The Actor’s Questionnaire: Allin Kempthorne

February 20, 2014 | Filed Under Uncategorized 

So here’s a thing: every week, I’m going to be sticking up answers to a questionnaire I wrote from a different actor. Hopefully, they’ll give an illuminating sense of what it’s like to be an actor in the trenches. If you would like to take part in the questionnaire, drop me a line and I’ll send it to you. This week: Allin Kempthorne.


Name: Allin Kempthorne
Location: London and the South East
Playing age: Early Forties
Casting Type: Mainly comedy

Twitter: @AllinTweets

What’s your background and why did you become an actor?
As a child, I felt a far deeper connection with the creative, energetic performers I saw on TV than I did with the people living around me in my small Cornish town. At the time, I poured my creativity into cartooning, and on leaving school I moved to London and became a freelance cartoonist for The Sun, The Mirror and a few other publications. I then enrolled at Circus School and learnt how to become an entertainer. I followed that a few years later with studying Method Acting at Drama School, which I paid for by performing comedy juggling street shows in Covent Garden.

I think those two very different forms of training have really been my strength. I’m now happy to consider myself a pretty good all-rounder, having learnt both circus showmanship and the inward monologue of the method actor.

How long have you been acting professionally?
Since I was 20. I worked for several years purely as a circus performer and magician before I got my first acting job touring in a panto. Life is generally a pretty good mix of acting and other forms of performance. I’m glad I’ve got that mix. If I was relying purely on serious acting I’d have starved to death in my twenties.

Do you prefer stage/screen/spoken word?
I like to keep doing different things: so if I’ve been doing a touring show, I’ll want to follow that with the thrill of being on a film set. If I’ve been doing long days on a film, I’ll want to follow that with short nights doing stand-up sets, or work in a show on a cruise ship and kid myself I’m on holiday! I think I’d go nuts if I was doing the same thing all the time.

What role/project are you proudest of to date?
A few years ago, my wife Pamela and I set up a film company and made a comedy horror film called The Vampires of Bloody Island. It cost us £50k to make, and somehow we pulled together just over 100 people to help us. We wrote and starred in it ourselves, and I also directed. It was a real trial by fire, but because we were in complete control of the project, we were able to make it work. It developed a cult following, and we’re both immensely proud of it. Five years later, someone, somewhere around the world buys a copy of ‘Bloody Island’ every day.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do on set?
For a TV show I had to simulate sex with a girl I’d never met. She was the guest star in the episode and I was just bought in for one scene to have sex with her! I didn’t have a clue who she was, but on the way home I stopped off at a motorway service station: she was on the front cover of NUTS magazine and apparently quite a well known actress from Hollyoaks. My first thought was “Blimey. She’s been airbrushed!”

How do you find roles?
I used to spend ages wading through all the casting websites and news services, responding to everything and anything, but no longer. These days, I put my effort into making sure the few jobs I apply for each week get my absolute commitment, so that my application will be the one that leaps right to the top of their pile, with the perfect photo, a tailored CV and a clear, snappy, winning covering letter.

If there’s an acting job coming up that uses any of my circus skills, I often get to hear of it, thanks to my magic/juggling background. I occasionally get offers to do low budget horrors off the back of The Vampires of Bloody Island. It’s taken a LOT of work in the past to build up that reputation, though.

How do you approach a role?
Youtube is probably the greatest asset out there. I research like crazy, making loads of notes and studying in great detail anything about the genre, mood or character type I’m after. I find everything I can the writer has done before and really try to get into the passion of the piece. I love that whole creative exploration. That, for me, is what being an actor is all about.

What is the most you’ve ever invested financially in an aspect of your career?
I took out a loan for £50k to start up my own film company and make a feature film.

What would be the single biggest piece of advice you would give to any actor?
Find yourself. What makes you YOU? With me, it’s my circus background and my flair for comedy. When I tried to be “like every other actor”, as I did when I first got out of Drama School, I got nowhere. Why would anyone hire me if I melted into the pack? Now I try to stand out!

How do you cope with quiet times/self-doubt?
I always want to learn and develop new skills, so every two years or so I focus on a new line of work. This year, I’m learning the guitar. Last year, I took up stand-up comedy, creating a whole new version of myself: I spent several nights each week performing in comedy clubs under the name Eddie Twist, Cornish Comedian. I never really stop doing anything once I’ve started, so I now make my living spread around a wide variety of performance.

I’m a juggler, magician, clown, mime artist, actor, voice over artist, film extra, writer, producer, director, stand-up comedian and on rare occasions a casting director. That list, written down, looks pretty directionless, but it’s who I am and it works for me. My only self-doubt comes when I worry I’m spreading myself too widely, and that I’d probably be a bigger name if I concentrated more on just one or two things. But it’s that versatility that has kept me in work for two decades, so I’m happy with it.

What’s the next big move in your career (new agent/move to L.A./try a new medium, etc)?
Over the next few months, Pamela and I are starting up our own entertainment agency, called Magic and Madness (just a holding page at present). I find work for friends a fair bit, and it’s time to formalize that with a properly set-up company. So actors with decent interactive event experience, or anyone who has a variety or street act, be it fire eating, escapology, magic or the like, please get in touch with me.

What is your greatest ambition?
When I started out, my greatest ambition was to become famous. But over the years, the high end of the industry has become more and more a closed shop, and every ad for an unpaid job in an amateur production gets several hundred people fighting for it – there are ever fewer opportunities, with ever more competition.

So my goal has changed over the last few years. I no longer chase fame, but interesting, decently paid jobs. Now I want an interesting life, with enough financial success not to have to worry when I’m older.

Do you have anything coming up?
I’m in a live production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit at the moment, then throughout the summer I’m back on the cruise ships doing my own kids show. In between I will be doing some filming as my stand-up character Eddie Twist for a web series we’ve a little funding for.

I’m eager to get into another good film role. I’d like to do something quite serious for a change as the last few years have been very heavy on the comedy. But as with everything, I’ll just have to see what opportunities present themselves and try to keep busy.


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