From Nurse to Actor to Agent, Jane Shepperd
This week, Kristin chats with Jane Shepperd, who left a high-level nursing career at 34 to go to drama school. After several years of success in acting, including performing in the West End and stints on successful TV programmes like The Office, Jane changed her focus once again towards helping other actors land their own dream roles as an agent.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Thank you for joining me tonight, Jane, how are you doing?
Jane: I'm doing very well. Thank you. And thank you very much for inviting me.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yes, I'm really excited to have you. We're doing something a little different tonight. Normally I record during the day and night. It's the evening. I have my glass of wine at hand. Cheers to you.
Jane: cheers to you with my pint.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: And I'm so glad that, well, actually I do need to take a drink. That's bad luck. Okay. I'm so excited that you are finally joining me. I know you've been really busy, so I think that's probably good news for those of us. Excuse me, taking a drink. I'm not used to that. It's probably good news for those of us in the performing arts here in the UK.
So what's been keeping you so busy.
Jane: well it's been obviously very weird the whole year. Hasn't it been just over an entire year now? Obviously everything died initially for all of us there to everything, film, television commercials, radio, the whole, the works. The last autumn, I suppose it was really late summer, filming re-started and we were lucky that a number of ours were successful in getting television roles, film, roles, and commercials, actually.
And one on top of the other, which was great that made us busy. It's been patchy inevitably, but we have managed to maintain that momentum with a good chunk of our list. And now that the road to releasing lockdown is underway, we are hearing about theatre productions. People are beginning to plan again, and whilst dates have been pushed back further and further, others are actually biting the bullet and going for it.
And so that aspect of things is coming back as well now, which is very encouraging. Having said that, we have lost, we've had to make one member of staff redundant and we have had to reduce the size of our lists because we didn't have the manpower within the team to be able to manage the full list, which was incredibly sad and very stressful.
So it hasn't been without its problems, but there is now at least some positive light at the end of the tunnel. We're hopeful.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, I think hopeful is probably the best word. Cause I keep feeling like, Oh, I don't want to get too excited. We did. We've been excited a couple of times before and gone back into lockdown and things like that. But also it's a little nerve wracking after being after a year.
It's just, it's a weird thing to think about life resuming as quote unquote normal.
Jane: Yes, indeed. Absolutely. And I think. In some ways. I was lucky because I was more skeptical than many. I did see this being actually a long road to recovery, but partly possibly because of my background, which was in the medical world or within the nursing world. And on the scientific side of things, I did a science degree.
So I was very much listening to the science and the fact that this was not going to be a quick fix.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Well you've segued me perfectly... Into as we know where I'm really interested in women who have. Re envisioned their lives, change their careers. And you started in the medical well, science degree. Tell me a little bit about that because it's quite different than what you're doing now.
Jane: well, yes, it is. I was from a very medical family on both, well, on multiple sides, actually, my dad was a doctor. My mum was a nurse. My mum's dad was a doctor. My mum's dad was a doctor. It was riddled throughout the family. And I think there was always an expectation that I would go into the world of.
A medical or caring world in some respect. And I didn't really want to, I wanted to be an actress, but I didn't have the money or the confidence, I think back in those days. And it was a long time ago there weren't drama school degrees, you had to audition and get in. And I had no hope in hell of getting a grant in my own right to go to drama school. And so I went okay, what's the next best thing? Well, I suppose I could be a nurse, so I. Went and did a degree in nursing and it was a science-based degree. Whereas a lot of them are bachelor of arts.
This was a BSC honors degree and it was much more intensive on the science side of things. And I did my degree at St. Thomas's Hospital in London and Southbank. It was a four- year degree to fit on all the practical. And it was great. Actually, I did enjoy it. But I always enjoyed the practical side of things more than the academic side of things.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Even though it wasn't something that you necessarily... maybe wouldn't have been your first choice, it was the next box, the next best thing. Did you actually enjoy the practical side once you were out in the real world doing nursing?
Jane: Yes, I did actually. I loved it. I really did. And I think once I'd made up my mind, I was going to do it, I just, that's what I thought I was going to do. And I did nurse for about 15 years. I did my degree, I then staffed, well, I worked as a staff nurse at St. Thomas to get my post reg badge, my Nightingale badge.
And then I was offered a job, actually, a more permanent job to be quite senior actually on, or I was very young on the the AIDS unit. They were setting up at St. Thomas's. It was back in the. Mid eighties when obviously AIDS was becoming known about and was becoming increasingly more prevalent.
But I also sang semi -professionally in an acapella group. And I knew if I committed to that job. I wouldn't be able to do my other love. So I left Tommy's and I did a bit of agency nursing around my home, which is in Surrey and Guilford. And I worked out where I wanted to be. And I ended up in theater recovery at the Royal Surrey County hospital in Guilford.
