I had the pleasure of interviewing Dawn Anna Williamson. She is a British/Irish Actress, Novelist, and TV Host. After working on-camera in London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, she was granted a prestigious ‘EB1’ Green Card and settled permanently in New York City where she works as an actress and has quickly become a staple of the indie scene in Television and Film. Her hosting credits include major news channels, entertainment networks and red carpets around the globe.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes, I started as a child actor in musical theatre in London: acting, dancing and singing on stage from the age of 3! After college I became a writer; my first Novel was published in 2016. I was also working concurrently as a Broadcast Journalist, a career that took me all over the world. I specialized as a TV fashion expert with segments on major news channels and daily programming in the UK, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Lebanon.
Finally, everything I’d worked for came to fruition when I was granted an EB1 Green Card as an ‘Alien of Exceptional ability’. I always knew that I wanted to get back to acting, it was the dream that kept calling my name and I wasn’t able to deny it anymore. The first week I arrived in New York I enrolled at the Terry Schreiber Studio to study Meisner Technique. It was the best decision I ever made, and I’ve never looked back, acting and performing is in my blood. I study technique constantly, working on my craft: I know there is always more to learn, and half the fun is in that learning process. In truth I’ve been an actress my whole life, almost without realizing it — entertaining people, especially making them laugh has been the one thing I’ve been able to do with ease and it’s such a blessing to be so appreciated now, for something that’s given me so much joy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
There are both internal and external ways I could answer that, internally I’ve become an ‘introverted extrovert’. Confidence can grow in many ways and certainly has in my performance, but personally, it’s made me take the time to assess situations, to hold back, to observe, to really understand what’s happening before I even open my mouth. As far as an external interesting occurrence — well living in New York as an actor there are so many stories, but I love how you never know who you’re talking to — social media has also brought so many wonderful people to my door, directors who took a chance on me and now write content with me in mind!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Oh, so many, I remember once in the early days going into a New York casting room with my headshot and resume and when the CD gestured for my headshot, I instead shook their hand — I guess I still have that British sensibility — we shake everyone’s hand! But the way that person looked at me like I was crazy taught me two lessons: 1. never shake a casting director’s hand and 2. Never feel stupid for being polite, manners go a long way and while I felt stupid at the moment it’s never a bad thing to show courtesy and respect. That same CD although not booking me for that particular job, did later reach out with other projects.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m currently super excited to be finishing up work on my own screenplay — a SAG-AFTRA comedy pilot. We’re currently in pre-production and it’s so exciting to be wearing so many ‘hats’ writing, producing and acting, I truly believe; if you are lucky enough to be able to write as well as act and if you know lots of talented enthusiastic actors, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be working on producing your own content. Some of the most successful actors on screen today, took this route. Most of all, it’s so empowering to fire up your imagination and create. I’m also working on three awesome Indi projects with exciting upcoming NYC directors and writers who are producing original and groundbreaking content. I’m a huge supporter of the independent film and television scene, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu have all changed the production landscape for actors — there’s never been more opportunity for true talent with original ideas to get seen and noticed.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’ve worked with A-List celebrities and world-famous sports stars, to musicians and pop acts, to big-name directors and yes I learned something from all of them, but honestly the most interesting people I interact with day-to-day are my fellow actors: what a great big melting pot of inspiration they are to me — at the end of the day we’re all in the hustle and the grind together. I’m so lucky to have a large support network and we’re all invested in helping each other succeed. Actors tend to fall into two distinct categories, they are either the most ‘in-your-face’ people you’ll ever meet up front or complete wallflowers who take a long time to show their vibrancy — either way, it’s a trip understanding and getting to know all the layers of an actor and a person. You learn very quickly to never ‘judge a book by its cover’.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Stop seeing it as a competition, you succeed in the world by helping your fellow creatives (and fellow humans) be the best that they can be. Having good friends in the industry allows you a sounding board and you’ll always have someone on hand to self-tape with you or help you run lines. Choose your circle wisely, keep it small — full of loyal and true friends who will always have your back. Most of all enjoy what you do — acting isn’t supposed to be stressful — we do it because we love it more than anything else. I know it’s hard to see auditions as fun but try to look at them like this — just another opportunity in the day to do what you love. The old saying ‘choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’ is especially true of acting; if you don’t love it that much, then maybe consider another profession. For me, it’s the most rewarding career I could ever have, but it’s not for the faint-hearted, you have to be all in. So, do it for the love then you’ll always be successful.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
