For the July edition of Eye on Culture, the Office of International Advisement interviewed Hannah Caton (stage name Rose Caton), a rising third year undergraduate actor in Juilliard’s Drama Division. Born in London, England, Hannah studied at The BRIT School for Performing Arts (http://www.brit.croydon.sch.uk/). Prior to joining the Group 48, Hannah acted in theater, film, television, as well as a commercial and music video. Read on to learn more about Hannah’s acting experience as well as her many off-stage hobbies and talents. Also, be sure to check out Hannah’s movie reel and IMDB page (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5359541/?ref_=tt_cl_t6)!
When did you begin acting and how did you decide that you wanted to pursue drama professionally?
I have loved performing from a very young age. My parents created this dress up box, full of props and costumes for me to play with as a child. I would spend hours in it, begging friends and family to play with me! I was also a very physically expressive child too, I took figure skating and ballet classes but I was also incredibly shy! My first role was in Primary School playing the Pharaoh in the musical “Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.”
I remember a defining moment being in a tree house in Norfolk, England and as a little girl, I was playing an imaginary game with Sophie and Rachel, two sisters I grew up with and Sophie turned to me and said, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and I said an actress. I don’t think any of us really knew what that was! I must have only been six but that memory is very vivid in my mind. Then as a teenager, in London, different schools take part every year in ‘Shakespeare’s School Festival’ and I remember that being everything to me. Playing Viola in “Twelfth Night” was the role that made me decide I had to do this for the rest of my life. I also had a teacher who really believed in me, called Ms Vicars and she supported me in applying to the BRIT School for Performing Arts when I was sixteen – I got in!
You have acted in film, television, commercials, music videos and theater. Is there a particular medium you enjoy the most? If so, why?
My first love is theatre! l have a fervent, passionate love for being on stage. I love the community that surrounds building a play and enjoy the particular type of artistic struggle it brings. Though, film is a very close second. For me, films have that ability to transcend borders; they can be honest and beautifully life altering. I grew up watching a lot of cinema with my Dad, I took to it quickly and would like to direct and write films later on in my career. I’m currently writing a film called “Leilah” about a young Iranian woman who travels to England after the Iranian Revolution in 1969.
As you know, admission to Juilliard’s drama division is highly competitive. Were you intimidated to apply? When you found out you were admitted to Juilliard, how did you react?
I actually wasn’t intimidated because my desire outweighed my fear! And I was so adamant that I needed the training because I had sort of hit a brick wall in my craft and I knew that I had to take a big risk. It felt like the next step on my journey. It felt like a calling although that didn’t make it any less nerve wracking! Juilliard was the only Drama school I applied to that year. I kept on saying to myself, how much do you want this?
I had gotten home from a long flight and my family were all very curious about the three-day audition weekend. I told them that it was one of the most enlightening acting experiences I had encountered in such little time. That evening though, I went to sleep with very bad jet lag! The next morning, I was in my room and I had found my lucky necklace on the floor of my bedroom. I had forgotten it during the three-day audition process and was kicking myself that I hadn’t remembered my good luck charm. I picked it up disappointed (I’m aware of how ridiculous this sounds) and then my phone started to ring with an American number. I assumed it was the hotel calling with receipts. I picked it up and it was Kathy Hood! She then announced that I had been accepted for the B.F.A Degree in Drama. It was one of the most tremendous feelings I’ve ever had in my life! I cried and cried – I couldn’t believe it! I ran downstairs and my parents just knew. I screamed, I got in! I got in!
You are half way through your degree program. What do you hope to gain in the next two years?
I hope to delve deeper into the love and ferocity of the work and to keep on growing into the artist and woman I was born to be. I hope to be challenged and to keep on learning from the brilliant teachers and directors that surround me. I hope to strengthen my sense of purpose, gratitude and to not take anything for granted. I hope to gain experiences that best prepare me for my journey ahead.
It is now summer, one of the rare times that Juilliard drama students can pursue outside opportunities and relax (if such a thing is possible). What are your plans for the summer both personally and professionally?
I’ve just moved into my first ever apartment in NY with Drama graduate Jasminn Johnson! I intend on making it my own sanctuary. Feng Shui and all that! My best mates from London came out to visit me last week and it was wonderful to spend time with people who you have known and loved for so long. They’re great supporters of mine!
