Mary Fogg is an actress who has fond memories of growing up by the seaside in North Wales before moving to leafy Cheshire. Mary tells us why William Shakespeare’s much loved quote “To Thine Own Self Be True” means so much to her and why her number one tip on working in the acting industry is always to be authentic, both on and off the stage/screen. She also talks of an emotional time in her life that changed the way she looks on the world forever and how she now accepts is the reason she got back on the horse and is giving the acting profession another go!
I’m one of those that from a toddler was always a bit of a show off! I developed a love of performing in front of my friends at school and decided I wanted to be an actress when I was about 13. I was encouraged at school by my drama teacher and entered many local speech & drama competitions which I really enjoyed. A highlight for me was at age 16 being accepted on to the Clwyd Youth Theatre course in Bangor, North Wales. This was a residential course held in the summer for young and aspiring actors to learn many aspects of the acting industry, including voice, mime, dance, stage combat, technical theatre, etc and all taught by professional tutors working in TV and Theatre at the time. Many of the then teenagers are still working in the acting profession today, and in fact I’m often seeing old Clwyd Youth Theatre friends pop up on the small screen which is lovely! Oh and I’m not jealous AT ALL about one of them being the lead in this lucky girl! The course culminated with a performance at Theatr Clywd Cymru in Mold, and I was really happy to be accepted again for a second year running.
After school and having completed a two year performing arts course at college, I did a further two year theatre course at Coventry Centre for the Performing Arts which further instilled my love of acting. After this course I decided I wanted to do a one year post graduate/intensive acting course at Drama School and after a rigorous audition process was delighted to receive an offer from The Oxford School Of Drama As is with life, my path decided to take a different route and I had to make the decision not to accept the offer. Although I often have moments of “what if” I shall always be encouraged that once upon a time I was ‘good enough’ to be accepted at drama school.
Although I did work abroad as an entertainer for a short while, my path took me out of the performing arts world for some years and I (kind of) accepted my time as an aspiring actress was over and just got on with life. I had varying careers including sales, retail, holiday rep, cabin crew, and then came the babies! With this of course came great joy and happiness having a daughter in 2001, however, it also brought me deep sadness as in June 2005 I sadly lost a little boy, Joshua, who was born very prematurely. This was a very emotional time, we had a funeral for Joshua and I just knew my life would never quite be the same again. The experience did however make me appreciate life and that one really has to make the most of it and all that it has to offer. The following year I was overwhelmed with joy to bring home a baby boy, Oscar, born 11 weeks early, weighing a tiny 3 lbs and having spent over a month in SCBU. He was my little hero, my little ray of sunshine after such a traumatic time. Here he is on his first little jaunt outside whilst still in hospital, breathing in his first bit of sunny fresh air at a month old!
Being my rainbow baby he has brought me so much happiness and I still pinch myself I got to bring him home. He’s growing up to be a wonderfully gentle, caring and loving young chappie! He also takes after his mum and does a bit of acting in his spare time. He even got to meet Mr. Hugh Grant but that’s a whole other story!
I soon got creative again, started blogging, bought a fancy new sewing machine and set up my own business ‘Polka Dots And Posies’ hand making and selling home wares and accessories. My work appeared in many magazines and craft books and I also found myself embracing my love of all things vintage, up-cycling old, unused furniture and giving it a new lease of life. A fun highlight during this time was appearing with a friend I’d met online and also called Mary as a contestant on BBC One’s Bargain Hunt. Oh we did have a jolly time – I felt very privileged to meet Mr. David Barby who I had some really interesting chats with and who sadly has since passed away. I also ended up buying back one of the items we bought to sell at the auction….long story!
Thoughts of Joshua were never far away and with his shining light above me, his spirit kept encouraging and reminding me of fulfilling life and to follow one’s dream. Life is just too darn short! I knew deep down acting was my ultimate dream and after years of never having even picked up a script, thinking I was probably too over the hill anyway but what the heck, I decided to give acting another shot! I realised the passion had always been there, but it just needed reigniting!
