Today I’m thrilled to be putting the Spotlight on a hardworking actress in the industry, Elizabeth Moynihan.
I met Elizabeth Moynihan through LinkedIn where most professional connections start nowadays. After taking note that she would be featured the new series of Black Mirror (Season 3) on Netflix, I thought it would be fascinating to learn more about her entire journey from the audition process to filming for the episode entitled ‘PlayTest’.
Most actors in the industry don’t get the full story about what goes on in an audition process. It is something that varies between the different industries you are auditioning for. So for example, an audition process for a West End musical might have more rounds and call-backs than for a TV series, going on months and months until they find the perfect cast. In some cases of course this could be different depending on cast size and the requirements – but in most cases TV castings will be done and confirmed through audition tapes. These audition tapes could be either live filming in the audition room or through self-tapes that the actors send in themselves (You’ll read more about this in the Q&A below).
Elizabeth was so kind to talk me through her process and share with us some fun insights through her experience.
Elizabeth is also in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them out now in Cinemas. She is playing the executioner and you will find her on screen working closely with Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston. She is not only captivating through her looks but she looks fantastic on screen too.
Thank you again Elizabeth for your insight and make sure to follow her on Twitter to check out her future projects.
1. When you were called in for the first round of auditions were you aware of the project / role?
I hadn’t seen any Black Mirror Episodes so I watched clips on Youtube as all my friends are big Fans and I thought I should at least find out what all the fuss is about. I didn’t watch Breaking Bad either until a year ago and then I became obsessed!
2. What was required from you from the first audition? (Self Tape or Audition)
I auditioned by self- taping. They sent the sides (IE scene for those non-actors reading) and although it was a dystopian setting I just felt clear about what was required. I feel like I just understood it and I knew I might be able to offer something, something different? I didn’t meet Dan or Charlie until I went to set so I just hoped that my choices as an actor would be what they were looking for. It’s a gamble when self- taping. You just never know.
3. Any memorable stories from your audition?
Not really other than the fact that I did about 15 takes before I sent off the self tape .The scene requried me to cry so I had to keep crying over and over. I was so exhausted by the end of it that I just fell asleep on my bed. I always self tape in my bedroom as the light is really good in there so that was handy.
4. Was the producers and Director of your episode Dan Trachtenberg present in the audition room?
I self-taped and the decision I believe was Dan and Charlie’s. The producers I met at the photo shoot for the stills you see in the tracking shot at the top of the episode. They were both so kind and supportive. The really did everything to make sure we were all comfortable and happy. They are exceptional people really.
4. Round about how many weeks or days did you wait before the call from your agent?
To be honest I can’t remember. I was auditioning for a few things around that time. So I had no idea what job my agent was talking about, for instance when I auditioned for FANTASTIC BEASTS it had a working title and the project we were told was top secret. When my agent called to let me know I had the job I tried to match his excitement when clearly I had no idea what job I had actually gotten until the next day when I emailed and asked him who was directing and he said David Yeats.Then I almost fainted. With Black Mirror I realized what I was getting involved in when my friend screamed down the phone with excitement at the prospect of my being in the show.
5. Were you provided information that this show would be available on such an international network such as Netflix from the first initial audition or after the confirmation of the role?
I often feel I am the last to know anything starting out. As all that end of things doesn’t really concern me. All I am focused on is the character and my scene partner. Of course when the work is done and I can breathe again I start to become aware of details like that. I was thrilled to be part of the Netflix Family, honoured really as I am a big fan of Netflix. I call Netflix my boyfriend as I get into bed with him every night!!
6. Once you knew this would be for the Black Mirror series – had you at the time watched the previous series?
No I hadn’t. But some of my friends were massive Black Mirror Fans. I am really squeamish and a bit of a scaredy cat. So anything Horror or dystopian based well, I am too afraid to watch it. Which is ironic as I am a bit of a scream Queen at the moment. I audition for horror more than anything else and did a Horror Web series called IL Sommnambulo that your readers will no doubt have seen as I believe it won a couple of awards at Canadian and American festivals. Doug Rath directed it and that was one of the best experiences I have had as an actor.
7. Were you sent the script well in advanced before filming?
No. When shooting film or TV you don’t get too obsessive about learning lines as they change once you get to set where you have plenty of time before you shoot to perfect them. They give you the changes when you arrive on pink paper hence the term “The Pink Pages”. Dan played around with the dialogue on Black mirror with each take, which kept things fresh and truthful.
8. Due to the secretive nature of the series and individual concepts were you sent the entire script of the episode? Or was this kept confidential until the days leading up to filming?
I knew nothing about the other episodes. Just mine.
9. As an American they did a great job making the house look suburban, but I think I noted one light fixture that was standard British. I have to ask – was this a UK location?
Well spotted!! Yes it was. Somewhere outside London.
10. Did you enjoy your time on set?
I adored every minute. Everyone was amazing not only at their job but as people. And Dan is the nicest man I think I have ever met apart from Doug Rath and David Yeates.Haha! Ok I have been really lucky with the directors I have worked with this past year. I have to mention the Make up and Hair designer Okana. She was amazing. A wonderfully talented kind and generous person. I love her!!
11. Any interesting stories or lessons learned from the director Dan Trachtenberg?
Dan is an incredible human being and artist. It was a privilege working with him. He knows exactly what he wants but really respects actors and gave me the room to develop ideas and really go for it. He comes over between takes and gives you encouragement and positive feed back. I really hope I am lucky enough to work with him again.
12. How many takes did it take to film your final scene?
It’s not so much about takes as there are lots of different “set ups” which are all edited together. We worked all morning and into the afternoon to get what you see on the screen.
13. Tell us your favourite thing about the episode PlayTest?
The diversity of the characters and the strong narrative. Charlie’s work serves as a warning to us that if we go on as we are, that is, using electronic devices to stimulate feelings of love,fear or fantasy then civilization will become uncivilized and dehumanize itself.
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