So it was a cute nursing. It was critical care. It was recovery, but we doubled as a high dependency unit and we would not infrequently have ventilated cases when ITU were full and so on. So it was quite well, it was quite intensive and it was one-to-one nursing. And I loved that.
Particularly the more challenging, interesting cases where people were really very unwell. So yeah, I, I was lucky. I had an interesting time and I climbed the ladder in this. And I ended up as the senior sister in charge of that unit and did that for about five years. And then I set up the postoperative pain service in Guilford which was to deal with intravenous patient controlled analgesia pumps, PCAs, and epidural infusion
so both of which were useful for major surgery. And I set the service up with the anesthetists and wrote the protocols of business plans saw the patients, ordered it, did the teaching, taught everybody from untrained staff up to, obviously a lot of nurses, who were managing the pumps, but also doctors, right up to consultants about what we were doing and the way we were going about it.
And I did that for. My last year in nursing before I changed career for the first time.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: it sounds like that was something that was quite senior. I actually had to look up "sisters" cause we don't call it that in the States, but I was, but I obviously know now that is a high- level nursing position already. And then obviously if you're setting up whole programs and wings and things of but sorry, my train of thought just went completely from that question.
I was like, I'm just rambling on how old are you at this point? Because it seems like you would have been still quite young
Jane: I w when I got, when I was made a senior sister, I think I was 28. And yeah, I did that for five years. And then I set up the, as a, then I became a clinical nurse specialist, which was one below a matron effectively. And it in regular clinical nursing it's as high as you can go. And I think there's an equivalent now I think it's called something different, but that was the level. It was pretty much and I was, I must've been 33 when I got with yes. That position because I left nursing when I was 34. Yep. That would be right.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: So you have this singing passion that actually was enough of a passion that it stopped you from taking one of the potential job opportunities is the singing kind of what left you to leave nursing, to find to decide at 34 to leave nursing.
Jane: Well, I decided that 34 to leave nursing because. Well, there was quite a lot of pressure on me to go and do my master's and I didn't want to do that. I'd not never really been an academic, as I say, I much preferred the practical side of things to the academic side of things and ' not what drove me out.
That's not what I'm saying, but I'd gone as far in technical nursing as I could go, really. And I could have stayed in the same job. This job is... the post-it is still active. And I think there have been another sort of three or four people who've done it since I set it up. But I never really in my heart, wanted to be a nurse.
So it seems having got that sorted, it seemed the sensible trying to move. And I had a couple of friends who were getting, or who had just gone to drama school late, and I'd done amateur stuff with them and semi-pro stuff with them. And I thought if I'm going to do it, now's the time because there'll be peer support and let's get on with it.
So I went to drama school and did a post-grad- a one-year course.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Do you think it helped you to be a little bit older from the confidence perspective, cause you mentioned that you didn't think you had the confidence. The first time around to either audition or say, I can do this or get the grants where your was, there was your confidence level better because of having had some success in nursing?
Jane: Yes, I think so. And life experience and actually more practical experience, I'd actually done- you know, at my school you could only do a school play in what was our fourth year and lower sixth. So I think that's something like years, 10 and 12. And you weren't allowed to do them in other years. So I had very little experience and in the interim, of course I'd done the amateur dramatic stuff
I'd done the theater company stuff. I I'd learnt a lot more and the singing as, as well in this acapella group where we sang from literally everything from madrigals and barbershop to pop songs and everything right up to "Killer Queen" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. It was it was great.
I loved it. So performance wise, I was much more aware of what was required.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: We spoke about before we actually started recording about how I went to a tier sort of less traditional drama school because for me, I felt like. Like you said, if I'm going to do it, I need to do it now. And I didn't want to waste it. I don't want to say waste time. I was really nervous about the idea of more than one or two years spent studying
when I was ready to get out there and start acting. Did you feel the same way? It was the one year that sort of a choice?
Jane: The one year. Yes. I thought, yeah, I need to get on with it. And the one year, because it was, post-grad a lot of, not everybody, but most people were either graduates. So they were 21 plus or had done other things in life. So it was, I wasn't anywhere near the oldest on my course, I was the upper end, but there were a number who were significantly older.
And to be honest, it was all I could afford because I was funding myself. And it was a full-time course it was full-time one year. It wasn't evenings and weekends. It was absolutely full time. So it was, yeah, what I wanted to do. I wanted to do it and I afforded it, but I don't think I could have funded three years, myself.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, and I think even more so now I look at the three-year acting programs and they're so expensive. So yeah, financially it seems like a good decision. So after graduating from the one year acting program, what kind of what happened next? Because I know you had a lot of success acting now I'm asking for my own reference.
What'd you do? How'd you get how'd you get where you got?.
