Shakespearean Masterclass Retrospect with James Physick
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
This past week I spoke to James Physick, a 2013 grad currently based in London who attended the Shakespearean Masterclass held in June. His passion for acting is complemented by a practical approach to living “the actor’s life.” Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
One of the things I like to ask right off the bat is what is it that you do to stay inspired, to keep in shape, to stay busy? That’s the thing; I don’t really “stay busy.” I’m always envious of my fellow alum who are living and breathing every minute and hour they have for this. They’re living that typical actor’s life: they’re going to see shows, they’re living on scraps, doing readings, waiting for that snap, that “break” to happen. I love acting more than anything, but I just can’t quite suffer while I’m doing the work. I’m not built that way. Every other industry I’ve worked for doesn’t get free labor, they don’t. I look at our industry, and yes, you have to put in those free gigs and opportunities at times, but at the same time, it’s a business, and that’s how I look at it. I’m nearly 40, and I take a step back and look at everything else going on for me: a fiancé, bills to pay, I’d like to have a family of my own soon. You have to think of what you’re really going to get out of doing a free project versus not doing it. Will I enjoy the process, or will I just end up angry because the project is a bit amateur? I hope I’m not sounding too pessimistic here; I’m trying to be very realistic! That’s not pessimistic at all. I find myself asking a similar question when I have opportunities: I can do Shakespeare with a coach, which allows me to work creatively and improve my craft, or I can jump on a short where the script isn’t as solid, but I’m meeting new people and gaining experience that way. Absolutely. And that’s an important thing to think about. Of course, when you’re young, it’s great to jump on as many opportunities as possible, but there are priorities in my life now. I transitioned from the US to the UK, and now nobody knows who I am here. The industry here is really small and difficult to break into…now I’m thinking of going and getting a Master’s and trying to get some connections that way. And what made you jump on doing the Shakespearean Masterclass? Jon-Michael reached out to me, asking me to do a tape for it, and I said, “hands down, yes!” I mean, Dame Harriet Walter is a formidable force in the world of Shakespeare, which isn’t my strong suit, to be honest. I got to revisit doing Hamlet, which was great, too… I think my neighbors thought I was having a breakdown. It really was such an honor to work with such an esteemed professional like Dame Harriet Walter. It was too good an opportunity to turn down. Anything with The Academy is great too—not many schools do those things, the Masterclass, post-graduation. I just have to ask: was it nerve-wracking? Yeah! I and some of the alums were sitting there looking at each other before going on, “okay, you’re going next, right, not me?” The fact that we had 60, 70 people in the audience was the least of my worries. My worry was about that one actor in the front row. Your heart is racing thinking about this incredible performer who’s here to critique us… Her attention to the language, and the literature, was remarkable. She has such respect for Shakespeare’s language. At one point, we did an exercise delivering the speech as though it were in a courtroom. What she was trying to get across was the idea of convincing the audience, of getting the verification from them. You have to get feedback from the audience that what you, your character, is getting that verification. What projects do you have going on at the moment? At the moment, I have something going on that I can’t really disclose. It’s a project I did stateside that has some really good news coming at the moment, there’s a bunch of us reuniting after about five years, and it’s really exciting, but I can’t say much more than that. Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself living stateside again. Whether it’s directing, producing, or performing. It might be big, it might be small, but I’m just finding a lot more natural interest in getting a bit more behind the scenes with things. Take care. I wish you all the best on your upcoming project and hope that the heat dies down in the UK. Thanks, August. A pleasure chatting with you! It’s funny, we went from extreme heat down to bitter cold. It’s like fall in London again, weirdly enough. England, eh?