“I still get that excited feeling when the lights go down at the cinema, right before you’re transported away for a few hours. To be part of something that fuels the imaginations of so many, including myself, is truly something I am grateful for. “
Recently we caught up with East 15 alumnus, Adam El Hagar (BA Acting and Contemporary Theatre, 2012), to find out about filming for ‘Catherine the Great’, featuring in Peaky Blinders, his journey through drama school and more!
Before his East 15 audition (for BA Acting) Adam had no knowledge of the Acting and Contemporary Theatre course. It was only after a chance meeting with Head of Contemporary Theatre, Uri Roodner, that Adam was introduced to the world of Contemporary Theatre, became hooked and was offered a place on the course.
Applying for drama schools found Adam in ‘a bit of a crisis’ he’d been acting from a young age, but he’d suddenly developed a love for music and was torn between the two. Contemporary Theatre allowed Adam to secure solid acting training, but also utilise his musical skills.
“My father is a film director and my mother is a costume designer, I’m lucky to have grown up on film sets and from a young age, I was exposed to a lot of diverse cinema. I saw the movie business in the flesh and I knew it was possible.
“East 15 gave me a very solid set of tools to approach text and characters, and I still use the same methods with every role I play. I was encouraged to think differently as an actor, to take responsibility for my career, not just wait for the phone to ring. I learnt how to make my own theatre, and hone my writing skills, which has been an essential skill to keep my creativity going.
“Some of the fondest experiences of my career have come from the work I’ve made myself and with other theatre-makers.”
Adam has climbed to success and is best known for his roles in the FX series ‘Tyrant’, the BBC series ‘Peaky Blinders’ and most recently HBO/Sky Atlantic’s ‘Catherine the Great’.
“Working on Catherine the Great was like a dream, having that calibre of cast, crew, writing and incredible production value. We felt like a big family and Helen Mirren was such an incredible leader for us all.
“You know, I will never forget the first day I walked on the set of ‘Peaky Blinders’, for sure the most memorable moment so far in my career. Going into the makeup trailer and Tom Hardy giving me a big hug, meeting Cillian Murphy on set, and shooting with them moments later, blew my 23 year old mind. I’d never been that close to two bonafide movie stars, let alone two people I admired that much. It also sticks in my mind how generous they were with me, as they knew it was one of my first jobs.”
Adam openly admits early on he struggled to know how to manage the business side of his career, mentioning you need to be prepared for the ups and downs. After his first string of jobs, he had a whole year of absolutely nothing, and he confesses it was scary.
“I hadn’t been clever financially, I had gone from hardly having any money to being paid a chunk all at once, I was 23 and loving life and just thought the works going to keep coming! But you need to be prepared for the quieter times, don’t forget, and along with saving this is a great opportunity to channel your creativity. Read books on the craft, write, watch films go to talks, ignite your inspiration!
“Leslie Odom Jr has written a great book about his life as an actor, he says ‘sometimes you need to awaken the beginner in you again and go back to that feeling that inspired you in the first place.’ I think this is true for any artist wanting to challenge themselves and keep on creating new exciting work.”
The thought of going to castings gives us heart palpitations, so we asked Adam for some advice, and some tips on how he channels that inner confidence.
“Know you belong there.
“It’s not scary if you really look at it, they WANT you to nail it. They want you to solve their casting problem, that’s why you have to believe in yourself more than anyone. You need to imagine the career you want, and fully believe you can get it.
“Focus less on the opportunity of the job and more on the work, pull all your nervous energy into working on the audition script, breaking down the scenes and creating that character, you naturally walk in more confident because you have something personal to offer and you feel like more of a collaborator.”
So, what’s Adam’s words of wisdom?
“It’s an oldy but goody: take your work seriously, but not yourself.
“Don’t give up, if you really want to do this for a living, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and not take the rejection personally. Expect nothing, but expect everything! Remember why you started acting in the first place, and believe that you’re meant to be doing it.
“The key is to not be disappointed if it doesn’t come straight away. Just keep going.”
We’re excited to continue to follow Adam’s journey through the film and TV industry!
Communications and External Relations, University of Essex
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