Jane: Well, again, I was really lucky. I worked with some amazing people who directed me at drama school who taught me and directed me at drama school. So my first job was with a director called Richard, Hans Hansom, and a musical director called Warren Wills. And they were doing a production, a new production called the Hop Pickers at the Mermaid theater before the manmade and by my well pure chance and good luck, good fortune for me, the person who was playing the second female lead got a really good telly job.
So she couldn't do the production. And so they need to find somebody really quickly. So I finished my post-grad at I think it was the end of July. And by the middle of August, I was rehearsing for the Hop Pickers, which performed in September at the Mermaid shortly before it shut. So I had an amazing first job which people saw and it was exposure.
So that was really lucky. And then I did some really good fringe and again, another director, wonderful director who died very decidedly died getting on for two years ago now, but a wonderful man called Philip Grout. And he directed me in a number of things. And again, he, one of those wonderful people who just draws it out of you, you don't even know how you can do it, but suddenly you can because he just fills you with confidence and reassures you that it's right. And amazingly -you're good. And so I learned a lot from him and I worked with him a number of times, and that again, opened many more doors because he taught a lot and worked a lot directed, a lot at Guildhall with some of the really top-notch actors of my era are yeah.
I'm older than you, my era. But very well known people. So I was getting to work with those people as well. So I was learning from the best and I was just incredibly lucky really. And then one thing led to another- good fringe good fringe. I did a number of things with Phil Wilmott and Anne-Marie Louis Thomas at the Battersea Arts Centre for their Christmas productions back in the day where they did year after year, they did successful musical office, successful musical, and everybody wants to come and see them.
And so everybody did! From casting directors that the national and the RSS. I see two, lots of telly, really good television, casting directors, comedy and drama. And Andrew Lloyd Webber came to one of them. You know what I mean? It was just extraordinary. And that's how I got my first sort of telly break was back by being seen in a fringe musical at the BAC.
And I wrote to the casting teams after and just said, if you think that might ever be right for something, please keep me in mind. Thank you for coming to see the production. Hope you enjoyed it? And Tracey Gillhamand Rachel Freck were casting a pilot for a comedy and they rang and said, look, we've cast the main characters, but we're after actors or comedians, but actors for the other roles, we don't want to use extras, but we don't know we can't promise that we'll even be a single line, but would you be interested? And I had done virtually no telly. So I said, yes, absolutely. I'm interested. And they cast me in the pilot. So that was my first job..
Kristin/The Second Chapter: When, so once you started doing some TV and everything as well, would you say that? I think that a lot of times you hear people that start on the stage and have some success in television or film, and then they say, Oh, but my true love is the stage. How about you?
Jane: Oh, gosh, absolutely. I did. I did enjoy the telly and as I say, I was very lucky. But no, you can't fit, you can't fit the no thing and the live audience and the spontaneity of it. Yes. The lines are fixed and that's the same, but performances always vary, and companies always vary and it's fabulous.
It's very hard to explain. Isn't it. If you haven't done it, it's hard to explain.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: That buzz. I would agree with that.
You did mostly comedy or that was would you say comedy was your specialty, well, I didn't think it would be I was aware I could make people laugh, but when I was at drama school, we, for our showcase, we had to find pieces and I did a bit from Alan, Bennetts talking heads for a section, a small piece from Bed Among the Lintils and wonderful piece. And it was suggested to me by one of my tutors and I thought, okay, I didn't know it.
Jane: And I read it and thought, wow, gosh. Amazing. And I did this section and people were just in fits of laughter. And I didn't expect that because of course you are saying it with full sincerity, aren't you, but most comedy comes out right. Of being really real and truthful. And obviously there's a degree of timing in it, but I don't think I realized I was funny until then, if that makes sense.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Sometimes you read a script that to see it being performed as funny, but when you read it, like you said, it's so much about. Finding the character and what the character really truly believes. And most of our lives, we're not trying to be funny. We're not saying, Oh, here's me being funny. This is my life.
This is just what's happening. So it is interesting. I do think as an actor, when you read a script and then you perform it and you're like, wait, this is funnier than I knew it was.
Jane: Yes. Yeah. That's absolutely right. Yes. That's
Kristin/The Second Chapter: What would you say was your, what was your favorite? What was the best thing you got to do in your acting days?
Jane: Oh my goodness. That's really hard because every
every single job had something different to offer. And they were all positive, even actually when one wasn't, it was a really negative experience. I still learned from it. So there's still something to take from that, but I was incredibly lucky, virtually all the jobs I did. I loved. And I worked with some amazing people.
I theater wise, I did an, a number of tours before I did West end, I did a couple of jobs in the West end. But I toured with I toured with Charlie's Aunt with Eric Sykes and Christopher Biggins and Francis Matthews and Neil Mullarkey. And some of these people you'll never have heard of, but they were, and are, brilliant.
