Today we’re joined by James Beck. James is a first for Asexual Artists: he’s a very talented actor. He’s currently training to be an actor in London and if his enthusiasm is anything to go by, James has an incredibly bright future ahead of him. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.
Please, tell us about your art.
I’m currently in training to be an actor at East 15 Acting School in Essex, England. I’ve been acting in youth theatres and community drama groups for most of my life, and already have an HND in Acting and Performance from Dundee College. As I’ve grown up I’ve worked with all kinds of theatre, from Shakespeare to musicals, contemporary to devised and more recently in Chekov and Commedia dell’Arte. I’ve tried to branch out a bit as well, as the more versatile you are in performing arts, the more likely you are to be employed, so I’ve dabbled in directing, composing (I play piano) and writing. I’m currently helping my housemate write a musical about vibrators. Go figure.
What inspires you?
A good story with interesting characters. One of the reasons I enjoy Shakespeare so much is the characters are pretty much universal, which is why modern day versions work so well. Also anything that’s completely transformative for an actor. I, like most people, barely recognized Heath Ledger in his performance as the Joker, and more recently Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. But if it’s a great story, with great characters and leaves me thinking ‘that’s it, that’s why I want to perform’, then it’s inspired me.
What got you interested in your field? Have you always wanted to be an artist?
My parents were involved in amateur dramatics and when I was three I said I never wanted to go on the stage. Well, that kind of backfired. I enjoyed performing with my local theatre company, got involved with another youth theatre, but it wasn’t until I got a part playing the Artful Dodger in a professional production of Oliver, surrounded by professional actors, that I thought ‘huh, this looks like fun – maybe I could do this for a living’, and it kind of stuck after that.
Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in our work that you’d be willing to reveal?
Um… not that I’m aware of. It’s kind of difficult when you’re playing a character, you want to make them all different so you don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Look at Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black, she’s another transformative actress who’s completely believable as several different characters, often in the same scene. If I do have a signature thing, I’m not aware of it.
What advice would you give young aspiring artists?
School is very difficult. I was lucky, I had teachers who fully supported the fact that I was heading down the creative rather the academic route, but I realise that’s not the same for everyone. For performers, especially young males, it can be seen as ‘girly’, and I remember a few dickheads in my year at school giving me grief just for singing (granted I’m not the best singer in the world but I can hold a tune, so that’s something). Your confidence will take knocks but it’s so important to keep going, to keep pushing through to do what you love doing the most. If you’re into acting, join theatre groups, go and see plays – not films, plays. Films are great, but live performance is something else. Get some friends together, put on a show of your own. It might be crap, but hey, it’s something you have created. It’s good to fail – it’s not failing if you learn something from it. Fail, fail again and fail harder. Oh, and save money. If you’re doing your art for the money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Where on the spectrum do you identify?
I identify as a hetero-romantic asexual, possibly demi-sexual. The beauty of the Ace Orientation is that in some cases you’re never really sure where you fall. But that’s OK.
Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field? If so, how do you handle it?
I’ve been really lucky. I worked out my sexuality shortly before starting drama school, (just over two years ago) and actors are generally pretty accepting anyway. Because what we do requires support in all aspects, my sexuality was never really an issue. If people do have questions about it I try and answer them to the best of my ability – it’s generally not their fault if they haven’t come across asexuality before, it’s just curiosity. I appreciate that this will not be the same for all asexuals who find some questions invasive or inappropriate, and if this happens, it’s important to let the person asking know how you feel about these questions. Everyone is entitled to their privacy. I like to joke, however, that playing Never Have I Ever with an asexual can be pretty boring.
What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?
That Asexuals aren’t interested in having any sort of relationship. People have trouble taking sex out of the relationship equation, despite the fact that a romantic relationship is pretty much the exact opposite of a one night stand.
What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?
Speak to people about it. There are plenty of forums on AVEN and other online communities. Everyone can appreciate how difficult it can be and the internet has been vital in bringing the Ace community together. It is hard because we’re not as clear-cut as the other orientations, but despite what you may think, you’re not alone.
Finally, where can people find out more about your work?