won a hard battle doing the series, but I’m still fighting a war and recognize more than ever how strong and resilient I have to be. The education I received has helped me enormously.

What does the future hold in store for you?

I recently accepted a management offer, which I’m very happy about. I’d like to push forward and play roles on TV and film. I completed a documentary-feature called Dracula’s Stoker, which is set for release in the US next August, and I’m very excited about that.

When I’m not on a job I continue to work on low-budget projects to meet people and gain experience. I still have to support myself in between acting work, which is a reality of most actors.

I hope to find work that challenges and inspires me. It’s an unpredictable and an exciting career. I’m looking forward to whatever comes my way!

Finally I'd like to play a small round of word association about your fellow cast from Hollywood Trials. I'm sure you know what it entails. Basically just sum up what comes into your head when you hear the following names:

Anne Marie -
Cat - giddy
Chris - slick
Emmet - sexy
George - hilarious
Holly Sushi
Joe - drums
Michael - dinner
Susan - grounded
And yourself... - strange

Thanks again Audrey for taking my questions. Very best of luck to you in the future.

Hollywood Trials, RTÉ Two, Thurs, 9.30pm

Taking my questions next weekend is RTE Prime Time presenter and journalist Mark Little. Stay tuned to United Irelander for future interviews.

Previous Weekend Words features here.


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