And that was extraordinary because I was between the ages of the young girls, obviously, or Donna Lucia, the matriarch. And so I was, I'm starting understudying the whole lot. And we'd gone into the production late. So the production was already up and running at Windsor when the understudies were cast.
So we had a week to learn it, get up to speed and learn the ASM track I was doing as well. And two days into rehearsal Nyree Dawn Porter was playing Donna Lucia and she went off sick. So they said, Jane, do you know it? And I'm like, well, I know it in my sitting room, I've been learning it for two days now.
But it was thanks to Biggins. He warned me to start with Nyree's part rather than starting at the beginning of the play. Cause I had started the beginning of the play of course. And so thankfully I had got the lines down just about. And I was on for the matinee. I did two performances and and then the next day we went to Newcastle, the tour went up, went to Newcastle and I got there early to do the ASM track to set everything up and about, or I don't know.
Maybe an hour before the curtain, they said, Nyree's still off sick. She's not coming you're on. So I played the role that week and Nyree died. It was really sad. And which was very weird because I had stepped into dead men's shoes. It was a really in a place who absolutely loved her Newcastle.
She always she was wonderful woman and she was very well-regarded and it was really weird to be the understudy on because she had died. It was very sad and a really tough thing for the whole company, because I don't, he met the cast two days before this. It was the third day. So two days before I was on
playing the thing. We, I didn't know any of them. So it was pressure for everybody and a huge learning experience. And I was lucky because I ended up playing a leading role with some of the best people in the UK at the time. And I did the played it. Yeah. For another, I think week or two before they had to put another name in, because they'd actually Francis Matthews had to leave as well because his wife was terminally ill.
So they'd lost two of their names within the first fortnight of the production. Running basically. So then I went back to being under they are serving and slotting back into that role, but that was a huge done experience. And then I did Dorian Gray with Alan Bates and his son, Ben dates and Maggie Tyzack.
And we've put Fraser and Lawrence Fox, so all sorts of people. And that, that was a extraordinary experience . And it was after that, I got my first West End and I did the constant wife again for Bill Kenwright.
And Jenny Seagrove was in that and Moira Lister, and that was amazing being in the West End. Seagrove was lovely, the whole team team were and Steven Pacey and yeah. Again, people that you could really learn from. And I did that for that summer and then I think I did some more touring by that stage.
I'd done the pilot had then turned into a series of yes, that must have happened. I think when I was doing a Constant Wife. So the, The Office had then come out as the first series. And we then shot the second series. And I think that was about to come out because they ran the first series of The Office and then went into the second series so the two things ran together.
And that was when profile- wise people seem to then start to have an idea of who I was and what I'd done, because it was something that was a television thing and I was doing interesting theater at the same time. So I was very lucky with that
I'm just trying to think what happened after The Constant Wife. It's a little while ago now. I should've got my CV option. Um, Cause obviously I had a different name.
I wasn't Jane Sheperd. I've always kept the acting and the agenting very separate obviously. I think I then did. I did some, I think some more musicals. I did a production of Beautiful and Damned, which has been tried out at the Avon Arno in Guilford. And I was cast in that because I knew.
The director actually, because the musical director and the choreographer certainly wouldn't have wanted me. And indeed I don't think did want me because I'm not really I can sing in tune and I can hold harmonies, but I'm not a musical theater all out belter singer. And I certainly am not a dancer.
I can move. And I can work hard and I can kick high or I could back in those days. But I'm not an answer. I never did ballet. I don't know all the dance terms and so on. But the director wanted me because he wanted somebody to play multiple roles with quick turnarounds. And a number of them were funny and he knew I could do that.
So that's how I got Beautiful and Damned. And that was Phil Willmott and Craig Revel Horwood was the director, the musical director, sorry, was the choreographer and a lovely man called David Ferman was the musical director. That then was tried out. Kept rewriting. It didn't quite work. They then rewrote it again.
And it went into the West End with Craig, as the director and choreographer. And at that point, Amazingly Craig decided I was okay. No, we've become friends. We've become friends. I've got a very soft spot for Craig. But he basically, they offered me, I didn't have to reorder and most people did, so I was incredibly lucky.
So I went straight through with the production with Craig directing and choreographing, and again, a huge learning experience. It had all changed. So my line of parts were different, but didn't matter. I had an absolute ball and the company worked fantastic. And Helen Anker played the leading lady Zelda Fitzgerald.
It was about F Scott Fitzgerald and Michael Praed played F Scott Fitzgerald. And it was it David Burt, Susanna Fellows. It was again, really extraordinary company. And it was lovely because I had to learn to tap dance in five weeks. And because the parts I was playing. Well, multiple roles, but they were not huge.