Personally I want to eat good food (I love cooking), spend time with friends and get my running shoes on! During July I’ll be involved in rehearsing the play “Hay Fever” produced by Deb Hecht (Voice teacher), alongside a group of Juilliard actors, and we will be performing it in a town called West Fulton. Then, In August I plan to visit my family in Carriacou (it’s a small Caribbean Island off of Grenada – it’s beautiful) my grandparents have retired out there. I’m also hoping to travel to Canada and visit my classmate Maggie! In my spare time, I’ll be writing and trying to finish the movement choreography for the student run-production of Othello next year.
You are able to do a number of different accents. When did you realize you had this skill? Do you have a favorite? Is there an accent you find particularly difficult?
I was actually absolutely AWFUL at accents as a kid. My friends had this joke that every accent I tried sounded Scottish! My little sister Laura has a magnificent ear for accents though, and I think growing up around her and doing accents for fun made me pretty confident as an adult. I think sometimes you have to go through a period of sounding dreadful to come out the other side…I actually didn’t realize I was any good until I got into Juilliard and realized that I could pick them up pretty quickly.
My favorite! I have two… The Caribbean/West Indian accent because my grandparents are from Grenada and it accesses a deeper, earth like part of myself. Also doing an Irish accent is incredibly freeing for me. I have no inhibition, I just go!
The hardest accent for me is an Indian accent because of the musicality, it’s extremely difficult to find the true authenticity of it.
Other than accents, do you have any other “hidden” talents?
I can wriggle my ears! I can also… figure skate… and I paint very abstract abstract art!
You were a resident assistant this past year. How did you balance the drama’s rigorous curriculum and this time intensive leadership position?
I bought myself a diary and my whole life was in there! And if something took me less than a minute to do I would do it right away in my breaks. Anything longer had to be scheduled in…I also planned a lot in advance during the holidays. Luckily, I’m pretty creative and quick with ideas for programs and display boards. My mother is a teacher and I would often go into her school and put up displays. I once painted the Tree, Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas over the kid’s library.
I also think knowing what’s good for you and what makes a healthy living is very important! I would try the best I could to put my health first and then this meant I could be present with my job and artistry. The other RA’s were also always very supportive and we created a close-knit team of encouragement and support that you could depend on.
I’ve learnt so much from being an RA and hopefully this year off campus will bring new horizons for me! I’ll have different kinds of things to juggle.
From your experience as an international student and RA, what advice do you have for incoming students joining Juilliard this fall?
Soak up everything Juilliard and New York has to offer. Never be afraid to ask for help but also explore your own independence! I’ve been involved in GLUCK and Community Service grants and have loved those opportunities! If you need your best friend, Mum or Dad then call them. That will fuel your reasons for being here and fill your heart.
You are originally from London. Can you describe what it was like growing up in London and how it may have influenced you as an artist?
Growing up in London I experienced different cultures, religions and economic backgrounds from a very young age. In addition to that, I’m also mixed-race, white and black British and have found that I can pass for many different nationalities. This has always been a bridge in connection for me, people often like sharing stories about their lives with me…I think this has made me a highly empathetic person which has empowered the type of artist I’ve become.
I also have a real Londoner spirit and this comes out especially when I get passionate, it’s a more tough grittiness to stand up for what you believe in. This voice also helps me in my work and is particularly a London influence.
If a friend was visiting London for only one weekend, what would you advise that he/she do in this very short period of time?
Ooh hard one! I would say go during the summer, go for long walks and sit in Hyde Park or Kenwood Park in Hampstead Heath and have an ice cream. Then hit the town, go to Southbank, visit the London eye, get some fish & chips and visit the Tate Modern, watch a show on at The Globe Theatre and definitely go to a British pub! Maybe see if the Queen is home at Buckingham Palace? You know just casually. Then, for nights out and rooftop bars head towards Shoreditch!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Sports played a giant role in my life, and shaped the type of artist and person I am.
I was very athletic and everyone had high hopes that I would make it as a sprinter! I remember telling my dad that, above all, I wanted to be an actress. It was a moment of revelation but also of sadness because I was closing another door and I thought that my family might be disappointed. I was only 15 and I knew that I had made a life-defining decision. I soon got into the BRIT School for Performing Arts and the rest is well not history but definitely the beginning of something wonderful… I was fortunate enough to work as an actress before I got to Juilliard. I played supporting roles in the films “Last Knights” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2493486/) and “The Falling” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3294200/?ref_=nm_knf_i2). And I still very much love monkey bars!