‘This Way Up’ Creator-Star Aisling Bea’s Tips on Making Your Own Work

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The following audience Q&A for our on-camera series Backstage Live was compiled in part by Backstage readers just like you! Follow us on Twitter (@Backstage) and Instagram (@backstagecast) to stay in the loop on upcoming takeovers and to submit your questions.

Aisling Bea’s massive success in her native Ireland, the U.K., and the U.S. in the past few years has been a long time coming. Recently, she co-starred in the Disney+ reboot “Home Sweet Home Alone” and on the “Doctor Who” New Year’s special; she also stars on “This Way Up,” a series she created for Channel 4 and Hulu. Bea credits her ongoing work as a standup comedian, actor, and writer to her natural grit and willingness to “keep throwing spaghetti at a wall and seeing what sticks.” Recently, she sat down with us to share some of the wisdom she’s gained from charting her own path. 

She hit a dry spell after graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.  

“A lot of things are a series of accidents and failures, and I think I’ve had a hefty amount of both. When I got out of drama school, I had no agent, no work. It was a complete and utter shock to my ego, because I thought Hollywood would just come along. In a way, I’m glad that didn’t happen. If things had taken off when I was in my early 20s, I probably would’ve become an absolute douchebag. The community of other friends and actors was always the thing that kept me going—along with promo jobs and handing out things at Tube stops.”

Don’t worry about fame. Find what makes your perspective unique. 

“We sometimes aspire towards other people’s careers and go, ‘How can I get what you’ve got?’ rather than focusing on: How can I use what I have to make something out of that?” 

She often thinks of this advice from Mark Duplass: “The cavalry isn’t coming.”

“Imagine that no big, rich, pretty woman or daddy with the cash is coming. What are you gonna do then? That’s not saying to minimize your dreams or make them any smaller; but what if the cavalry aren’t coming, and it’s just up to you to make your own stuff? It’s not the easy flow of getting a job and someone picking you up every day and you just saying the lines—though that is hard work as well. But if you start off at that position, how would you move forward? Would you get your friends together one weekend and make a short film on your iPhone? Constantly try to make your own stuff; and if you can’t, connect with other people in your community you might like to make something with, and you could maybe offer [something to] them or they could offer you something. And that workaholic tendency never goes away. But just imagine no one’s coming to help, and you’ll find your people that way, and you’ll always kind of gravitate back towards a version of your people as you go through the industry.”

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Benjamin Lindsay
Benjamin Lindsay is managing editor at Backstage, where if you’re reading it in our magazine, he’s written or edited it first. He’s also producer and host of a number of our digital interview series, including our inaugural on-camera segment, Backstage Live.
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