I have lots of time between my bits of rehearsal to learn to dance. And similarly, the dancers who were helping me and teaching me they needed a hand to actually do some of the little roles or their colors and that sort of thing. So I would help them. So it was a really positive team of people who were working together to get the best results they possibly could.
And that was wonderful.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: I think that's one of the most fun things and I don't know, you probably know better than I do, how often it actually happens nowadays, but the idea that you get a part and you get to learn something completely new. You said you're a mover. I would agree. I'm a mover who can kick high, but I'm not as bad as Joey jazz, hands on friends, but I'm not, I'm definitely not a dancer, but the idea that you could go into this production and get this role, this kind of a dream role anyway, and then actually get to learn to tap dance as part of the role is pretty cool.
Jane: Well I was I was very much when I was tap dancing, I was near the back and made sure I was I was not one of the featured tap doctors by any means. But I Craig made me do it. He wasn't going to let me out of it. And it was great because it got me fit. And as you say, I learned it was, I was just so lucky.
It was fantastic.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: I always say yes. Oh, sorry. Go on.
Jane: I was going to say, after that, I went off to well, I did a production that I did, one of the latter ones, parts of the bill. I played a vicar on The Bill, actually one Christmas episode. It was great fun. With Nick Phillips directed that wonderful man. And then I went and did Oliver. In the Aberystwyth with Gay Soper and Peter Carey and again, wonderful people.
It was a great cast and a lovely musical director, Andrew Helton. And one of the Dodgers, the Artful Dodgers was Taron Egerton, and he was amazing. He even then he stood out, he was only 15. He was 50. I think he was 15 or 16, but he was young and he was absolutely brilliant and he hadn't been in Aberystwyth very long.
He was still getting to know everybody as well. And he shone, he was a delight to work with and he was also a fan of The Office. So he always wanted to talk about that, which was lovely, but I think of his career now, my goodness, or how successful is he? And I'm just delighted for him.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, the closest I can say I've gotten to him was I did ADR voice stuff for The Kingsmen.
Jane: Oh, yes.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: So I have a very far six degrees or 10 degrees or something of separation, but I loved those films so much. So I was so excited to get to.
Jane: That's great. Well done!
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Thank you. Not quite the same, but it was really an enjoyable day or two, or what have you. And then of course, I was like “I was in that scene! You can't really tell, but I was in it! That's my voice somewhere!”
Jane: Brilliant. It all counts.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Exactly. So again, it seems like this is all going quite well. Did something. Oh, actually I'm well, no, I'm not going to ask that. It seems like it's going quite well. What, what makes you ready for a shift again?
Jane: What made me change career. Yes, that's a good question. I didn't really plan on changing career.
I set up the agency in a partnership. The idea was I would still, I had an agent obviously as my acting name is Jane Lucas. And I was changed shepherd Fox, which is my legal name. And the idea was I do it in a partnership, so the agency was always manned and covered. But I would still be able to carry on acting because I wasn't ready to stop acting, but in the long run I could see, as you quite rightly said a lot of the roles I played was smaller roles.
They weren't the main leading roles. They were little tiny bits. And I was quite happy with that because I'd come into my career late, much later than people doing it from 18, 19. And therefore. The people that were going to get the bigger roles of my age group were far more experienced.
So how was I going to compete with that? And I accepted that. I completely understood that and thought, okay, well, let's see what there is. And let's see how it develops. That came to a point where I realised that, yes, I might get lucky and I might jump a section. But the reality was I was more likely to be pulling the smaller roles and it, therefore in the long run might be wise to have something else that I could also do.
But the plan was, it was it, the agency was partnership, so I could still carry on both. And when I wasn't there, the partner would step in and so on. The reality turned out to be somewhat different and I was left holding the baby. And by that stage, I had people's careers in my hands and there was no way.
And again, this is, I think, a throwback to the nursing. There's no way then I'm going to go, sorry. Now I'm going off for two months to do a, another job in Aberystwyth, which actually I was offered and I had to turn down because there wasn't no enough notice to get cover for the agency. That then did become some really tough choices because my heart was saying, go and do, going to do this production with Michael Bogdanov. And I had to say, no, I'm really sorry. I can't. And that was really sad, but I think I felt I had a responsibility to my clients, which I, as an agent one does have.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, like you said, you do have everyone's career in your hands and you're, you need to be there every day, pushing for them to get jobs and just being that sort of bridge between casting directors and. So that's interesting though, because I said, I told you before again, before we started recording that I had a write-in question.
Josie Arden, who is an actor agent at a co-op agency asked about, and I think I know the answer to this, but I'm going to go ahead and ask it how do you balance the salesy side air quotes, salesy of being an agent. With the more pastoral side of your client's wellbeing.
And do you ever struggle with, or find one that's a bit more natural to you?
