Mhairi Calvey started acting playing Young Murron in Braveheart. The casting directors had auditioned people in the US and over the UK. They came to Arran a small Island on the West Coast of Scotland where Mhairi was living and they drove past her primary school just as she was walking out. After they spoke to her teacher and mum they auditioned Mhairi in the playground and a week later she was cast in Braveheart.
It was just the right place at the right time. Mhairi had always loved film, even before she got her first role she used to love watching black and white films so it was always in her blood. After Braveheart Mhairi returned to school on the advise of a casting director and she had a very normal and lovely childhood.
Once Mhairi had completed her education she joined a theatre company for two years and from then went to drama school in London for 3 years. Since graduating Mhairi have been working her way up in film.
— Mhairi Calvey (@MhairiCalveyAct) January 9, 2017
indieactivity: Did you study what you do?
Mhairi Calvey: I studied acting for 5 years. Two years while I was with the theatre company in York and then for 3 years at the Guildford School Of Acting in London. I used to read a play a week so I could learn as much material as possible and we had classes in film, voice, Shakespeare and more. The training at drama school is full on. You start at 8 and finish in the evening. It is very different to university hours. Some people quit after a few months of training.
indieactivity: What acting technique do you use?
Mhairi Calvey: I use a mix of techniques to prepare for a role, it all depends on the script and style of the piece. In most cases I will use a mix of Stanislavsky and Meisner, however if a role is particularly challenging I like to use the Mike Leigh technique too. I try and gather as many resources as possible to play the role.
indieactivity: Do you take courses to improve your craft?
Mhairi Calvey: I practice at home and take courses too. I love training and working with other actors to learn more. I now work with a vocal coach for film. I also think it is important to work on my skills so I train in Krav Maga martial Arts once a week and I am currently teaching myself the guitar.
indieactivity: What acting books do you read?
Mhairi Calvey: One of the books I read in drama school was Stella Adler The Art Of Acting, which I can recommend for people who are in training.
indieactivity: How do you keep fit as an actor: mentally and physically?
Mhairi Calvey: My martial arts keeps me fit, I do cardio three times and week and yoga twice a week too. I try and do a bit of reading every might before I go to bed and I practice mindfulness too.
indieactivity: How do you prepare for a role?
Mhairi Calvey: Once I have read the script through I couple of times I break it down into four sections of things I need to know about the character based on their actions, dialogue and what other people say about them. This gives me a clear idea of what the writer is going for. Afterwards I speak to the director so I can fit his vision into my preparation and then I start building the character and doing any research that is necessary.
If the character is an expert in something I will read about the topic or if its a period drama I will research what life and politics was like back then. I will then do a series of practical exercises to prepare and the I will finally got back to the script once I have my back story and I will make notes on the thoughts and feeling each scene should have and objectives. This can take a month or more of preparation, if I am lucky enough to get that time.
indieactivity: How do you create character?
Mhairi Calvey: I think every actor has their own technique. I use the things I learn’t in drama school and I have developed my own technique from that. It’s good to ask questions about your character. What is their day to day routine, what is their worst memory, family history etc. Do they have any addictions or habits. All of these things help to build a person. I constantly ask questions and most of the detail will be in the script, if the script is written well it will be covered in clues and from there you can fit in any missing pieces.
indieactivity: How do you stay fresh on a production set?
Mhairi Calvey: Often this depends on the director. Some directors want you to stay in character throughout the day’s shoot and others are happy for you to break role between takes or on a break. I think its good to try different things each take. Keep your continuity the same but try different emotions to do the scene and that will also give the editor more to play with in the edit.
indieactivity: Explain a creative choice you took on a production set?
Mhairi Calvey: When I had to play an alcoholic in the film ‘Alan’ I chose to keep the physicality during the whole shoot so while I didn’t stay in role I would walk around and move as she would have. The physicality was a big part of that particular role.
indieactivity: Describe a memorable character you played?
Mhairi Calvey: I think Eden Grey because she was different to other parts I have played. I have done a lot of roles that are very dark and tragic so to play Eden who is a strong fighting kick ass character was a great change for me and I had a great time working on that shoot, we had an amazing team
indieactivity: What do you want most from a director?
Mhairi Calvey: Confidence, I want them to be exact about what they want from everyone. It doesn’t work if the director can’t make a decision and it turning to other people for advise on the set about how a scene should be played. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
indieactivity: What actor do you long to work with?
Mhairi Calvey: Edward Norton and Meryl Streep are my favourite actors.
Mhairi Calvey: They care about there craft and have both worked in film, TV and theatre. I love that with every role they do they are completely different and they don’t just play versions of themselves but they transform. It’s not they they change there looks but they change their energy and body language.
indieactivity: What advice would you give actors?
Mhairi Calvey: Focus on the work and stay positive. There is a lot of rejection in this business and you have to rise above it. Create your own work. Almost every project I have ever done has come from writing to directors myself and from finding my own work. Don’t rely on an agent or casting directors.
indieactivity: Briefly write about your career?
Mhairi Calvey: When I graduated drama school I was aware that most of the other girls who graduated drama school looked like me so I had huge competition. I decided to do short films with film schools so I could make contacts in the industry with my peers.
I then did lots of short films with known directors and filmmakers that I knew would be seen in festivals and would get my profile out in the industry. I would sometimes do three auditions a day because of this I got a really varied show-reel and got to push myself with roles in Alan, Eden Grey and Horizon.
I was also nominated and won some awards for projects like Gemini which was a TV movie. While I was doing this I also worked my way up in independent feature film . I did one no budget film which lead to bigger movies and better productions. Now I get regular work as an actress playing lead roles in films that are made for 1 million such as 3 Lives and Abduct. I am now working my way into television and hoping to get into more high profile films again.
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