“I found lockdown quite easy because it’s exactly the same as being what they call a resting actor,” jokes John Thomson.
Best known as eternally troubled Pete Gifford in Cold Feet, John was talking exclusively to new Manchester venture State Talking, which connects local state school pupils to inspirational and relatable local career role models.
John is one of 90 speakers with a local connection who have already signed up to deliver exclusive presentations. Not all speakers are high profile and equal weight is given to people in key worker roles.
A Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital nurse and an Oldham police officer both also discuss how they made it in their chosen field.
The actor, who has also appeared in The Fast Show, Spitting Image and Coronation Street, had two main pieces of advice for young aspiring thespians and other performers: make friends with yourself and develop a huge skillset.
“Learn to love your own company,” he said, “because you will spend a lot of time alone if you are an actor. Particularly in TV and film,” he explained, “there will be a lot of rejigging and relighting so you’ll be stuck in a caravan on your own and you will have to entertain yourself.
“You will also spend inordinate amounts of time working away from home in hotels and you’ll go for dinner and say ‘a table for one’ a lot of times.”
His second tip for the top is to develop as many skills as possible. John’s CV includes not only acting, but stand up comedy, production, writing, playing drums to a professional level, DJing and even magic.
“It was never my intention to be a starving artist, it was to be an artist who made a few quid,” he said. “If you want to be an actor, one of the most important things is don’t put all your chips on black.
“I decided that my principle job was to be an actor but I knew it was a precarious professional and I needed to have other strings to my bow that I could call on.”
‘Ask yourself ‘am I doing this because I want to get more Instagram followers and free trainers or am I doing it because it’s something I can do really well’
During his talk, John takes a shot at the rise of reality stars and people who are famous for being famous.
“Ask yourself am I doing this because I want to get more Instagram followers and free trainers or am I doing it because it’s something I can do really well and get better at and get paid for?
“Having a huge following on social media is not the reason why I became an actor. There are plenty of people out there following their dreams who are terrible. And you need to know when to stop. Chase your dreams but make sure it’s achievable and that you have got it in spades,” he said.
John also takes time to tell State Talking founder Fran Kennedy about the role his parents played in helping him on his way to success.
“My mum and dad were brilliant and they didn’t tell me to get a proper job. They inspired me because they believed in me.
“I had private drum lessons and drama lessons and that helped massively. I did LAMDA exams and I did am-dram.”
When asked to reveal what job he would do if it wasn’t acting, John was emphatic in his choice: “My love is food and cooking and I would seriously consider training to be a chef. I’ve been recreating restaurant menus in lockdown. I’m fascinated by food”.
All State Talking sessions are currently online. To watch John’s interview, click here.
State Talking hopes to bring speakers physically into schools once guidance allows. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information