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January 2012 - January 2016

Television Acting

Tom CantrellChristopher Hogg

By interviewing celebrated television actors, what can we learn about the 'craft' of television acting?

Since television often operates with a rapid turnaround in production, and frequently affords the actor limited time for rehearsal, there has been a tacit understanding that there is minimal ‘craft’ to television acting. Yet television performance is celebrated and some of the most well known and loved characters are created for television.

Penelope Wilton, one of the actors interview in

This project is the first detailed research into how actors approach the specific demands of television. Most research into this area views performance via analysis of the finished product. By contrast, this project uses interviews with celebrated television actors including Rebecca Front (The Thick of It, War and Peace, Humans), Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street, Broadchurch, Happy Valley), Ken Stott (Fortitude, The Missing, Rebus), Penelope Wilton (Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, Brief Encounters) and Nina Sosanya (Last Tango in Halifax, W1A, Silk). These interviews focus on their process, and how they bring their skills to bear on this particular medium.

The front cover of the book

This project has already produced two books: Acting in British Television in 2017 and Exploring Television Acting in 2018. Acting in British Television uses the aforementioned interviews to analyse 4 diverse genres of television to discuss how actors build characters, work on set and location and put it altogether to create iconic portrayals of characters. 

Exploring Television Acting is an edited collection of essays. Bringing together scholarly and practitioner perspectives, the book analyses the experiences, skills and techniques of actors when working on television.