We recently caught up with the beautiful, talented and witty actress Rochelle Neil. She was happy to share her thoughts of being an actress, getting into a role and what inspired her growing up. Here is what she had to say:
Hey, my name’s Rochelle. Lovely to meet you… Other than the obligatory pretending to be a Spice Girl in the playground, my first experience of performing was at primary school. We performed sections of Romeo and Juliet, for an end of term mini production. I can remember feeling so grown up as we sat going through the text and working out what it all meant. I decided to practice the Juliet lines, after school, adamant that I was going to play the part. I think Miss Ralph, my teacher, had already promised the role to another girl in my class but it’s hard to say no to an 8 year old reciting Shakespearean verse at you. The actual show must’ve been cute but hilarious. Think 30 kids, with these East London accents, charging their way through Shakespeare. But hey, after that I took my duties as “mini Scary Spice” very seriously and started attending Redbridge Drama Centre on a Saturday.
What inspired you to get into this industry?
Well other than Shakespeare and the Spice Girls… I think I’ve always had the desire to entertain and be a storyteller. If I wasn’t an actor I’d be a writer which, I think is born of the same fundamental passion.
What kind of training have you had, if any?
I started training full time from the age of 13, at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. We have a really strong theatre culture in the UK so I pretty much grew up on the stage. At the academy, I trained in 3 core disciplines: singing, dancing and of course acting. It was a wonderful way to grow up.
What has been your favorite role to play so far?
I’d say, Mayme in Intimate Apparel. I loved the story, the era and how intricate the script was. The character was by far everything I look for in a role. She read as a dynamic, strong, confident woman but in reality was one of the most broken characters in the piece. I guess no one is truly what they seem and I love exploring that. It was lots of fun.
What has been one of your biggest achievements in your career so far?
This one’s a funny one really. I’d say one of the biggest achievements in my career so far was probably when I alternated (then subsequently played) Tina Turner in the musical biopic Soul Sister, in the West End. Commercially it was quite a small production and I never got top billing but the vocal, physical and emotional stamina was beyond anything I’d ever done. I really felt like I’d earned my stripes as a leading lady and the encouragement I got playing such an iconic role was just incredible. Nowadays, I draw on that experience if ever I feel out of sorts. Haha, when in doubt just pretend to be Tina Turner!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished shooting The Hand of the Creator, written and directed by Odilon Rocha. It’s a neo-noir satire, set within the film industry, that centers around the relationship between a powerful producer, a notorious director and an aspiring actress. I played the aspiring actress but I don’t want to say much more till the movie comes out. We shot it on 16mm in black and white so visually I cannot wait to see it!!
Who would you most like to work with?
Ooo tough question. I’m pretty chilled on that front. Invariably I get more excited about what we’re doing rather than who we’re doing it with. Haha, wow I must sound like such a Billy-No-Mates! Ok, I love watching Christopher Nolan movies. His work is always incredible!
What are your plans for the future?
Career wise I’d say, longevity. I’m hoping to wake up at 70 and still get that adrenaline rush as I walk on to set. Crazy, I know but I’m planning for the long haul.
What is your advice to aspiring performers?
Persevere. I still believe it’s a humble craft, you know, what we do is one of the highest forms of flattery, of empathy, to understand someone or something enough to portray it truthfully. So, I’d say, be kind, be playful, stay curious and keep going. I’m no expert but those things seems to be so simple and have always kept me in good stead, both on and off the camera.