‘Backstage Chats…’ is a series of interviews with our drama heroes! From actors and directors to marketing peeps and crew, these conversations explore life behind the scenes of various drama related careers. We hope they inspire and motivate our Dramatis members in their own journeys to the stage!
This month, we spoke to the incredibly talented and beyond amusing Harrie Hayes; an actor, writer and comedy performer who is also part of the surreal, award-winning comedy group zazU (who we are obsessed with and stalk down at every opportunity).
zazU have had sell out runs at the Soho Theatre and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and are currently developing their work for television and radio. Most recently, Harrie joined the cast of ‘Horrible Histories’, taking on the iconic roles of Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette and Freydis Eriksdottir along with many (many!) more.
Dramatis: What has been the best part about working on HH?
Harrie: Getting to try out loads of accents, wigs and costumes! I play over 50 characters in the new series so one of the most fun parts was coming up with something unique and funny about each one. Another great part of being in Horrible Histories is that I got to meet the rest of the cast and we’ve all become really good friends.
Dramatis: How do you guys keep a straight face while you’re acting these scenes? Or do you just get the giggles a lot?!
Harrie: Oh, we laughed A LOT! At the end of shoot days you have to try to be really sensible because there’s not enough time to mess around (people need to get home!) There was one time when we were filming a sketch at the end of the day and my fellow actor, Emily Lloyd-Saini, was playing a character who had a pot on her head. The prop pot made her voice sound really weird and every time she talked I started laughing. There was genuinely a point where I didn’t think I’d be able to do the scene at all and that we’d have to abandon it! But the BEST BEST BEST thing to do is put your hands above your head and stretch up then take a few deep breaths that should work. Having a giggle is part of the fun though…!
Dramatis: Tell us about your career so far and what you’ve been involved in?
Harrie: I did plays at school and some amateur dramatic Shakespeare productions when I was doing my A levels which was really fun! I didn’t go to drama school. In fact, that’s important to know – drama school isn’t everything! You can find courses to learn skills like movement and how to use your voice well, that paired with experience can be as valuable as drama school. I did a lot of fringe theatre and student films to practice acting. The biggest opportunities I’ve ever had have come from things I’ve made myself. I got my current agent after she came to see my comedy sketch group doing a show. Since then I’ve worked in tv, films and theatre. I’m writing a new play at the moment which I’ll start performing later in the year too which is very exciting!
Dramatis: What do you think is the secret to your great comedy?
Harrie: I’ve always tried to make people laugh, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. What I’ve learned is it’s always worth risking looking like an idiot. The other thing that I really believe is that you have to listen to the audience, if they find something funny do a bit more of it, if they don’t move on and always treat your audience with respect – they’ve paid to see you after all!
Dramatis: Who/what do you find funny at the moment?
Harrie: I find the sound otters make when they eat the funniest thing at the moment. Look it up.
Dramatis: What has been your funniest/best moment in your career to date?
Harrie: My best career moment to date is the day we filmed the dance for Coco Chanel in Episode 2. I was living my childhood dream of being a pop star! My funniest moments I’ve ever had have been creating and performing shows with my comedy group Zazu. There are very few people that can make me laugh as much as they do.
Dramatis: Best character to play in horrible histories and why?
Harrie: My favourite one to play was Queen Elizabeth I. The costume and hair and make up made me feel really powerful. Everyone wanted selfies with me in the full costume and I found myself being more mischievous just like the character on days I was playing her! Also, we got to film in an old mansion where the real Queen Elizabeth I had stayed during her reign which was very very cool!
Dramatis: Best tip/tips to get into television?
Harrie: It’s a different route for everyone for some people it happens very early in their career, for other people it takes more time. I’d say the best way of getting into television nowadays is by concentrating on making your own videos or sketches. Make things on your own or with your friends that make you laugh. Not only will it be really fun but you’ll then have a load of videos you can send out to casting directors and agents to show them what you can do!