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British Talent Is Breaking in USA: An Interview with Actress Joanna Pickering

Wednesday 08 November 2017

Spindle had the pleasure of chatting with British actress Joanna Pickering having followed her career with interest. Joanna’s determination is paying off stateside where she is shooting a thriller called “Alice Fades Away” set for release in the summer. She is also cast in a principal role in new film by artist Josephine Meckseper alongside star talent soon to be announced.

Her journey is already that of the extraordinary as she has carved out her path as an independent female artist on her own terms and by turning down more commercial film roles.

She first moved to NY to study method acting at Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, she made a collection of indie movies mainly by traveling the world, and then secured representation for her acting and writing with 3 Arts Entertainment in Hollywood. 

Spindle managed to grab a transatlantic interview with her in between shooting movies. 


Jpanna Pickering photographed by Michael Quintana, hair and make up Jay Pinxie, styling by Lorna Gatherer Ford

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a convent school and in the wilds of Northumberland. I then studied at university in Scotland surrounded by the foothills of the Highlands – beautiful and fierce nature.

You are now currently based in New York?

Yes, I am fully settled in New York City as my home.

Tell me about living all over the world.

I was nomadic for most of my 20s and it is essential to much of my creativity – every place has a story. 

You are shooting an independent thriller “Alice Fades Away” – can you tell me about your character?

I play a nanny to an affluent family in 1950’s America. My character has a stronger bond to the child than his mother, Alice, and that’s important in the film. It is a powerful concept to play with and explore. My character does not give much away, that’s interesting to play. The real work is happening in the silences, her submissiveness. Ashley Shelton, who plays Alice as main lead, is a very strong actor, so our scenes were a great experience. Blanche Baker is also part of our cast. The whole cast are wonderful, check them out on the imdb page.

It’s a thriller? 

Yes, the film has murder, violence, and lots of mystery. We shot in the middle of nowhere in New England, and it is perfectly cinematic. It looks incredible on screen from what I have seen. My next scenes are winter time in Connecticut. 

How would you describe your approach to your work? 

I trained as a method actor, so it can be intense and preparation is important. I want to know everything about my character, to find the motivations and needs, without making  judgment. Irma Sandrey, who sadly died last year, was my teacher. She worked alongside Lee Strasberg himself. I try to embody her work etiquette – hard work, commitment and dedication.

What do you love most about being an actress? 

Make belief being my reality and my job. I love experiencing the stage fright, and from that energy you create an imaginary world that you and the audience are all invested in. When you get it right, that energy fills a theater, or the film set, its real, its electric. Then you see an entire audience immersed, crying, or laughing, and you know – job done.

What are you working on next that you’re most excited about?

I am about to shoot a film based around a Claude Debussy opera, with some wonderful talent in NYC and Washington DC. I play a severe femme fatale. The character is entirely different from my own character, so there will be no smiling for a while, I am enjoying preparing. There are some other big projects in the pipe line hopefully announcing soon and an opportunity with an amazon prime show. My own writing is also in the hands of respected industry people with strong feedback.



What is the best advice you’ve ever been given regarding a career in acting?

The best advice I have learnt the hard way myself. Probably – get a good attorney.

You do not make any pretense that it is an easy path, which is refreshing to hear for others, how do you feel about this? 

I’ve deliberately avoided commercial routes and mainstream exposure. I took time to learn what I did not want, and I ran away from major projects in the spotlight. I mean the roles that required nudity, or sending a body shot as well as headshot. That’s what I was being offered as a young model. If you don’t let anyone exploit you, things take longer. You have to fight sexism before you can even do your job. 

I feel I have only now arrived on a platform as an independent female, ready to create my own work, but what matters for my work is substance and longevity.


What do you do to recharge yourself and/or re-inspire yourself?

I’m told it’s very important to know how to relax. I try meditation and yoga, but really what works for me is a sense of humour and knowing how to laugh at yourself. It is important for de-stressing and for your outlook on life. Even when things are completely hell, I can find the humour. It may be dark or absurdist, but that is the exact point that life re-inspires me and triggers my writing. 

What writing are you working on? 

Its too soon to promote my writing. I am just in early stages of a TV series under the guidance of my manager. What I would really love to do is disappear and finish my novel, and publish my short stories. I have a publishing offer to do so, but, I have to be patient – disappearing is another art.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with Spindle?

Yes! The world is politically volatile. It’s important that we do not normalise or become complacent to what is happening, and we fight for those more vulnerable than us. Posting on social media is not good enough, it is part of the problem, we need to connect with local activist groups. I was involved in early research for designing a program called  “Movement Match” with founder Pippi Kessler.  This is a great resource to find quick and effective activism suited to everyone.


Joanna in New York, photographed by Jen Maler

Joanna in New York, photographed by Jen Maler

Connect with Joanna Pickering:

Website | Twitter | Instagram