Do you have to live in London to be a successful actor? By James Cooney @jkcooney #ManchesterActor

Hi Everyone!
 I’m happy to share an exciting guest article written by UK Actor, James Cooney below.
james cooney
I know James personally as we both attended LIPA and I’ve been a huge fan ever since I saw his Bottleneck monologue at Monologue Slam so many years ago in Manchester. James has most recently been featured on screens across the UK in the live Royal Shakespeare Company rendition of King Lear. I nearly jumped out of my seat when I was watching. James Cooney is represented by one of the top dog agencies in London, United Agents and also is currently on IMDB.

Bottleneck Promo Poster 

Enjoy the article below – I truly think this is a fantastic read for all actors who are based elsewhere in the UK. It shows you can thrive without having to be at the centre of London.

I’d also like to say that my heart goes out to all the families and victims who were affected by the Manchester attack. #PrayforManchester

The question: Where in London do you live?


Now, my English geography skills aren’t great. When the tour dates came out for a job I did last year, I had no idea where Malvern was. Whenever friends tell me the best motorway to drive on for their visit – my eyes glaze over in a haze of M’s and A’s. But if you ask me, “Where in London are you based?” I do know that Manchester AINT in London.


Back in 2012 I made a decision. An experimental one for sure, but one I had to test out for myself. I decided that I wanted to move back to Manchester after graduating drama school in Liverpool in 2011. I was lucky that my first job from December until March 2012 for a brand new play meant I had to move to London for rehearsals.


Life could not have been better. I found a great place to stay with an actor friend who loved football and was the live in landlord and charged a VERY low amount considering the average cost of London living. I was in a brilliant play, I got an agent off the back of it and could not believe my luck. London seemed to sparkle as I walked across Waterloo Bridge to work and my years of drama school training had come to fruition.


Then the job ended.


And I sank. Fast.


The first thing to go was money. That cheap rent ain’t so cheap when you don’t have money coming in. Next to go was time. Suddenly I had to go get myself 3 jobs to pay for all my expenses. 3 flexible jobs of course to fit in with auditions. I worked behind the bar of the theatre I had just been on stage at, I worked at a restaurant I had just the week earlier been eating in ‘making it rain’ tips, and signed up to a teacher recruitment agency who lured me in with a beer in the interview stage.


But the final thing to go is something I couldn’t bare to lose: my sense of perspective. Suddenly, everything mattered. Everything was about me being “successful”. I didn’t spend as much time with friends because I was so busy working. I didn’t go to the theatre because I was busy working. If I wasn’t working I was working out cos all I cared about what was my physical appearance. Feeling like I was losing touch with who I was and what I liked about myself made me stop and take stock.


As it so happens, at a similar time I got cast in a one-man play, which was heading up to Edinburgh for the summer of 2012. My girlfriend at that time was just about to finish University having done a year more than me, my parents had decided to move abroad for personal and financial reasons, and suddenly it seemed obvious: Why don’t I move back to Manchester?


Me being me, I planned.


I was spending £500 a month on rent, and around £30 a week on a travel card. So to live IN London it was costing me £620 a month.


It cost £52 (back in 2011) to get from Manchester to London with a 16-25 rail card and back when Virgin were being nice, they would allow you to get a peak time train for an off peak price.


Then it hit me, I would have to have 12 auditions in a month before it costs me more to live in Manchester than London. I had a good agent, but not THAT good! Not 12 times a month good! That’s like 3 auditions a week. If you are doing that, who are they and what is the meaning of life because they are clearly the Oracle.


Beyond the finances, I also decided I didn’t want to just make a living, I wanted to have a life. I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend, my friends, put money away for travel, read, watch films, watch theatre, play football, watch football, take my dog out, drink and visit my mate who throws the best parties. I wanted that. And I felt there must be a way to do that and be an actor at the same time.


So I took the plunge. My biggest worry was telling my agent. Their response?

“Just don’t miss an audition and it’s fine.” There were times I thought it more likely I was gonna miss it because of not being able to get cover at work in London.


I went to Edinburgh from King’s Cross, and then returned to Manchester Piccadilly. The show had been a success and there was talk of a London transfer. But there was something far more important happening: I wasn’t sinking any more. On the support of my friends, my girlfriend, my family and indeed my own sense of self worth which was no longer tied in to whether or not I was working or auditioning, I seemed to be better than ever. And I took that energy in to auditions. I was confident in myself. I was sure that I could do a good job. I had a greater opinion on the work because I had the time to pick at it and think about it and allow myself to wonder. Granted, I didn’t get many of those jobs, but I was sure I was giving the creative team what I do best: play. I wasn’t desperately trying to impress or desperately trying to get the job. I was playing. You know? That thing they try and teach you at drama school? I was doing that.


Nearly 5 years on and I’m happy to say I’m still working as an actor. I’ve been looking at buying a house with a friend because houses are affordable in Manchester. I have only once had to miss an audition because of train problems when England basically had a hurricane (they re-scheduled a week later and I didn’t get the job!). I manged to visit my families who live in various parts of the world and if anything I believe that those experiences have made me a better actor. I have been living a life that suits me. It isn’t perfect, I still get jealous of other actors, I still get FOMO, I still doubt my skills as an actor. But I would feel all of that in London. In Manchester, I feel it, then I go see my mates. I go to the park. I go and see some quality theatre at HOME or the Exchange. I take a trip to Liverpool within 45 minutes. I go and buy a pint for £2.10 at the working men’s club (no joke). And suddenly, it all gets put in to perspective.

Life is way too short to live it HATING what you do. Yes, sacrifice and delaying gratification are a vital part to living a fulfilled life, but no one is holding a gun to your head and telling you what to do.

Choose life. Choose happiness. Choose self worth. Choose good mental health, abundance and choice. Choose you.

Choose Manchester.

(Or any other regional hub that makes you happy!)

Thank you so much James for taking the time to write this piece. If you wish to check him out further make sure to follow him on Twitter @jkcooney and keep your eyes open for his new big project! 


#London #Actors #JamesCooney #RSC #Manchester