For actor Tim Palmer, born and raised in the English countryside, moving to NYC to pursue theatre was a bit of a culture shock. But if his recent explosive performance in Nylon Fusion's The Listening Room is any indication, he's adjusting fine.
Recently, we got to ask Palmer a few questions about being a Brit in NYC, acting in The Listening Room, his Shakespearean dream role, and more.
Coming from a tiny English village to New York City, what’s been the biggest culture shock for you?
There were many things such as the subways, streets filled with so many people and the tall buildings! But for me, the biggest cultural shock has to be the food--not that I hate American food, I love it, but it’s the little things I notice that are different from home. The chocolate is slightly sweeter over here, meals are that lot larger and everything is served on bigger plates. But I love it!
What’s been the hardest part of breaking into the New York acting scene?
For me it has to be the sheer number of actors in NYC and the competition. I think in any major city that has a big theatre, film/TV scene there’s going to be a lot of competition for the roles.
Not that that’s a bad thing because it keeps me on my toes, always looking for ways to improve my ability and to stand out above the rest. But acting, like many industries, is hard and competitive when you begin. It’s all about pushing forward regardless, despite all the rejection and the worst odds.
In The Listening Room, you played Marcus: a radical revolutionary who’s a little unstable. How did you get in character for that role?
There are many ways I find to get in character, whether it's re-reading the script over and over or finding how this character walks and talks, how they maneuver through this world.
But what I find most helpful with all characters I play, is to find their main goal and objective. What does this person want for themselves? For the world? How do they go about achieving this goal?
Marcus was loud, violent and aggressive, but he needed to be like that to survive the harsh world of the play. He wouldn’t have gotten anywhere by being passive and silent, he would’ve been silenced and forgotten. He needed to be loud to be heard. He needed to be violent and aggressive to push his views, to change the world for the better.
What parts of Marcus’ character are most like and most unlike your own?
I think me and Marcus are very different, but we also share some similarities. For example, I’m not violent in any way. I try to avoid fighting if at all possible, whereas Marcus would in many cases initiate violence and conflict. I would go as far to say that he enjoys it. I think I’m also a lot more reserved and quiet compared to Marcus, who any chance he gets he wants to speak above everyone else.
However I do think we’re similar in that we’re both loyal to our friends and loved ones and would do anything to make sure they don’t reach harm's way. Marcus is also incredibly passionate about many things, including politics and speaking up against the injustice he sees in the world which I feel I do too. Now more so than ever, with current events.
What was your favorite thing about The Listening Room?
There are so many things I loved about this production; not just from the writing and direction (which I think were incredible and both the directors and writer worked together to bring the world alive) but also the cast I worked with, who I drew a great deal of inspiration from.
But also the set itself: the production spent days trying to make it look authentic and realistic. I personally think they did a phenomenal job and made it easier for me to lose myself within the world of the play. Costumes, lighting and sound also I believe deserve the highest praise for their dedication and commitment to the process of the play.
The play itself was written beautifully, Michaela Jeffery does an astonishing job not only with world building but with the characters, all bringing their own unique ideas and experiences into the play. The political tones also mirror closely that of our current political climate. The plays challenges the audience, telling them that things can only be achieved through action and determination. By pushing and fighting for the things you want and believe need to be changed.
What’s one piece of theatre that’s had a big impact on you as an actor?
There are too many plays and performances both I’ve been in or watched that have had a profound effect on me and the way I see the world. But there is one that stands out the most to me. It was a production of Trouble In Mind by Alice Childress performed at my acting school, The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The play is about black actors in a theatre company in the US in the early 1950s. It brought to light many prejudices and discriminations that African American actors experienced in the theatre, as well as in American society.
The performances from all the cast members were phenomenal, I was instantly captivated from the start of the play to the end. It was funny, heartbreaking, informative, extremely moving and taught me a lot of things about the struggles of black people, not only in society but in the theatre and artistic world.
Many of the performances even moved me to tears (something that’s rare for me, to cry while watching the theatre). The direction, the performances, the writing all captivated me and I came away with a completely different point of view. It made me think about the subject matter for days, even weeks afterwards, something I think that good theatre does.
Who’s an actor you look up to?
There are so many actors and actresses that I look up to and admire within the industry. Marlon Brando and Meryl Streep are probably the two I admire the most, but also the likes of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington, Cate Blanchett. For me there are so many actors that I love to watch, to single out one actor would be impossible.
What’s your dream role?
Ooo there’s so many to choose from. I’d love to go into film and TV because I believe there are many amazing performance opportunities and great roles. But theatre will always have a special place in my heart. The dream role I would one day love to play, is Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Not only because it’s one of my favorite plays and characters, but it also contains some of the best (in my opinion) Shakespearean monologues that he ever wrote.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
Take any job you can, no matter what, even if you think the role is below you. You don’t know who is working on that production and where they could go, or who might watch it. I know many actors who have taken jobs in small theatres, even though they thought they could do better, but ended up booking an agent because of that project. So my advice would be to audition for everything, and take every job that gets offered to you in the beginning. Who knows who may be sitting in the audience.
Any advice specifically for British actors working in New York?
I think most roles you go in for are going to be for an American, or have an American accent. So work on your American accent! But there are also many jobs in the city that want Brits, or people with foreign accents, so it can go both ways. Never give up your identity or nationality to try and fit in, because that could be the very thing that gets you cast in a production.
Your resume lists celebrity impressions as one of your skills. What’s your most spot-on impression?
Aha, I do a few. I would say my best would be Ian McKellen and Michael Caine!