Performer Richard Taylor Woods has been acting and singing for over 22 years’. His professional experience incorporates performing in West End musicals and productions around the world. He is currently performing in Motown: The Musical on the West End in London. We asked Richard to talk about his life as a professional performer and to share some insight into life on stage and as a professional performer.
What inspired you to start in the industry, did you always know you wanted to be a performer? How did you come to be doing what you are doing today?
I didn’t really have a lightbulb moment… I just always wanted to be onstage and performing for as long as I can remember. I loved the thrill of it from the age of nine, when I was in my primary school pantomime. Then I made sure I was available for all the school plays and joined as many local groups as I could fit into my week!
Eventually, as I got older, I just wanted to move to London (to be in the stereotypical atmosphere of the bright lights, big city etc) which I did when I was 19 with some friends, and shared a one-bedroom apartment with three mates as that was all we could afford. It was cramped and messy as four young lads sharing a small apartment would be but I loved every minute of it.
What advice would you give boys, in particular, that are interested in singing and acting, but feel there can be a stigma that dance, in particular, isn’t for boys?
Advice I would give to boys who are interested in singing and acting would be… don’t be put off doing something you really want to do.. there’s always gonna be less lads in dance classes than girls..that’s the nature of it. Make friends with other boys interested in the same thing as you.. strength in numbers.. help each other with positivity. You can still play football too if you want to (I did) and enjoy it!
What were the first steps and actions you took that you took to get started?
I always bought The Stage newspaper to find out about open auditions to start with. I got very lucky and landed a West End job from an open audition at my first time of trying which is sooooo rare! I bypassed drama school and learnt on the job!! Very lucky! Saved my myself £30 000 in drama school tuition fees although, if truth be told, I would have loved to have had an opportunity to go to RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) for the discipline and technical aspects of acting… but I’d started working as an actor and didn’t look back.
What is the single most difficult challenge you have faced on your journey as a performer?
The single most difficult challenge I’ve had and continue to have is be taken seriously, and getting through the audition door for straight theatre and TV and film roles. There is a consistent snobbery surrounding musical theatre actors that we are somehow lightweight and more light entertainment than serious dramatic actors. We need someone to take a chance and give us a platform to show that we can adapt and crossover. This is beginning to happen a little bit can always be more.
As an industry expert, what is the biggest challenge professional performers face in your field?
The biggest challenge facing actors is always landing a role. It’s a saturated market and there’s always someone else coming through the revolving door who is younger, fitter, CHEAPER than you are. You have to keep ahead of the game and keep your ear to the ground and keep ahead of the pack so you are current.
Day to Day – can you give us some insight into 3 things you do on daily basis.
3 key things I do in my day:
- Warm myself up vocally and physically for the show (currently I’m appearing in Motown in the West End)
- I tweet regularly, this is now a requirement for actors I think… it’s about creating awareness of you as a brand and so you can be accessible to casting directors and auditions more than ever before… it sounds self involved but it’s the way the industry is at the moment.
- Drink coffee!! Lots of coffee! 🙂
Being a professional actor/singer involves a lot of hard work and determination to pursue and maintain a job in the dramatic arts. What keeps you going back for more roles, and what is the best/most rewarding part of your job?
The honest answer is that I don’t know how to do anything else and I’m totally comfortable knowing what I need to do to prepare for auditions and roles in the industry. I have often thought about training in another field in life but in truth nothing, absolutely nothing excites me like performing does (except playing perhaps professional Premier League Football but as I approach 40 I’m just beginning to realise that might never happen now ;-)) so I guess I just keep chasing the dream.. and the bonus is that I get paid for doing what I love. To be up onstage doing what you love or acting in front of a camera is just the perfect job for a show off like me I guess.
Finally can you give anyone thinking of getting into the industry some words of wisdom?
Words of wisdom for anyone starting out? Most actors would say, don’t!! It’s a tough business and full of heartbreak and rejection, but if you have to follow your dreams and heart then develop a VERY thick skin. Don’t listen to self doubters, surround yourself with positive people (but don’t be arrogant) be committed to your industry but don’t take yourself too seriously.