Mhairi Calvey on Braveheart, drama school and being Abduct-ed by aliens.
When she was five, she appeared in Braveheart . She’s worked with Alan Cumming and Linda Hamilton. Nominated for lead actress against Mia Wasikowska and has starred in TV, film and plenty of shorts. We are delighted to be able to talk to Mhairi Calvey.
Hi Mhairi, we here at Exit 6 are thrilled to be able to talk to you. I think the best place to start is right back at the beginning – can you tell us what you remember about working on Braveheart?
Thank you, wonderful to talk to you also. I remember it pretty clearly. We were filming in Fort William, Scotland and I was on location for about a week. I remember Mel Gibson would let me sit on his director’s chair in between takes; he was so lovely and kept the set lively and fun throughout filming. I can clearly remember rehearsing the scenes with Mel and James Robinson (Young William) before we filmed. All the cast and crew made the set so relaxed. It was such a powerful scene to shoot and there were times when I thought it was real. It was the best introduction to film I could have ever wished for.
Did you always want to be an actor or was it your early start in the industry that made you fall in love with acting?
It’s hard to say because I was only five when I got Braveheart but from about the age of three my mum noticed I used to love watching black and white movies. I never watched cartoons as a kid. Instead I saw nearly every Fred Astaire film by the age of 4. I think maybe acting is just apart of me. In my blood. I never had that moment when I thought… ‘oh I want to be an actor’… it was just something I was born to be. I’ve felt passionate about it my whole life.
Following on from that, can you tell us a little bit about your career so far?
I was offered some amazing opportunities in Hollywood after that but my family aren’t in the industry and they wanted me to have a normal childhood, which I did. It wasn’t until after High School when I joined a theatre company and then at 18 I got in to drama school on a scholarship. Since graduating I’ve worked in TV and Independent film. I have been so lucky to travel all over the world and work with some incredibly talented people.
Exit 6 is a short film festival and you’ve starred in several short films such as Brand New and Gemini, do you think this is a great way to start as an actor?
Yes, absolutely. You learn so much from filming short films plus you get some fantastic show-reel footage, which for actors like myself, who are still considered as new to the business is incredibly important. I think it’s also a great way to practise your craft and work with as many teams as possible. With feature films you have the weight of carrying an audience through the story for a couple of hours. Short films gave me the skills to lead in feature films.
You attended the Guildford School of Acting, would you recommend that people study the art first?
Erm… This is always an interesting subject in the business. I guess I would recommend that people do go to drama school as I have over heard crews, directors and more established actors often comment that they can tell the difference between trained actors and those who haven’t been to drama school. I am glad I did, I feel like I am a much better actor because of it. I learnt so much about character research and preparation. It’s helped me to make more interesting choices as an actress. It has also taught me discipline and I am able to connect better with more established older actors because they respect the training. However, drama school is expensive so if someone is talented they should just go for it.
You’ve done both theatre and screen, over here and abroad, what form do you prefer?
I love both for many different reasons, I did a lot of theatre in the early start of my career and plays such as ‘The Crucible’, ‘Angels In America’ and ‘Wildest Dreams’ are the reason I became an actor. While I was training a college I used to read at least one play a week. I think I have more love for film, maybe that is because it was my first experience of acting. I feel at home on a set. If someone asked me to choose any place I wanted to be in the world it would be on a film set. I am so passionate about filmmaking as a whole. I still get really excited when I watch ‘the behind the scenes’ clips of movies, as soon as I watch a DVD I am immediately researching how it was made and what the actors did to prepare. There isn’t a better feeling in the world than working on a film set with a group of people who all love the job just as much as you do. Everyone’s passion comes through and it is infectious.
How do you find your projects – is it a case of people coming to you based on your experience, or do you also seek out projects that look exciting?
Projects have come to me in various ways. I did a film called ‘Alan’ where I played an alcoholic mother who abuses her child. The Director Matthias Lebeer had seen my showreel somewhere and offered me the part straight up. The first time we met was at rehearsal, he took such a big risk casting me because I had never played that kind of role before but I think he could tell that I am deeply passionate about character acting. The same went for ‘Abduct’. The other films such as ‘Any Minute Now’ and ‘Gemini’ I auditioned for. With ‘Horizon’ I had done a short film with the directors Simon Pearce and Paul Dudbridge, after working together on that they asked me to be in the period drama episode of ‘Horizon’. I do also look out for opportunities, attend auditions, use spotlight. You have to do everything you can to seek work.
You wrote the short film Brand New. Any plans to do more writing for screen or stage?
I would love to do more writing, it’s not a natural talent for me and something I will have to work incredibly hard at doing. I have an idea for a feature film which I hope to start writing so I will see what comes of that but I have lots to learn about. I think writing great dialogue is the most challenging part for any writer and of course making sure all your characters sound different. I really admire brilliant screen writers.
You’ve just released Abduct, a sci-fi movie, can you tell us a bit about that and your future projects and what we will see you in next?
Yeah Sure, Abduct is a sci-fi conspiracy feature film set in Texas. It is about a young girl who is on the run from Alien phenomena but she is not quite what she seems. The film also stars the lovely William B Davis so ‘X-Files’ fans will love it and also Sienna Guillory from ‘Resident Evil’ played my mum in the film. I have also played the title role in a film called ‘Eden Grey’ which is an action film, a female Bourne Identity. I am trained in Krav Maga so I did all my own fight stunts which was an amazing experience, I would love to do something like that again. I also did a lovely 80’s retro film called ‘The Summoner’ directed by a new director called James Secker and recently did a short film, Hushy Bye, with James Webber who is the king of horror movies.
You can rent or buy Abduct now on Amazon or Amazon Prime.
You can follow Mhairi on Twitter: @MhairiCalveyAct