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article imageJamie Ballard talks Shakespeare@home radio play 'Richard II' Special

By Markos Papadatos     Jun 28, 2020 in Entertainment
Actor Jamie Ballard chatted with Digital Journal's Markos Papadatos about the Shakespeare@home radio play "Richard II," and being an actor in the digital age.
His new radio series "Shakespeare@home" launches on July 1st. "So, this is the brainchild of a dear friend of mine from drama school, Sean Hagerty. I’m so proud of what he’s achieved. He is the founder and Artistic Director of Shakespeare@, a New York-based theatre company, that Sean set up to do site-specific productions of Shakespeare’s plays. Obviously, at this time, that is not possible – but that didn’t deter Sean."
Ballard continued, "He has a passion for Shakespeare, and for bringing Shakespeare to audiences hungry for it. So, he decided to create Shakespeare@home, recording online radio plays beginning with this production of Richard II, which will stream in three parts. It's an extraordinary play – a psychological study of power and the perils that go with it. I think it contains some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful writing."
"I read it for the first time at drama school and fell in love with it. In fact, I did a speech from it as an audition piece whilst at drama school – as did Sean. So, when Sean asked if I would do it with him, I jumped at the chance. And then instantly became terrified," he said.
When asked what makes the Shakespeare@home series unique, he responded, "Shakespeare@ are known for delivering accessible interpretations of classic works for a new audience, with a focus on international and cross-cultural exchange. And that is certainly the case with Shakespeare@home. It’s been such a pleasure and a privilege to work on this incredible play with such an exciting team of actors, sound engineers, and creatives – some in LA, others in New York and a few of us in London."
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he played Harry Potter in the West End production. "Playing Harry came out of the blue. I never thought that role would come my way. But it has been the most incredible ride. The books, films, and now plays, explore and examine such incredibly important themes – friendship, family, love, loss, grief, survivor guilt, isolation and the radicalization that can result from that isolation – it's incredibly exciting, but also a huge responsibility," he said.
"I'm not going to lie – it was really daunting, taking on such a known and loved character. But the team is so unbelievably lovely and brilliant, it’s just a huge honor going out there to tell that story. And hopefully, we will be back at The Palace Theatre in the not too distant future to continue doing just that," he added.
On being an actor in the digital age, he said, "Well, to begin with, I am appalling with technology. I’m getting better – I’m having to get better. But I had the same phone for years. I’ve only just got a new one and recently bought my first tablet, so I’m feeling very proud of myself. But I am also an intensely private person. I don’t use social media. On Day 1 of Harry Potter rehearsals, we had an absolutely terrifying chat with their social media/privacy guru and it scared the living daylights out of me. I suppose at some point I may have to jump off the cliff, but for the moment, I’m calmer not being on it. I’d just constantly worry that I wasn’t posting enough, or anything I did post was boring."
"On the flip side, the advances in technology have enabled us to do this series. It’s incredible that all of us were able to hook up from our living rooms in our respective countries to rehearse and record this play. And the strides made in the streaming platforms have led to the creation of a lot more work for those in our industry. When I was leaving drama school, it felt like everything on our screens was reality TV. Now, there is so much drama being made/ready to be made when we come out the other side of COVID. It’s fantastic," he said.
Regarding his daily motivations, he said, "I’m incredibly lucky to do a job that I love. I love telling stories. I love teamwork. I love looking into another actor’s eyes and knowing that we are on that journey together. I suppose it’s the desire to keep that happening that motivates me – but some days are harder than others."
For young and aspiring actors, he said, "It truly is a marathon, not a sprint. So, don’t compare the speed and trajectory of your journey with those of others. A legend of an actor, Richard Briers, said 'If you want to be an actor – don’t go into acting. If you need to be an actor – go for it.' – or words to that effect. And I think he’s right. It’s a bloody tough and uncertain life for most in the business. If there’s anything else you think you could do and would make you happy, seriously think about it."
"If you do decide to go down the acting route, it’s your journey and nobody else’s. So, don’t compare your journey to anybody else’s “Why did he get that part and I didn’t” “If I’d done that play instead of her, I’d now be in that Netflix series.” It took me far too long to realize that. You have to be happy with yourself. It’s all too easy to fall into bitterness and resentment in a business when you, yourself, are the product you’re selling," he said.
"Finally, watch stuff – plays, tv, films. Look at other actors, observe their choices. And with COVID, a lot of theatres such as The National Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company, here in the UK, are streaming many of their productions that were filmed. Now is a great time to get stuck into them," he added.
On his definition of success, he said, "Doing work that I’m proud of with people I love. That’s a pretty good day at the office."
"I’m so, so proud of what Sean has achieved," he concluded. "In these difficult times, he has brought a wonderful group of actors and creatives together to tell this incredible story. It was a ray of sunshine and positivity in my life rehearsing and recording it and I hope Richard II will be the same for those who tune in to listen. And what’s more, there will be no cost to download and listen online at the Shakespeare@ website. I hope you enjoy it."
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