In Hollywood and in Life, Never Wait For a Phone Call: An Interview With Yvonne Wandera
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“Never wait for that phone call. It is the most demoralizing thing you can do…There are too many stories I could tell about waiting by phones and shaping my day around waiting for a call.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing London- and New York-based British actress Yvonne Wandera who wrote and starred in the popular indie film Inflatable K. She trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she was nominated for the Lawrence Olivier bursary. In addition, Yvonne recently launched an empowerment tour series called #OwnHero, which teaches women in college and teens how to effectively integrate the Three Pillars of Strength: how I feel, what I do, and how I connect.
Youtube video from AOL Build show discussing indie film Inflatable K:
Thank you for doing this with us. What is your backstory?
My first real acting role happened when I was 11, at the Theatre Royal, Stratford in London, playing a character called the “Snake dancer to the left”. Since then, I have studied at Sylvia Young theatre school, Guildhall School of Speech and Drama (Saturday classes) and then later, I graduated from The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
I have been treading the boards in theatre and film since I can remember. About 6 years ago, I have arrived at the realization that if you want to experience great creative processes, you have to be a part of the entire process. So I have immersed myself in writing and producing, with a film project named “Scoot” on the slate set for production.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
I think the funniest and most revealing moment of my career was when I got fired from a job. My agent asked me to audition for a workshop and reading of a new musical. It was supposed to be a one week rehearsal and then a presentation on the sixth day, in front of a private audience. I thought, “Oh heck, I can hold a note or two and perform a couple of songs.” So I auditioned with pre-prepared songs and they seemed to like it a lot. They liked it so much they cast me as the lead role. Then they handed me the manuscript which was at least 120 pages and I noticed I was singing pretty much every song! Now, let me be honest, I trained as an actress, not as a musical theatre artist. I could do a small part, but not learn around 25 songs and be performance ready in five days! I went to rehearsals on day one and I literally died. It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I was in the deep end, without any tools, but I kept going. As I walked into the rehearsal space the next day feeling completely overwhelmed but ready to give it my all, the director called me aside and said the loveliest words: “You are a fantastic actress and you have a beautiful voice, but you are not a musical theatre artist.” I was so relieved and yet so proud of the fearlessness I felt. At that moment I had a clear understanding of myself and my skill set. It taught me that jumping in the deep end is something I should continue doing, but I should never forget that my skill set is what will make me swim.
If there is someone out here who aspires to emulate your career, what would you suggest to them that they do?
There is so much out there in terms of good career advice when it comes to performers, that I am sure they have read most of them. The thing I feel is so important to share with someone is to learn how to hear the voice in their head but to learn that it should not impact their choices. We all know the little voice that runs a commentary on everything we do, the one that jumps in and tells us that we are not that good when you are in the middle of a performance. Hear it, acknowledge it’s there, but remember it is not the reality of the situation. You still have a choice. Once you master that, you will be free to express your full intent in a performance.
Also, learn every single aspect of the business. Learn how to write, direct, stage mange, and produce. That way you don’t need a backup plan, you are already trained for many jobs.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Are you working on any meaningful nonprofit projects?
Success is an interesting word, I have always associated it with feeling spiritually fulfilled. It isn’t a point of arrival, it is a way of living.
About three years ago a friend who happened to be Muslim and of color expressed that the most upsetting thing to her was the fact that she had never felt more isolated and lonely among the people she grew up with. They now looked at her differently and it hurt. That statement moved me so deeply, that I wrote a short film about a young woman and the feeling of isolation. It was directed by Dale (Resteghini) who has directed many top music videos and also Emeline Rodelas a wonderful producer.
We eventually started screening the film and I was asked by a young college student what I thought of female empowerment. This was a year and a half ago, before the “metoo” and “timesup” movements picked up speed. I realized that my idea of female empowerment was women coming together for a day, but I didn’t know how it translated when I was in my private space unable to know what to do. I decided to bring together a group of incredible educators, executive and celebrity ambassadors and we have created a curriculum of empowerment with tangible tools for young college students, as I believe their voice is the voice of the future. It’s called the “OwnHero Tour” and it also expands into a workshop that brings women together, using the guide of the curriculum to create an incubator space for women to learn and share.
Can you tell me a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?
Oh that is a good question because it just happened. There is a lady whom I met back in September who has been tracking everything we have been doing with the “OwnHero Tour”. She is an entrepreneur and was at the first event which was back in January. We had been communicating via text, but she suddenly just called me and said that she had decided to refocus her new company on impacting young college students as she feels that is her purpose. That touched me so deeply. The fact that she was inspired by our work is touching. I had a 1st year college student in Malaysia who sent me a message through social media to say that she is following our movement and feels as though we represent all women. It was mind-blowing that our message has gotten that far and that has been the inspiration for us to keep reaching out and creating that space for women.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why?
- Things will take longer than you think. Like 10 times longer. I didn’t get my agent straight out of drama school. Not the first or the second or the third year after I left, but around the fourth year. She has been representing me since, and our relationship is great. I’m glad it didn’t just magically work out like I thought it would. When you add an additional amount of time to how long you think you should be patient, in this case 10 times longer than your initial plan, things may just surprise you.
- Never wait for that phone call. Seriously NEVER. It is the most demoralizing thing you can do. As actors, we are always waiting for our agents to call, or the call to say we got the job or we didn’t get the job. There are too many stories I could tell about waiting by phones and shaping my day around waiting for a call. That’s why you should be too busy training for multiple jobs.
- Get involved in a nonprofit or start one. I started the “OwnHero Tour” because it nurtured my spirit and soul. Your spirit is the magic in everything you do.
- Love yourself enough to recognize that you need to take a break from acting. In the industry, we are constantly pushing so hard that we forget that our life experience is what make our work special. So don’t be afraid to take breaks. You won’t miss your time. The industry will still be here when you get back.
- Create a tribe. By that I mean a small group of people you can express yourself completely with, especially about the business. That support form people who understand will be the cushion to this crazy business.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Can I have three people please? This is a hard one, there are so many incredibly powerful and inspiring people who I’d love to have cup of tea with, but if it had to be one: Sheryl Sandberg. Oh Ms. Sandberg is a storm of inspiration! Her fearlessness, compassion, empathy and unique untainted voice is like the deepest freshest air in the morning. She uses her voice fully, and that is something I fully admire.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series in Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.