5 Minutes With....Doncaster actor Josh Casswell
His love for drama and performance traces right back to early days in primary school, claims Doncaster actor Josh Casswell.
Now living in London, Josh, 28, recalls the excitement of shows for parents at Bentley High Street Primary School.
Later, as a pupil at Don Valley High School, drama was the subject at which he shone, and he was encouraged to make it his career.
“I was a bit of a prankster at school, in good sets but I spent a fair bit of time in the corridor. I achieved an A in my drama GCSE and teacher Kenny Hegarty told me I had real potential and could make a career in acting,” said Josh.
“My old man works on the railways and wanted me to be a sparky, brickie or plumber. He was doing his best to ensure I got work and got paid so I could make a living.”
Drama wasn’t and isn’t an easy choice, Josh added. He is devastated that High Melton College, where he studied for and achieved a diploma in performing arts over three years, has now closed.
“Simon Carr was a tutor there, and someone I have the utmost respect for. He really helped to build my confidence,” explained Josh.
“Auditioning for drama schools is a steep learning curve. It’s expensive as they charge a fee just to do an audition, then there’s the travelling etc...
“Money is an issue with drama. If you’re working class and it’s not readily available it’s tough. My parents supported me and I’ve always worked to fund what I need but it’s an ongoing struggle.
“I felt different to the people surrounding me much of the time. There is still a huge class division in the drama world. It’s a bizarre journey and one that my best mate Richard Crehan (and best man at my wedding) has experienced too. He’s another Doncaster lad, from Scawthorpe.”
Josh moved to London at 19 and attended the Poor School, taking a bank loan to fund his time there, which is now paid back in full.
“It’s hard, working and auditioning, fitting in what you can. I might get a call in the day when at work, and have to rush home, learn a script then make and send a recording because I can’t get time off for auditions.
“So many times I’ve just lost out on a life-changing role, when it’s been down to me or one other person.”
He has worked as a chef then in sales for some years to keep the cash flowing, and he’s currently employed by the London Beer Factory and is ‘learning a lot’.
“Most actors aren’t entirely honest about the business because they want to be seen a certain way. I call a spade a spade so will readily admit it’s tough in more ways than one.
“Much of the time it’s about who you know, I’m afraid. Deals are done in all sorts of places. The persistence required in this industry is phenomenal.
“It’s tested me time and again but I feel fulfilled because I’m following my passion. I know nothing worth having comes easy.
“I’m probably most proud of my role as Leighton in Remora, a BFI production. That’s the sort of production I want to be part of. It’s about a lad who finds himself involved with a crowd he doesn’t really want to be with but he can’t help himself. When the penny finally drops his reaction is quite something....”
”Coronation Street was interesting to do ...I recently played Terry, linked to Pat Phelan. They were lovely there and I can understand why people want to stay with the soaps.
“I’m currently working as the lead in a feature film to be released in the autumn. I can’t say much about that, but will see what happens.”
Josh enjoys the immediacy of film and television most.
Married for two years to his former folk singer wife, he recognises the need to be and stay in London.
“My roots and my upbringing are part of me and will always be important. It was a massive shock to the system when I first moved south. I got digs in Peckham and it was three or four weeks before I started drama school. It’s a big Afro-Caribbean community, very different to Doncaster, so took some adjusting to, but diversity is a beautiful thing and I’m a better person for experiencing it.
“I would still encourage any working class youngster who wants to be an actor to go for it, if they are 100 per cent determined. Anyone who wants to be famous or to make money shouldn’t do it. You have to want a genuinely extraordinary life to be an actor.
“I never told my dad this but he was a big factor in my following my dream because I was rebelling against him and wanted to impress him, he fuelled my determination.
“I have a great agent, he finds me parts that are ‘me’. The big casting directors know who I am and I get recalled time and time over. I am resilient, as time has shown....”