Jane: I think, I don't know. I think when I first became an agent, it didn't strike me. I hadn't taken into account. How much of the pastoral side would be needed. I hadn't really considered actually how much support tutors. Do need sometimes and some actors do need others. Others are more self-sufficient and I think perhaps I don't think maybe I did, but I don't think I expected that of my agent, but possibly because I'd come into the industry later and had more life experience.
So I think it's different for every individual. Isn't it? So that was one aspect I hadn't quite considered. How much time that would take to look after people. With regard to the salesy side of selling your clients? I think. This you have to, I've learned it's much easier to represent somebody you like than somebody you don't like very much, and it's easier to push somebody you relate to than somebody you don't understand as much because you can push them more wholeheartedly and. More from the heart more with more natural passion.
Now that's not to say you can't do that with somebody that you have less an affinity with. Of course you can. It's just different. But the salesy side, I think it all comes together because actually you want the best for your client in every respect. So you want to look after them and take care of them as they need, but you also want the best outcome for them.
So you do push them and, certainly with negotiating deals, you want the best outcome for them. And ultimately of course that's then the best outcome for you, but being commission-based. So we all benefit. So I think I don't see them really as that, that separate I suppose.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: I think that's fair. I also think it's interesting because it gets such a bad rap. So often on TV. I don't know why Joey's back in my head from Friends, but the stereotypical cigarette smoking or the other one is toast of London. She's. Crazy agent I think it's interesting to hear from an agent about taking care of their clients and that everybody wants the best for their clients, because I don't think you always get that when you see how agents are written.
Jane: well, no, but I, again, I understand that because. It's very, isn't it's really hard for actors. There is con... almost, unless you're incredibly lucky.... there's very, usually rejection after rejection. Then there might be a job and that's fantastic. But then this rejection and rejection, or you don't hear anything, although I'd have to say the casting directors are really trying so much more now to actually feed back and really have taken that on board. And that's positive, I think. And that is good, but nonetheless, there's still a lot of rejection because there are a lot of actors out there and there are a lot of people relatively being considered for roles and productions and the majority are not going to get them.
It is tough. And when that rejection builds up, it's very easy to blame your agent. I'm not being seen for the right stuff or I'm just not being seen cause again, there won't be, it's not fair is it? It's not as though each client gets seen for X amount of stuff in a week or a month or a year it's some people will be seen from all staff and others won't be. It. It's not fair. And although , an actor is never out of sight or mind because we see their faces all day every day because we're submitting them for work. And thinking about them and considering where their strengths are on a daily basis, we're not, we can't communicate that on a daily basis.
So sometimes if they haven't heard from us for a while, it must feel that we're not doing anything, but actually we're doing everything we can all the time, but people can't know that because it won't feel like that from their perspective. And I do understand that and I don't know what the answer is to that because there are only so many hours in a day.
And one of the reasons you kindly, we started a bit late tonight and you were so kind and gracious about it. It was because at 20 to seven, there was another thing that came in a self-tape for a client that needs to be turned around and submitted by four o'clock tomorrow. And the immediacy of expectation on agents and I shouldn't still be on the computer at 20 to seven at night.
It's ridiculous having we cover all day, but if I didn't handle that, then the... The client would miss out because the deadline is four o'clock tomorrow.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah. And the turnaround times sometimes are ridiculously quick. So if your agent's not there, saying. Yeah, this is due tomorrow. Then you hear about it at 10:00 AM or 11:00 AM and
Kristin/The Second Chapter: the turnaround time is much less. So thank you for doing that though, because that sounds like good agenting.
Jane: Thank you. Can we try? We try.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: So I actually had this question already, but it's so much more relevant now that I've spoken with you a bit. Do you miss acting and do you ever, I don't know. Do you ever look at your clients and go, Oh, that I would want to put myself up for that role? Or do you still have that feeling?
Jane: Not really. And actually, I don't think I ever really have as an agent because it was very separate and I'm still listed with another agency. I don't represent myself. So there isn't a conflict there. So I'm not really thinking about myself when I'm an agent. Very occasionally if there's something really specific, then I might think go I suppose I could do that, but.
Usually I think very quickly, but how the hell would I fit that in, get on with it I'm back to getting on with it, but I have to say it is once in a blue moon. I can't remember the last time I thought that. And I think the last time I did think it, it was for a role of a woman of my age who was Northern Irish and I was born in Northern Ireland.
And inevitably, when you're born somewhere and you live there for the first sort of eight, nine years of your life the accent and so on is in you. And I could, I can. And my dad lived there until he died a few years ago. So I used to go back every year or sometimes several times in a year I would go back regularly.
And so something like that for a role where I might think, Oh, my agent probably wouldn't think of me in that way, because I'm naturally and always have been, I speak as I do now, but both my parents did, although I was third generation born there, but I do have that skill. And that's something that they wouldn't automatically think about.