I was lucky enough to get some small acting parts here and there and gained lots of positivity from listening to Ross Grant’s weekly motivating and mind hacking periscope’s and quickly realised I had a hunger for acting all over again. Joshua never got the opportunity to take life down off the shelf, and have his own dreams and aspirations so in his honour I was going to do him proud, and this time, not give up on mine! Being in front of the camera again was like meeting up with an old, but very dear friend and I decided to jump right in and network, network, network!
I wanted to refresh my skills and join some acting classes, and one that I have been attending for over a year now is a Meisner technique class covering all modules of repetition, activities, emotional prep and text. Connecting with another person is absolutely key for me, and so I have found Meisner a wonderful grounding in my acting work. The classes are intimate, with a small group of around 8 actors and I definitely feel I am a much more truthful actor with my Meisner work. I believe that being authentic is so important, as Sanford Meisner said acting is “Behaving Truthfully Under Imaginary Circumstances” and I enjoy acting from moment to moment, using my natural impulses. I do however try not to get bogged down with just one chosen acting method and Actor Tribe is another class I have enjoyed run by acclaimed actors Lee Boardman and Sally Carman as these classes for me compliment my Meisner work and yet offer a little something different to the bag.
I have attended some great casting workshops and a special mention has to go to one I attended at act4tv with BAFTA nominated director Jordan Hogg, I don’t know whether it’s a Hogg/Fogg thing but I really warmed to Mr. Hogg, and learnt so much from his session. I came away refreshed, enlightened and motivated to keep going and do all I can to help get me through those casting doors! I was extremely humbled when I watched a recent interview he did, which was utterly heartwarming, and where he gave little old me my very own shout out! You can watch a preview of his interview here with an option to sign up and watch the full episode.
Shakespeare’s quote “To Thine Own Self Be True” is a firm favourite of mine as I think being authentic in your acting work is when the magic really happens. Although acting is ultimately the art of playing someone else, I really think we have to let our own personal guard down and give ourselves fully to the part. For me, when an actor holds back, is not being authentic it can lead to a rather flat/fake performance. Having experienced deep loss as many of us have, acceptance and healing is a way forward, but it can also bring with it a vulnerability and within my acting work I accept and embrace that vulnerability. It is a part of me and I try not to see it as a negative as I feel strongly that we need to be able to share who we really are first and foremost to enable us to give that performance of a lifetime.
Off stage, I can see why sometimes actors may feel that they have to pretend to be somebody else, perhaps what they think others, especially casting directors, want them to be and yet I say just BE YOU, the real, beautiful, wonderful you. As Dr. Seuss says “Today You Are You, That Is Truer Than True. There Is No One Alive Who Is Youer Than You”. Sometimes it’s not that straightforward, and I know this is an industry well known for many of us feeling down in the dumps at times, waiting for our moment, thinking perhaps I should be like this, or like that….but surveys have shown those of us who are authentic and true to ourselves are more satisfied with life, have higher self esteem and are generally happier. Don’t let the ‘noise’ of other people’s opinions etc drown out your own inner voice, and have the courage to follow your heart.
So for now I’ll keep on at it, and be grateful for any little part that may come my way. Current acting goals are to perform in a period drama, and if we’re being specific, Call The Midwife, Poldark, Peaky Blinders, Mr. Selfridge, Home Fires, The Land Girls and of course Downton Abbey (yeh just a few there) have always been my absolute fave programmes I’ve wanted to get my acting chops around! A girl can dream….I also have a fondness for the gritty stuff and love to play the bad girl. In contrast I also wouldn’t mind making an arrest or two in any of the continuing drama’s – that would be just fine with me (I have been told I make a cracking CID officer) and lets face it there’s plenty of naughty boys and girls gracing soap land these days that need putting in their place! Whatever the role I always aim to just be me, an authentic human being who isn’t perfect and still has her occasional down in the dump days, but who gives a bit of her own self every time she’s handed a script or meets a director/cd. I’m sure it’s ultimately about what I can bring to the character, can I indeed rise to meet the demands of the role, and that’s fine, that’s the casting team’s job. But hopefully I’ll also get the opportunity to give a hint of the real, authentic me and leave a little sparkle behind in that casting room!
This acting malarkey is a roller coaster for sure but I think with a positive mental attitude, and an authentic nature it will make for a far smoother and more pleasant ride!
Good luck with your own acting journey’s, I’ll be rooting for you!