I’m not sure how much of an introduction I need to give this lady. I met Jo Hartley when This is England screened at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2007 and she was just lovely. Really down to earth and accommodating of a bunch of fan boys who were excited to be part of the Meadows’ Maniacs (cheesy I know). I had seen Jo in Dead Man’s Shoes and in a few shorts and it was an honor to be around her. Since then her career has built, notching up performances in some of Britain’s most promising independent movies. It is clear that 2012 will be a pivotal year for her with no fewer five films and TV series starring Jo coming out between now and the end of next year.
I am excited to feature Jo on the blog and I’m delighted to say that she hasn’t held back. Below you will find an interview filled with honesty and insight from someone who has grafted and followed their dream.
Jo, it’s over to you;
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on?
I’m an actor/writer and I also do voice over. I’m currently working on ‘This Is England ’88 for C4 with Director Shane Meadows and just completed THE JURY 2 written by Peter Morgan, Directed by Michael Offer for ITV Drama which is out November 2011.
Last month I was filming a project called THE MIMIC with Terry Mynott, for Channel 4 Comedy/Drama & Running Bare! director Kieron Hawkes, writer Matt Morgan. It has just been commissioned for a series in 2012. I have various projects coming out in 2012…
Ill Manors PlanB’s directorial debut. When the lights Went Out - A horror by Pat Holden (Awayday’s) and INBRED a gore horror, which is currently screening at festivals worldwide, Directed by Alex Chandon.
I’ve been acting professionally for 8 years.
Who/what inspired you to embark on a career in Filmmaking?
I’m inspired by people, life, movies, music, art and great stories. I adore photography. Great cinematography blows my mind, especially when it’s paired up with powerful music.
I began acting at about 11 years old. I performed my first play at school. It was ‘The Sound of Music’. I was very attracted to performance from then on. I found acting exciting. It took me out of self and it was an escape. The atmosphere in a theatre is spine tingling! The feeling of freedom, expression, interaction. Creation is a gift. It’s fantastic to get out of self and engage with others.
When I see a powerful performance, I want to be that character. It affects me deeply. I was a member of ‘Oldham Theatre Workshop’ for 5 years. I lost my father to cancer at 17 years old so I never pursued drama school, money was tight. I got a job at British Aerospace at 18 and did a YTS scheme. However with great persistence, hard work and determination, the odd one on one acting session, I followed the dream I had, to become an actor.
I was drawn to movies from a very early age. ‘The Wizard of OZ‘ is one of my favorite movies. I loved ‘Once Upon a Time in America’, ‘Mean Streets’, ‘Deer Hunter’ ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest‘, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘On the Waterfront’ The Breakfast Club’, ‘Kramer v’s Kramer’. I remember watching these movies for the first time and getting hooked on powerful performances. Actors gripped me.
I loved Marlon Brando, Jessica Lang, Al Pacino, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep. I also was blown away by the rawness of Sean Penn and Daniel Day Lewis.
Have you had to make any sacrifices and how have you coped with that?
I constantly sacrifice, but have experienced huge rewards. That life! Satisfaction is not an everyday occurrence in this industry, but I don’t act to be satisfied. When things work out and connect, it’s a great feeling. Being handed opportunities on a plate would be no journey or challenge to me as an artist or as a human being.
I make choices based on how I feel about a project at the time, the story, the challenge. I never say never and try not to judge too early on. I follow my gut and my taste is varied. “How can I bring something different to a story?’ is the question I ask myself when taking a role. Challenges are attractive.
Being from a working class background, being a professional actor seemed way out of reach. I got a job and got on with life. So my journey took a detour for ten years in my twenties. I attended the odd acting class where possible, reading, watching and writing. I worked for Japanese Airlines for 5 years after British Aerospace, then went to Questors Theatre for 5 months to study a little. At the age of 28 I met a Gorilla film director from Manchester, Tom. We collaborated on a couple of projects. I learned a lot about films. Being in front of the camera and the process of film making. I was broke, but that was the sacrifice I made. Deep inside it was what I had wanted to do all my life….Money was NEVER an incentive.
What is your ultimate goal/what drives you?
My goal is to work, create and tell stories. I hope to play characters that excite/move me. To collaborate with worldwide talent. Tell stories to inspire people. Experience life, be present. Be true to me. I’d like to write a story one day, something poetic, spiritual, beautiful.
Be a part of….not apart from!
How do you define success?
Success is fleeting, the work is not, it always remains. Work hard, make progress doing what you love and create interesting characters. Enjoying the projects I’m working on and being content inside is the way I judge my own success.
How do you feel about collaboration?
I always collaborate. Without it there is no creation of any form at all. It’s impossible to create alone. Work is always inspired by something other than ourselves. Like music, nature, pictures, experiences…I never work without collaboration, it’s impossible.
Do you have a niche or genre that you specialise in?
No, I don’t have a niche or a genre, I am an artist and i follow the stream of my journey. Make conscious choices. I turn my life over to something bigger than myself. I don’t manipulate it, I run with it.
I’m open to all genre’s/niches. However, it’s essential for me to listen to my inner conscience on why I’m taking a job. Sometimes it’s for survival, money and other times it’s for arts sake. I prefer the latter.
I’ve recently branched out into comedy and horror and it was so much fun. I’d love to do a play in the future. I just saw JERUSALEM and it blew my mind! Mark Rylance is OUTSTANDING! THE BEST performance I’ve ever seen on stage.
I love changing the way I look, dressing up. Costume and makeup is so important to my creation of a character. That’s a big part.
What was the title of your first film (Your first film, not the one you are happy to call your first film) and can you tell us a bit about it?
My first real film was ‘DEAD MAN’S SHOES’ with Shane Meadows, it was a fantastic experience. Previous to this I had worked on 2 gorilla projects, but these never came to fruition, we shot scenes, but nothing more. Working alongside Shane is amazing, I learned a lot on set, I’d never been professionally trained, but that helped him bring out a raw, natural performance. The way Shane works is fantastic for actors, it’s the world of improvisation, he loves actors. He trusts them and sets them free. So I was very very lucky to meet into him!
I can’t chose one. It’s impossible and unfair so….
Daniel Day Lewis, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep and Juliette Binoche.
All-time top 5 movies (as of this date, we all know it changes daily)?
- TREE OF LIFE
- Three Colors Blue
- Once Upon a Time in America
- THE wizard of OZ!
- Breakfast Club
What is the best short film you’ve seen?
Three Tears for Jimmy Prophet Director Shane Meadows, from ‘’Shane’s Shorts’’ and BigBoy_74 a short I did with Director Tom Marshall.
Favourite film related website?
What advice would you give to first time actors?
I don’t give advice… BUT….. If i had to I’d say ’Go with your gut instincts. Listen, re-act. Don’t plan the pitch of the performance, let it overtake you, go with it. Learn lines thoroughly and let go. Be brave, do research/read/watch. Don’t behave egotistically or be someone you’re not’
I enjoy watching interesting performances; edgy, raw, emotional actors. Don’t scene steal and always be gracious to everyone on your way up, you never know who people are, or who you may meet on your way down. You can’t always be UP!
INBRED is screening at the Leeds International Film Festival and is a must for horror fans. You can buy tickets here and also see a pretty cool still of Jo covered in blood with a shot-gun (Bruce Campbell eat your heart out!)
The Jury 2 will be showing on ITV in November and This is England ’88 on Channel 4 in December.
You can follow the wonderful world of Miss Jo Hartley over on Twitter
Thanks for the interview Jo, such an inspiring piece. If you would like to leave a comment for Jo or to discuss this interview please do so below.