Conquering Challenges and Embracing Growth: Alice Jamal’s Inspiring Story of Pursuing Her Dreams as an Actress

Please introduce yourself. What do you do? Why? What do you want people to know about you?

Hi! My name is Alice Jamal and I am a British born French-Middle Eastern actress living and working in New York City. My passion for performing I believe originated in a need to ensure all eyes were on me at all times simply because I am the baby of the family – very stereotypical youngest sibling behaviour!

This took form in me subjecting my parents, siblings and even unsuspecting guests to countless one woman performances ranging from retellings of High School Musical to choral hymns.

My parents had the clever idea to make sure I always signed up for school plays and choir to keep my performance appetite satiated.

As I started to get older and explore various types of theatre and film I started to realise and appreciate how clearly art reflects life – I feel it provides a mirror to us – and the idea that my storytelling could impact just one person in the audience and resonate deeply with them or make them question what they thought they knew is such a beautiful and poignant thing.

We truly are all so interconnected and my aim as an artist is to shine a light on that connectivity and collectivity of human beings.

What qualities make you different and unique from everyone else in the industry?

I think my stand out quality is that I’m obsessed with growth, learning from others and challenging myself and I’m exceptionally organised in terms of tracking my results, progress and any trends in my work so I am able to continuously improve.

(As a Virgo sun, that is probably the most Virgo-core sentence I have ever said!) I watched an interview with Daniel Kaluuya, who is an absolutely phenomenal actor, a few years ago that really helped shape this mindset of mine.

I believe he said that if three auditions go by and he doesn’t book the job he goes back to his books and training to figure out what went wrong and he can improve if he comes up against the same issue in the future.

I absolutely loved this attitude and it is something that I personally employ in my career to maintain stability, success and enrichment.

Describe THAT moment when you realized you’re doing what you were born to do.

I was sixteen years old and about to enter sixth form – which in England is what we call the last two years of high school. I went to a pretty traditional and highly academic boarding school in the English countryside where there definitely was an appreciation for creative pursuits but more as hobbies rather than anything more serious.

I wanted to take Drama as one of my subjects for the sixth form but unfortunately wasn’t allowed to due to a lack of uptake/interest from students and staff alike.

This was shocking and saddening but one of the teachers in the drama department knew me and my passion well and she elected to take me on to do a personal course that would not be an official class but would function like an extended project and she also helped coach me for auditions from drama school.

In this process we created two one-woman shows which I wrote, directed and acted in. The first show ‘2017’ was a verbatim style piece heavily inspired by ‘Notes From a Field’ that focused on how misogyny affects women in various ways and the second ‘4.48 Psychosis/Ariel’ was a combination of the work of Sarah Kane and Sylvia Plath exploring the mind of someone struggling with manic depression.

To this day these one-woman shows are two of my greatest achievements and are what cemented my love for the art of drama leading me to realise that acting was truly the only thing I could and would ever want to dedicate my life to.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to go through and how did you grow through it?

I think my biggest challenge in my career thus far was tackling the beast of a character Mel from Hannah Benitez’s ‘Adaptive Radiation’.

This show is as magical as it is chaotic and as it is heartwarming – it’s truly a rollercoaster. Mel is a woman in her mid-twenties who’s depressed, broke and stuck in a deadbeat job but magic strikes and she’s transformed into quite literally a beast of a woman.

I really struggled with the physicality required as I did not realise how much one needs to let go to be an animal. Animals are highly intelligent creatures but more often than not they just do, their bodies know exactly what to do.

I found myself totally stuck in my head, even reverting to childhood anxieties about how clumsy and awkward I am, so I was getting totally rigid in my body. I started the process by going back to my notebooks from my first year of theatre training at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts to look at my Movement and Alexander Technique work.

I focused on those skills of fluidity and ease to essentially trust my instrument which silenced the chatter in my brain and enabled me to totally embody my inner animal.

Having had that experience I now have a lot more faith in my natural physical instincts and am able to get out of my head and totally surrender to the scene.

Who are the TOP 3 people you’d want to meet that could elevate your career or business?  Why these specific individuals?

The first person is a little rogue for the type of work that I usually gravitate towards; however, if I could have the opportunity and pleasure to meet Julie Andrews, that would be a dream come true.

She has so many iconic films but The Princess Diaries has always been an integral part of my being and Queen Clarice is too iconic! The second person would be Greta Gerwig who’s work as both an actor and director I absolutely adore.

Whenever I watch one of her movies I feel so tightly wrapped up in the world she has created where I feel like I have a genuine insight into the complexities of her characters and stories. Watching the behind the scenes for ‘Ladybird’ I saw how compelling and intuitive her style of directing is and it would be such a wonderful learning experience to be on one of her sets.

The third person would be Florence Pugh and in a strange way I would love to be invisible so I could just watch her process and her work (slightly creepy I know!) because she has such a powerful presence whenever she is on the screen.

Her performances are almost hypotonic in how raw and emotive they are so to be able to know her process to get so deeply connected with her characters would be truly fascinating and I am sure I would learn a great deal.

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Vianka Petines
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