Interview with an actress
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
I've already interviewed a senior journalist, and now it's time to move industries - to the stage and screen!
This time I'm interviewing Ionica Adriana, a British stage and screen actress. She was born and adopted from Romania at the age of two and a half years old before going on to train at East 15 Acting School in 2008.
Her back-catalogue includes various shows on the BBC - All Together Now, Look North, and The Syndicate - as well as numerous stage appearances up and
down the country.
I spoke to her to find out more about the reality of working in the industry.
Was there a certain moment growing up where you realised this was what you wanted to do full time?
"No. I’ve always flown by the seat of my pants! I was never heavily encouraged or discouraged to do anything, which may be a good or a bad thing, but I wasn’t stopped.
"I‘ve always been free (within reason) to explore lots of things, things that I just enjoyed which I think if I have kids would be the same. We have so many opportunities and options in this world, explore as much as you can whilst you can. In terms of profession, I thought growing up I was probably going to do sports professionally."
What was your route out of school like into working life?
"Seemingly smooth in a very accidental way. I feel everything I’ve ever done has always been a beautiful accident driven from the place of creativity. I strongly believe that life has a path for you and however wiggly that journey is, you’ll end up on the right road at some point! Trust the process to a degree but if you want something you HAVE to work for it.
"I’ve never really ever planned anything but I’ve always worked extremely hard in what ever that was. I'm a perfectionist."
Ionica said how an injury meant that the option of professional horse riding was soon ruled out. She was competing in gymnastics and got into performing arts through that. Eventually she ended up doing a musical theatre course at York College.
"I think about four or five of us out of the entire year group got into drama school. I was told during this time, 'oh you’ll never get in' and 'you’re not dedicated enough' but I think that’s pretty standard noise a lot of people get.
"On my first day they told us 'you’ve got a place out of 4,000 applicants and you have got a place in a class of 16. Only three per cent of you will be working within five years of graduating'. That’s when I thought I can’t take this for granted. And I WILL be one of that three per cent!"
What is a typical week like for you pre-covid?
"Sporadic, last minute and a never ending treadmill of auditions. People don’t see the admin side of the arts - the constant writing to people, networking, the business side. Auditioning for a job that you later hear 10,000 people applied for. For example, when in Panto doing 18 shows a week you’re applying and auditioning for jobs whilst doing a show because you need work when you come out of that show."
What's the best job you've ever done?
"Oh gosh. That’s a hard one. Each job gifts you with different experiences. TV, film, theatre and radio all are very different in their demands, their outcome, the connections, the craft. Sometimes a job can be really low budget and never be seen but it doesn’t make your experience any less rich and not any less rewarding than doing a 'high profile' one.
"Doing All Together Now as a judge was something I felt very unready for, I felt I didn’t deserve to get it and thought I’m going to be fish out of water, but I had the time of my life. The show itself, what the audience saw, was great but it was the stuff that wasn’t seen, the early mornings, the insanely talented people in rehearsals, hearing 100 different people singing bringing in their own style being blended together, bringing something different to the table, the backstage madness and seeing creatives being creative was just electric from 7.30am till night."
Any bad job experiences?
"Ha! I’ve done the odd music video and film that I think that’ll never make it to production but I’ve actually been very lucky that I’ve never hated the job. I think once you start hating something, it’s maybe time to stop."
Any stand-out audition stories to share?
"Oh gosh, yes, auditions. I’m dreadful. I mean really dreadful. And the ones I seem to be the most dreadful at are the ones with certain casting director on the panel!
"I desperately want to do well and every single time I’ve ever auditioned for him I’ve been useless. I get so nervous I turn in to a bumbling, giggly idiot and seems I lose all ability to sing! I just pray one day I can stand and sing like a normal human being! If he ever reads this I can only apologise for the auditions I’ve made him endure and I promise I’m not that bad!"
When the subject of imposter syndrome came up, which I talk about feeling here, Ionica said she feels it all the time - whenever she walks into an audition room, and even once she's got the job, it's still there.
How do you deal with the instability of the job and lifestlye that comes with it?
"You get used to that fast. If you don’t, you stop. It’s that simple.
"People think you do one job and you’re a millionaire. It’s not the case at all. You just have to be willing to do the stop gap jobs in between but that can be soul destroying too. It’s how long you can sustain those jobs and how long you can keep that fire burning inside."
What would you tell someone wanting to go into the arts?
"Don’t sell your soul - for a job, a person, or on social media. When you graduate of course you are hungry for work but you’re not going to be right for every job and that’s okay. You can’t possibly be right for everything.