You know what? All the movements I would start are already in existence — Thank God! I have been a staunch animal rights supporter my entire life. I believe that animals bring unequaled joy into our lives and it breaks my heart every day to see the never-ending abuse and mistreatment of animals both domestic and in the wild. While the animal rights movement is already well established there is always so much more we can do. So, I add my voice and my support wherever I can — I want to use my influence to further bring awareness to movements like ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’. Thankfully I live in a city where people love dogs, it’s one of the reasons I love living in New York, but we have to put a STOP to puppy mills and supposedly high-end pet stores selling puppies from truly terrible beginnings — there are a million dogs sitting in animal shelters across this country just waiting for someone to love them. If I could give a home to every dog in need in this world I would. I implore people to do the right thing: give a dog in desperate need of love; a stable and loving home forever. There’s so many animal rights cause’s that need more support — the anti-fur movement, the anti-vivisection movement; there is just no good reason why in this day and age people are still using cosmetics tested on animals or wearing real fur when faux fur is more accessible and luxurious than ever — no cruelty involved! Ignorance is no longer an excuse — everyone needs to do the right thing and start understanding the contribution they can make to positive change, Karma has a way of circling back on a person so make sure what your putting out into the universe is only good vibes.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. Not everyone will like or get you. Its ok, I don’t like or get everyone either. Accepting that sometimes you can be the best actor in the room but still not get the part is a tough pill to swallow but for everyone who won’t like you or appreciate your work there will be someone who will.
2. Timing is everything. Sending a spec email to an agent, getting new headshots, arriving on time (or early) for auditions, responding to a casting notice straight after its posted — as an actor — timing is everything.
3. In some weeks/months absolutely nothing will happen, in others, so much will happen you won’t know how to fit it all in. An actor’s life is all about balance, I’ve learned to appreciate the quiet times to keep learning, reading, writing so that I’m fresh and ready for the insane moments.
4. Figure out who you are before you try to figure out how to be someone else. This is maybe the toughest industry in the world, every day your looks, your body, your voice, your talent will be judged. You have to be perfectly comfortable in your own skin (and make it as thick as possible) to keep going.
5. Being a human being is always way more important than being an actor — this one is the most important. Learning lines, production meetings, rehearsals: those are all the job of the actor, once the camera rolls the only responsibility you have is to be a human being.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never complain, never explain” — the famous motto of supermodel Kate Moss — took me a long time to understand and apply this but complaining will never get you anywhere as an actor and neither will be explaining — we all have that impulse to say ‘sorry’ in auditions or in class but you should never apologize for doing what you think was a bad job — for all you know the Casting Director thought you were amazing — don’t give them an excuse to think twice. The complaining part is self-explanatory: we’ve all heard stories of Hollywood stars who’ve hit hard times after getting a reputation as difficult to work with.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I can think of a couple of directors who took a chance on me when I first landed in New York, casting me in their projects, from those projects I booked more roles and thankfully now I have producers and directors approaching me with parts. I’m also pretty grateful for my manager taking me on with so little experience in this city. Lastly and most importantly, I’m most thankful for my mom, her support is everything, even though she’s all the way back home in England, she’s my constant reader and scene partner, she spends hours with me on Skype breaking down a role and dissecting scripts. I send her everything I do — her feedback and opinion is always so important. My family is the biggest blessing I’ll ever receive.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Yes! Since I was a small girl, I had posters on my wall of Madonna, she’s the Queen in my eyes. A total inspiration, as a woman, a feminist, a pop star, a businesswoman, a mother, and a legend. There is no one who will ever be quite like Madonna; a total self-made star. What I’ve already learned from that woman could only be heightened by sitting down and talking to her. She’s my icon and always will be.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Always love to interact with new people via social platforms — my IG, Twitter and fb tag is @dawnannawilliamson