‘Shadow and Bone’ Star Freddy Carter on Embracing Your Acting Mistakes

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Photo Source: Joseph Sinclair. Pictured – Freddy Carter

The following Career Dispatch essay was written by Freddy Carter, who stars as Kaz Brekker on Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, which premieres April 23.

On listening
My first piece of advice to my younger self would be to actually listen to any and all advice when it’s given to you! I’m sure plenty of well-meaning friends, teachers and parents offered up pearls of wisdom which I willfully ignored because of an unfounded belief that I had everything figured out. Reader, I did not have everything figured out. In fact, the opposite was true – without really knowing it, I spent a large part of my teenage years and early 20s living with a fear of getting things “wrong.” I was so concerned with what others might think of me if I forgot my lines or interpreted a scene incorrectly that I was forcing myself to play it safe and avoid mistakes. You have to embrace your mistakes! Not only are they the best opportunity to learn about your chosen art form but, in my experience, they are also when the most interesting and revealing creative choices happen.

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During my training at drama school I would often consciously think: “What do they (my teachers) want to see here?” And: “What can I do to get through this exercise or performance unnoticed?” I was so intent on getting it “right” that I totally forgot to make it engaging, truthful, enjoyable. No one could doubt my work ethic but in hindsight it’s clear that I was over-preparing and limiting my choices. One teacher remarked that I’d be able to tell you what my character had had for breakfast that morning but I couldn’t tell you how I felt about the circumstances of the scene. I was working hard but I wasn’t working smart. Preparation and research are crucial parts of your work as an actor but they should serve as a structure or a framework within which to explore and play.

“Embrace your mistakes! They are when the most interesting and revealing creative choices happen.”

I’d like to clarify to my younger self that I’m not speaking from a position of total enlightenment and wisdom – I’m still grappling with this fear. It’s also important to say that some scripts, casting directors, directors, cast members make it easier to embrace the unknown and try things out. I think this fear of getting things “wrong” or “right” is in all creative people to a greater or lesser extent, but when you harness it for your own good it can be an incredibly powerful and useful tool.

Stop comparing
The second piece of advice is to stop comparing. Comparison is (and always will be) the thief of joy. In an industry where you are continually pitted against your peers at auditions, and other people’s successes are plain to see on social media and TV, it can be difficult to stay in your lane and not imagine what life would be like if you’d only got that part or went to that school or looked like that person. I’m still guilty of it now, taking sideways glances at friends and enemies to see what they’re doing and how they are doing it.

“Comparison will always be the thief of joy.”

You have to remember that there really is no one else who will be able to bring what you bring to a part, a scene, a project. No one else has lived your life, felt the specific way you’ve felt, viewed the world through your eyes. The only way you diminish your own unique qualities and skills is by trying to be like someone else – to imitate the behaviours of others because it seems to work for them. Stay true to yourself and your own ideas. It’s a cliche, but I think an important one to remember if you want to be happy.

Maintain interests outside acting
My third and final piece of advice is the most important: find something else to be passionate about. I’m incredibly lucky to call my passion my job. Apart from dreaming of playing rugby for England, it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. However, the pitfall of being passionate about your job is that it’s very easy to be consumed by it – for it to take over your entire life. Being a self-employed actor is a demanding profession – from long periods working away from home to the regular rejection, it demands your commitment and passion. If you aren’t careful, this passion can quickly become obsession. What we do is important, and of course it should be taken seriously, but it can’t be your only reason for getting up in the morning. Having other interests and passions has been my saving grace. To take a few hours for yourself – to pursue something unrelated and fulfilling – has allowed me to broaden my horizons and gain a healthy perspective on what we do.  Allow yourself a break from acting and the industry – it will be there when you get back, I promise.

Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix from April 23, 2021

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