And it would really be more in those terms that I might think, Oh I could do that, but they might, they probably wouldn't think of it.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: So you started the agency in 2005. So you've been doing it a while now, but thinking back, what do you think the biggest challenges actually in both cases? Cause you've had the two big career changes, but what was maybe the biggest challenge coming into acting a little bit later? I think you said that a little bit about that with the smaller roles and everything.
And then again with the career change. Yet again what was the big challenge of moving to more of really an agenting and business side.
Jane: Definitely there were challenges to get established and to be recognized as somebody who was reliable and trustworthy and who was going to provide a good product and efficiently things that takes a while it takes a long time to build a reputation. Yeah. And it didn't take very long to destroy one it
Kristin/The Second Chapter: In both careers really?
Jane: In both careers. Yeah, that's true. With regard to becoming an agent, I was quite lucky because of my nursing background, because my final job. I did have to write in conjunction with one or two others, but I did have to write the business plans, the protocols, the set up a business from scratch.
So although it was in a totally different sphere that was in the medical scientific world and this is very much in the arts the sort of organization and the structure, there was still some ability to be able to work out what needed to be done. I think probably again, going back to drawing on the nursing, I've got a reasonable amount of common sense.
And most of what being an agent is largely common sense. Isn't it? You think about the submission stage, the sorting, the meeting stage, handling the office, then negotiating the terms, the contracts, the networking, or you think it through logically and one follows after the other. And you develop those skills as you go along.
And. I suppose attention to detail, but again, that's going back to the nursing. You couldn't make mistakes and it'd be okay. You had to be accurate. And it's the same as being an agent. You have to give meeting accurately, don't get the wrong day or the wrong time, or nobody's going to get a job. The, that sort of accuracy is paramount and I had those skills, they were in me, so it was then just applying them really. And I'd learned a lot about the industry from my time as an actress and being a bit older and liking people, I've met a lot of people. So I was fortunate that I could ask people and say, what do you think about this?
Or how else do you cope with that? And listened to people with more experience. And I was lucky I could do that.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Do you feel like you learned any, do you feel like you learned anything from your agent when you were working as an actor as well?
Jane: I know, yes. I
Kristin/The Second Chapter: things you, maybe you liked as an agent or didn't.
Jane: I've thought about three different agents and different relationships with all of them. And I think I certainly learnt from all of those. Yes. Most importantly, I think as an agent it's communicating isn't it and being clear and open.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, especially, like you said, you haven't heard from your agent in a while and feel like you feeling a little neglected or maybe that they're not doing their jobs. If they're not communicating with you. Hey. I still know you're there. It gets really lonely. So yeah, I definitely think that communication is key.
And then of course you're communicating with many different actors in the course of a day and different casting directors and things like that. Getting back to your question though, is the biggest challenge? I think one of the biggest challenges was to establish in all areas because I didn't, I'd never been pigeonholed. I worked in in television and theater and musicals and bit of radio, a bit of film, the odd commercial. And I didn't see that it was necessary to pigeonhole people.
Jane: So I deliberately it took longer, but I deliberately built the agency very evenly. So we built contacts within television and theater and musicals and film and commercials deliberately so that it is now easier for our clients to shift between genres because. All of those people know us and whilst casting directors move around, some of them, others don't.
And that took a long time and it took a long time to break into the big companies. Understandably, everybody wants to be there within theater, the RSC and The National it it took longer. That's not a criticism. It was just an observation.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: I imagine similarly there being so many actors for so few roles. There's so many agents that want to be talking to. I mean, I want to be. Talking to The National and the RSC, who doesn't? Of course. It makes perfect sense. And if you were trying to really keep keep it separate, even though you knew people as an actor, trying to keep that business separate, it's not as easy to kind of say, Hey, you know me, come on.
Did you feel like it was something you could pull a little connections or was it just no, that's not on the cards.
Jane: well, not initially because I was still wanting to act when I could. Where I could, as I say the options became more limited and I did still do bits. I did a little bit on Silk, for telly... I did do little bits now and again, and yeah the odd little bit but it was they were few and far between, but I had deliberately kept it separate.
There was one time when I was taking a casting director to see a client in a West End production and I'd invited her and we were confirming. That was all set up. And then on the day we were communicating, saying where we'd meet. And so she said, well, how will I recognize you? And I said, well, actually, you know me, you know me as... and you cast me in and she roared with laughter and said, "Oh my God. And all this time, I've been thinking, I've been speaking to some posh bird." But it was lovely. We met up, we had a lovely evening. She's brilliant. And but it was very funny because she didn't know, and she hadn't made the connection. And and that was right, because it was inappropriate. We, I was in a different role and It did really, really take years for people to work, to discover that I was the same person.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: That's good though. I like that you you built up two separate careers and kept them separate. And I do think people sometimes do people have sometimes an issue with that. The whole hyphen career. And I think people are coming around to it a bit more, but when people say, Oh, I'm an actor.
