Interview #35: Caroline Oakes

Caroline Oakes is a multi-talented actor with credits in film, TV and theatre. Caroline has appeared films such as the award winning Cat Skin (2017) and TV shows such as Last of the Summer Wine and Silent Eye. More recently she has been in a number of short films that have found success on the UK Festival circuit.

In 2021 we will see Caroline in the exciting new film from Andrew Elias called Tales from the Great War.

What or who inspired you to become an actor?

I was inspired by a few actors namely Winona Ryder who in the 80’s was a few years older than me, her films inspired me. It looked fun and I’ve always had a great imagination but I never knew how to get into it. I come from a small town and never did any acting at school, there was no after school classes plus my confidence then was not the best. Another actor who I have always looked up to is Nicole Kidman, she is a chameleon. I have been a true follower of her work ever since watching Dead Calm with Sam Neil, she’s just superb, and a fighter for Women in Film! How she can seamlessly transition from one character to another is so inspiring. So just watching film, which I did virtually every weekend at the cinema, it was my inspiration.

Cat Skin (2017)
Dir: Daniel Grasskamp
Were there any actors that influenced your style/approach to acting?

Yeah, I always look to do characters that have a bit of grit in them, who have depth and who are interesting. There are many actors who have that but I love Claire Danes, since watching Homeland she has so much going on underneath. I use that in my acting, I find the character from within and then the physicality comes out. I always look at Who, What, Where, When and Why. I go through my script with those in mind and the character starts to take shape, with just those 5 questions. I look for relationships past and present. Where has she come from etc. I think if you can see it happening in the eyes of the character then you can feel her, understand her, have a sense of what is actually going on deep down.

How would you explain your experiences of no/low budget filmmaking?

I have had good and bad experiences, mostly good. I used to do a lot of student work to get my show-reel up, I would do whatever just to get some work on a reel and some experience in front of the camera. I went to Mountview Theatre School and we did not do a lot of screen work. So I needed to gain an understanding of how it worked and get some screen time under my belt. Screen work is completely different from theatre so I needed to get experience. The bad can always happen where the set-up is not as you expected or the Director hasn’t quite got a grip on what is happening or is a little bit green on set.

You’ve worked as an actor in both film and tv, how do these experiences compare?

Film is very different as the time you have to do a scene is more than you’d get on a TV production, they are always running to a tight schedule. Where as with film you get a chance to rehearse a few times, get to meet people and go over scenes and ideas. You don’t get that on TV, its quick. The process is the same, you still have to hit the mark, get the job done but the time is a factor.

On location: Cat Skin
Photo by Graham Cawte
In a recent interview with OFN, Lucy Russell discussed her philosophy towards acting, she said ‘No-one will ever do it like me (or like you, or like anyone else), so I just want to allow myself to express me as fully as possible through my work’. Do you have a personal philosophy towards your work?

It comes from within and I understand completely what Lucy is saying, its so true, there is only one you so yes; express it. I get the character and work with her, finding her and expressing her. And just say the lines. It has to be natural, you have to understand your character and her backstory.

What do you look for in a director?

Someone who you can talk to, who you can have an understanding with. Who is good at their job, they’re directing you, they should be willing to listen to you and not just bark orders of how they see the character. I suppose someone who is open to interpretation because lets face it we all have our own interpretations of each character and it may not be fully what the director has thought about. But it goes both ways, listening to each other is a perfect match.

What do you most enjoy and least enjoy about the filmmaking process?

I never thought I would say after years of doing mostly theatre, I actually enjoy the filmmaking Process more. I trained as a theatre actress but I love Film, I love the whole process! I like the fact that you can be around for just a few days or week. I have a 8 year old daughter and theatre is not an option for me, the rehearsals etc just wouldn’t work but filmmaking is so much more accessible for me. I can be away for a few days and then back to her and my family. I love working as a team, going on location and not just stuck in a room all day rehearsing. You only need to be there when needed, with theatre you end up there all day. And if touring, which I did a bit of, you are away from your loved ones much more, it can take its toll. What I least enjoy I suppose is the early rises and waiting, if working outside, for the light and the camera/crew set ups. But really I love being on set.

Is there anything that you’d change in the film industry?

There needs to be more forward thinking. We need to be more diverse and more thoughtful of how people are cast. Its too easy to typecast actors of colour as poor, down on their luck etc, ridiculous. Also Women need to be seen more in central roles. Again that is what I love about Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon, they have come together to change that. But in film we have to start giving the women parts that are more powerful. Parts that have balls.

Big Little Lies
What advice would you give to anyone starting out as an actor?

Starting out is quite difficult at the moment because there is not a lot happening but it will come back and it is slowly starting to happen. I would say don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the auditions or if you don’t get the parts you audition for, just keep saying to yourself, you got in the room, which is brilliant! It is a marathon and it takes time to be seen, just keep plugging away at getting a reel done, monologues done, be ready for that audition.

Keep working and doing as much as you can. Practise Self Tapes, they are definitely going to be a big part of auditioning in the future, America deal mostly with tapes. Get decent headshots and make sure they look like you, they show your personality. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you haven’t got an agent you must put the leg work in. So you must find your own work, do that regardless if you have an agent or not. I never rely on my agent to get me work, I am always looking to collaborate and to keep working. Get on Twitter meet new actors watch films and contact directors of those films. Just keep doing!

What’s next for Caroline Oakes?

I will be involved in 2 features in the next few months, one is starting in April and filming until Mid May and the other will be filming sometime in August. And just keep plugging and looking for work. I’m never still. I love to work.

You can find Caroline on IMDB, Spotlight and Twitter.

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