"Play to strengths. Be smart. Remember you’re a business. Be a dreamer, a striver, never let anyone tell you you can’t do something but know your market, know your strengths, because once you do, you’ll start booking more jobs.
"Be a nice human being. Turn up on time. Do your homework. Never think you’re too good or better than something because as quick as job comes, it finishes. You’re only as good as your last recommendation!
"The industry is small and people talk. You may be an extra on a job one month along with a fellow extra and then the next year they’re casting you in a film. If you’re horrible or rude or lazy or whatever, people don’t forget.
"I’ve seen and worked with extremely talented people that are difficult to work with and they never work again - they fall by the wayside. People don’t want to work with unkindness, diva attitudes, or laziness."
Ionica still remembers being told in college that 'hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard'.
"Also don’t let anyone determine your level of success. Your success may be teaching or being in a broadway show, but neither is of less value. If it’s good for your soul and you’re lucky to make a living by doing what you love, that is a success to me.
"When I got the job at BBC Radio York, even after my first show people asked when I was going to Radio 1. And I just thought, this is a really big deal for me this and I can’t believe I’ve got THIS opportunity. So for now I’ll just try and do this well. Why is this not a good enough achievement in itself?!"
Ionica added how whatever she does, people always seem to want to know what's next - something I found after looking into the timeline society places on women. I think it's a societal 'thing' in whatever we're doing and whether you're a man or woman - people always want to know what's next.
Do you have a work bucket list?
"I do have jobs I’d like to work on but more so because of the people. Either because of the incredible writers, the performers or the work that is produced. Some of our British dramas are just top quality."
(Touching on this, I recently wrote an article on the obsession we have with true crime dramas.)
"I had a bucket list moment recently and I cried when I got the job. It was Kay Mellor’s The Syndicate. I’ve wanted to work with this lady for YEARS and even when the audition came in I got butterflies but never in a million years thought I’d get it. When I went on set I just had to play it cool of how much of a fan of Kay I am... I hope I pulled it off.
"I won’t lie, I’d love to tell my mum I’d stepped into the Rovers Return or the Woolpack because growing up that was what she watched religiously. Just on a personal level, that would be pretty ace."
Pet peeves in the industry?
"Ruthlessness and unkindness: There’s no need to tear one another down either behind your back or online, and believe me it happens, even with those you think closest. But like I said before, people talk and there’re always ears.
"Bitterness is a huge thing: Sometimes you’ll get a really big job and then you won’t work for a year, that’s how it is and it’s the same for everyone, but people show their true colours in their reactions to when you do get work. I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of this!
"Bullshit: People again show their true colours in and out of work. It’s the age-old thing of people saying 'oh yeah I know her' when they haven’t spoken to you since primary school. Or (and this has actually happened several times) asking for a famous person's number or saying they’ll go to a premiere with you.
"People don’t realise that it takes 10 years of graft and networking to get to be invited, and I certainly don’t take those opportunities for granted. It’s the people that stay in touch with you when you aren’t working, that’s when you know you’ve got a goodun.
“Fame: People assume if you want to be in the arts you want to be famous. It couldn’t be less true. It’s infuriating and so far removed from why people perform.
"Social Media: On so many levels. It can be damaging as equally positive. I think people really underestimate the power, good and bad of it. Trolling. The exploitation. Selling your soul. I could go on!"
Any pinch-me moments to share?
"Premieres always are. It’s that saying you hear all the time isn’t when you're little - Oooh you’ll be on the red carpet one day, and then you are. It’s a huh? Me? As if. Haha.
"Doing jobs with people I’ve watched growing up or being on the set of something I watched growing up. Being on the set of Holby City was crazy in that I just kept thinking, me and my granny used to watch this and Casualty all the time. She died before I really started working but I’d have loved to have her seen me on it.
"Being on jobs full stop are always pinch-me moments because so many people don’t get to do this and you think, 'I’m actually doing this'."
What have you done through Covid?
"I baked a lot to cheer people up. The problem was I’d never baked before haha! I don’t think I killed anyone off but they’re still to let me know!
"I met (virtually) my birth mum and found another sister so that was kind of a big deal. Started Panto but then finished Panto in the same week. I've done some auditions and the industry is starting to pick up. The arts has been butchered through Covid and theatre is on its knees. I know it will, but I worry how it’ll ever recover.
What are you most looking forward to going back to when things go back to 'normal'?
"HUGS! Being in a room without a mask and singing my heart out like Maria in The Sound of Music (and getting paid for it)."
Ionica's instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ionica_official_/?hl=en
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