Well I mean, with me, I list off all these different things that I do. And it's just do people think I'm less serious about one versus the other, because I'm putting this long list together. And I would like to think of myself as really working hard at each thing that I do and trying to be the best at everything I can be.
Jane: Absolutely. Yeah. And I do think in this world, it is possible. And actually, I think it's really sensible of you because it is very hard to work, especially having come in a bit later. To work full-time as an actress and nothing else. So do allied things. Within the same world I think is brilliant.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: And I love too what you've said about. I think it's really important when we're looking at , I don't know, the the arc of our lives, how much nursing has influenced something so very different that you're doing now, because when it comes down to it, we all have life experience. And the person um, the, the episode I published this week, she kept talking about going to the university of life.
And I think that's absolutely true.
Jane: Yeah, definitely. Oh, you can't beat life experience. Can you?
Kristin/The Second Chapter: No, some of it I could do without some of the experiences, but you can't beat it.
Jane: You will still learn from them. That's the thing, isn't it? We've all had our ups and downs, but they do inform and allow you to empathise more with others and so on. So it's taking the positives, isn't it?
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Absolutely. I try to do that as much as I possibly can. So I have two more questions for you. One is of course going to be the quote that I asked you about, but first off this is going to be just as hard as when I asked you about your kind of favorite your favorite roles, but what about triumphs as an agent?
What are the kinds of things that make you so glad to be doing the job and.
Jane: I think when, particularly when you take someone from drama school and you can nurture them and support them and see their career grow and then fly. And we've done that with a number of people. And from being especially sometimes we've got all sorts and ages and types and quirky characters and all sorts of wonderful individuals on our list and yeah.
They're not always those that will have an obvious casting, particularly when you go back 10 years. Things have moved on thankfully an awful lot further now, and much more inclusive in a lot of ways, but obviously diversity- wise, but right across the board in so many different ways, things are much more broad-minded I think now but some people are more quirky and characterful, and.
And to bring them through and they get their West End breakthrough, , certainly one on occasion stayed in the West End for two or three years and then get a major feature film and do that. And that leads on to other things. And then you see that happening is fantastic. The other things, I think, where they were landmark moments were getting your first person in with the RSC and in with The National and in Chichester and.
And then your first, probably regular telly. In a regular thing that then moves on and repeat series. The hard thing of course is that the young ones are, especially as you do move them forward and they become much more sellable. Also, always the grass is always greener. Isn't there, there's an always an element of that.
And that's tough when that happens. That's the other side of that one. But that's life and it happens always and it happens to us all.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Yeah, I feel like that the dream story is sort of actor and agent and you start with the agent, you start with the actor and they grow. And as they're accepting their big awards, they're saying I want to thank my agent who I've been with for 25 years. I think that seems like the dream relationship personally.
Jane: Well we do have clients who have been with us for 15 years from drama school, right the way through. Which is lovely. And we, we have, we, we do retain clients, but you won't retain everybody that's just not how it is. But I do feel very fortunate actually that we have done that with a number of people, which yeah very lucky.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: Okay, so that leads me to the quote. Did you bring a quote for me tonight?
Jane: Well, actually this is really tricky because I'm not very good at things like that. I think I have two things. A life, a life, one was something when I was struggling as a child and I didn't know how to deal with a particular situation. And my mum said to me, it's something that has always stayed with me.
And that is, I like to repay kindness with kindness.
The other one I think is more at the moment with all the uncertainties and the chaos that's going on around us. And as I say, thankfully, hopefully there's a bit of light coming now, but nonetheless, we're not out of it yet. And I think one day at a time and small achievements, if you're having, if you're struggling and things are difficult, just.
Achieve something small because it will make you feel better. You don't have to battle and take everything on all at once. Small achievements.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: I feel like people say things like they're not good at this. And then they bring me this beautiful quote. That is just what I need to hear today. Just went probably a lot of listeners need to hear. So I think you're quite good at it. Thank you very much.
Jane: Thank you very much.
Kristin/The Second Chapter: It's interesting talking to people because so often there's so much positivity around I was so lucky and I worked with the best people and I think you've said quite a few things tonight that are your own quotable quotes. Yeah, thanks for bringing those two quotes, but also, thanks for all the optimism that you seem to be showing about your career and your life.
Jane: Well, thank you. Thank you for making it such a joy and all the very best to you too. It's extremely exciting. And thank you for inviting me as, as I say,
Kristin/The Second Chapter: thank you very much. It was really nice chatting with you.
Jane: and you too. Take care.