November 9th 2013 – a day in Star Wars history, a day when the open casting calls for Star Wars Episode 7 began. Unlike any major blockbuster had done before; the doors were open to every budding actor to try for a role of a lifetime.
Jedi News were on hand to bring you all the reaction and events at the casting call over the weekend, and today we bring you the first of two exclusive interviews with the people who were at the front of the queue and the first to audition for the roles of ‘Thomas’ and ‘Rachel.’ Quite unlike any publication or article before, we bring you inside the casting of Star Wars Episode VII…
Joe Hesketh is a 19 year old student studying Engineering Mathematics at the University of Bristol. As secretary of Bristol Improv Soc, a producer and star of some of their productions, as well as host of many acting workshops – the opportunity of Star Wars auditions landing on his doorstep was fate, or the will of the Force if you will.
Joe however is level headed when it comes to the difficulties of making a career in Hollywood.
‘I love to act and is a big passion. It’d be fantastic to do it for a career. But I know it is a difficult and a cutthroat career to get into and make a comfortable living from. So I am running the rat race at the moment and getting a degree under my belt. But if acting doesn’t take off, I’d love to go into lecturing and research at universities.’
Joe was keen to grab the potential opportunity on his doorstep, arriving for the audition at 10pm on the Friday night, camping out overnight in the cold. In the queue he would meet Jasmine Du’Pre, the first female to audition for ‘Rachel’ and with whom we will interview later in this exclusive series.
Joe was clear in what the main attraction to auditioning was to him.
“I have an immense passion for acting since I started doing improv. I find it very enjoyable and I love to invest and immerse myself in a character. By becoming that character and either empathizing by making decisions based on that characters emotions or feelings (Improvised) or to explore their thoughts and feelings and their reactions (Scripted). It’s anyone’s dream to get a career that can fund their hobby sufficiently or to be paid for their hobby. This was an opportunity to really try and get paid for my hobby, my passion.”
This was quite unlike any audition Joe had encountered before.
“I had done stuff for university like workshops and line reading with very few people going for it, and in front of a group of people but this was something new. Yet, despite the cold and rain, I enjoyed every second!
Bar what had been published in the initial casting call, no further details were given to the hopefuls, as Joe explained.
“I didn’t get a lot of time with the casting director, the only things I knew what they were looking for were what they had written on the image sent out. I was asked; have you done any acting before? What do you do in your spare time? Who do you look up to?”
Whilst the casting directors kept their cards close to their chests, Joe felt that the role suited him physically and psychologically.
“Well (I hope) the looks fitted me and I read the description of the character and I felt like there were parallels to my own life and philosophy on life. I don’t have father issues, but (due to other life events) I am not 100% sure of myself yet. I am smart and capable and willing to try my best to do the right thing. It excites me to play a character so parallel to me yet in a different environment.”
Over 1000 people auditioned at the first day in Bristol and the competition was stiff, Joe however remains confident that he did well and gave his best – although is philosophical about his chances.
“I felt like the audition went well. I really enjoyed it, regardless of the whether I get the part or not. After being let in, we filled in some forms and attached our headshots to the form. Then we went into the interview room three at a time. When you went in there were three people at three different desks. I went over to one and said hello, shook her hand (saying “I’m sorry if my hand freezes to yours.”) and sat down. I felt incredibly nervous but I decided to just be confident and be myself. I told the woman I was being interviewed by that I had been acting for a bit, I had been to Edinburgh doing Improv and done lots of little plays and short films around university. I then said that, besides improv and acting, I like to play video games and socialise out with friends. I told her my role model was my mum because of how close we are and how much my mum has been through to get to where she is now and be the lovely person she is. We then finished and I said thank you and was told they’ll call me. I asked what happens with callbacks and I am not 100% sure what they said (I was very nervous) but I was told that they had callbacks between 3pm-8pm and people are told as the day goes on (which could mean straight after the interview or via phone call). At first I was very, very nervous at what this meant! I kept reading far too into what it could mean. Maybe the people they weren’t so sure about they call-backed and the people they said “We’ll call you” were ones they thought could be right. Maybe they didn’t say no but they meant to and I slipped through the net. I just decided to calm down and see what comes off it over the next few months. If they liked me, fantastic! That’ll be great and I would be more than willing to come back. Otherwise, I’m not for them and maybe it’s not for me.”
Joe did not encounter any Lucasfilm or Disney representatives at the casting, but purely elected casting directors. None of the auditions were recorded, so whoever gets the ‘Thomas’ role will be safe from future Blu-Ray features!
Joe’s future participation in the audition process remains up in the air, but he is still positive about the whole day.
“It was fantastic. The experience of living in the street for a night was pretty good to be honest. It may have been wet and cold, but seeing Bristol turn from a hive of drum ‘n’ bass and alcohol to a tranquil harbour with the soundtrack of rain was pretty wonderful. Then there were the people I met camping with us. They were fantastic, ranging from professionals to first timers, Star Wars fans, and Star Wars okay-ers. They were fantastic and I have made some friends who would all like to help with possible acting possibilities in the future. The news crews came and spoke to people first in line! That was exciting and very nerve-racking at the same time. I hope it shows people how much effort I am willing to put in to burst into the industry and do a cracking job!”
He was also quick to offer his advice and wise wisdom from his experience to other budding actors looking to be in Episode VII.
“Well I would say that you should be yourself. Purely because pretending to be what they want will either be easily seen through or lead to an un-enjoyable experience in the long run. They want a certain person, you shouldn’t change who you are to fit that criteria and if they turn you away, it’s because YOU are not what they are looking for (not who you’re trying to be).”
As for the future for Joe:
“I’m very new to the professional circuit but would like to start starring in some roles. I hope someone looking for a 19 year old who is handsome and athletic might read this, but that may be a longer shot than being the main character, haha.”
Even our own Jedi Master SQL can’t predict Joe’s fate in the audition process, but we applaud his positive attitude to the whole process, and wish him all of the best whether that be in Star Wars or another film.
If Joe is suited for a role in your own production then you can reach him on Twitter @jmhesketh