Andy Nyman is an actor, writer and director whose positive enthusiasm is contagious. After my 30 mins interviewing him I felt excited and empowered in my own life. The mustachioed actor told me the secret to his success:
Firstly we talked about Abigail’s Party the play he’s currently in at the Wyndham’s theatre in the West End. I asked him how that’d been going?
“I love it, it’s fantastic, great reviews, packed houses, what’s not to like.? I’m such an annoying and enthusiastic f*&^!$r though! It’s been one of those jobs that has been absolutely lovely”
I asked him as this is such a classic play, did he immediately jump at the chance to play Laurence?
“Quite the reverse, I said no, I said no a couple of times to it as they came back a couple of times to me. I was desperate to work with Lyndsey but I’ve never really been free previously. I was excited it was Lyndsey but my memory of seeing the original was that Alison Steadman was extraordinary and huge in a brilliant way but everything else was sort of invisible. So I didn’t really remember the play that well, my memory of Laurence was that he was a weak, brow beaten individual and that didn’t have any interest for me whatsoever. So I said no. They came back to me and asked me if I’d read the play and I said no, I was just going from my memories from 30 years ago. So I re-read the play and was absolutely astonished and thought it’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It’s an amazing piece of writing and this is a remarkably dysfunctional relationship it terms of Beverly and Laurence they’re both very strong characters that have just got trapped in the wrong marriage. So in reading it I called Lyndsey and said I think it’s amazing but my feeling is that they’re both very strong characters and he is an equal to her and that’s what makes it all the more painful and awful. Lynsey said that’s exactly what he thinks and why he wanted me to do it.
Moving on we spoke about the other project in his life right now his new book The Golden Rules of Acting How had this come about?
“I wrote it for me, I love books of quotes, and there was a book I’d bought years ago called ‘Go for the Gold’, it sounds so cheesy. It’s just quotes from anyone and everything. I always used to carry it in my bag, and one day something happened at an audition or something, about 6 years ago and I thought I just want to scribble that thought down, so I scribbled it into the front of the ‘Go for the Gold’ book. Then I wrote another down, and about a week later I wrote another down and before I knew it that cover and the inside cover were full. So I thought I’d transfer those onto A4, then that became 2 sides, then 5 sides etc. I was never thinking I’m writing a book, it was purely for me and I loved it. It was a really useful reminder of all the things I loved about acting and so I found it invigorating.
I then put it into a PDF with photos. I showed it to a couple of actors, only out of ‘what do you think of this?’ they loved it and after we’d finished Ghost Stories I gave a copy to Jeremy Dyson (Andy’s co-writer) and despite it being about acting I felt it crossed over to all creative thinking and he came back and said it was brilliant and sent it to his literary agent who said he could place it, and felt he’d most like to place it with Nick Hern Books.
The finished article in your hands is literally what was in my head. I had an incredibly strong vision of what it was. For actors, I hope it’s a fantastic book as it is really from the heart, but it doesn’t matter what job you do, Richard Weisman who’s a psychologist thinks it a real key into how to create success for yourself.”
I’d noticed that within it there did appear to be a frustration with actors and how it was refreshing to see him address the moaning many tend to do. I admired how he’d made a point that acting (like any) profession is hard work.
“Yeah there are a couple of important things I really, really believe. First is it is your job, it’s your business and who you are and how you present yourself and how you conduct your business – aside from how good or bad an actor you are, it’s a given that you’ve got to be good at what you do. I don’t know that being a good actor is 50% of it, it might only be 30% of it. Being able to put yourself in a position where you can afford to do this job because make no mistake, I’m currently in the West End in a show and the wage isn’t terrible but it’s certainly not WOHOO! The shocking thing is that I left drama school in 1987 and if you put on a play now, building the set is more expensive, renting the theatre is more expensive, buying the tickets is more expensive and not just relatively, a lot more. What you get paid as an actor can sometimes be less, sometimes it can be a bit more but not relative to everything else. Making a living as an actor is really hard.
It becomes acceptable and cool to pretend you don’t care. I don’t hold any truck with moaning really. I’m incredibly lucky to be sitting in my dressing room in the West End starring in a play. You’re incredibly lucky just to have a passion about something that you want to pursue and so few people have the courage to follow their passions or even know what they are. It’s more important to put yourself out there properly and with the full commitment to say I really love what I do and I’m not embarrassed by that.”
Finally I wondered what the future held? As to be expected I was bombarded with a cacophony of projects, a Ghost Stories film “that’s a way down the line, Jeremy and I need to write the script. We wanted a bit of distance before we approached it as it’s a new challenge, but we’ll do it definitely. We’re also working on another film script and another play. Ghost Stories is opening in Moscow on October 19th.
5 days after I finish Abigail’s Party I fly off to play one of the bad guys in Kick Ass 2, which is very exciting as I loved the first film so much.
Then in the beginning of next year I’m writing and directing the new Derren Brown stage show. I just did not have time for Svengali (Derren’s most recent show). It’s a scary challenge that’ll be the 6th show Derren’s done of which I’ve written and directed 4. They’re really good fun though. So it’s a very busy and exciting time really.”
Is this his secret to life, success and happiness, having different challenges and things to do? “Yeah I think that really helps. As I say again, and again, and again in the book the priority is to be happy. That’s number 1. The work won’t make you happy I believe. Being busy, being successful is not what leads to happiness. Being happy is what helps lead to being busy and successful. That’s why it’s important not to moan and to cherish the things and people who you love and enjoy being around because that’s the fuel for the passion and excitement that should drive everything. “
“I was talking to Mark Gatiss the other day (who I’ve known for 20+ years) and we were marvelling in what each other has done, and the thing we were saying which I honestly believe is that it isn’t extraordinary that I’ve done or do a lot of different things, I’m always surprised how little other people do. That’s one of the things that I think magic has given me, because that’s my glorious hobby that I love but I think because I learnt about 12 or so years ago a creative process that allowed me to invent. when I invented my first magic trick I just thought ‘I can do anything’. It opened my eyes.”
So I left my time with Andy feeling I too had caught that ‘can do’ attitude, I look forward to seeing him in these future projects and on the West End stage again in the not too distant future. Andy’s book The Golden Rules of Acting can be bought here.