Amelia Tyler is a British actress and voiceover artist who had her first taste of fame at the tender age of five, voicing a national radio commercial. She was already a TV veteran, having appeared in both BBC and ITV dramas including ‘Boon,’ when she was accepted into the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain at just sixteen years old, and only a year later she became ITV’s youngest ever continuity announcer, hosting their children’s television slot CITV.
Since then she’s worked in almost every area of the industry, from movies to cartoons, was the female voice of the UK’s SyFy channel from 2005 until 2010, can currently be seen playing six roles in the “refreshingly different” British indie sci-fi film ‘Triple Hit’, and will soon begin shooting at Pinewood for her role in action/thriller ‘Sure Fire Hit’, starring Chris Noth, Jennifer Ellison and Rebecca Lock.
VF: Described by directors as having “a sense of dedication bordering on obsessive” yet being “more fun than a frog on a trampoline,” you attribute your move into the ‘acting life’ to your mother.
AT: “She’s an actress too so some of my most enduring memories of childhood are of being on theatre and TV sets with her, just soaking it all in. It was an awesome way to grow up and gave me a really early understanding of the whole acting process that’s proved invaluable as my career has evolved.”
“Acting totally lights my fire. Each role is utterly different so it’s like letting a different side of yourself out to play every day! ‘The actor’s life’ can be pretty damned unpredictable, though: one day I might be in a plush London studio recording a TV ad, the next running from zombies in a forest or sobbing my heart out in a hospital. Luckily I live for that ‘whatever next?!’ feeling.”
VF: You don’t believe that a ‘normal’ life is for you. How do you describe yourself?
AT: “One of those bizarre people who actually enjoys long, arduous night shoots, speed-learning scripts, training for physical roles or having my face covered in prosthetics. I’m a big kid at heart so to me all that’s just a different kind of fun.”
VF: So for an actress who got such an early start, how did it feel to be accepted into the National Youth Theatre?
AT: “Oh, it was a huge honour. The NYT is THE name for young talent here in the UK and many of our most famous names (Sir Ben Kingsley, Dame Helen Mirren and Timothy Dalton, for example) are alumini. When I applied I’d only just turned 16 (the minimum age for full training) so as the youngest person to be accepted onto the course I couldn’t believe I’d been judged to be an equal to all these other people who just seemed impossibly grown-up and talented. I think that’s part of what makes the NYT so successful, though – if you have raw talent they’ll see it and nurture it.”
“The course was my first real time away from home so I made a point of learning all I could. The training was insane – it really opened my eyes to what I could do, plus getting praise and trust from established directors boosted my confidence no end. I suppose that was the biggest part of the whole experience for me: making me believe I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it.”
“My early TV work was very different. There’s a lot of waiting around on set, then suddenly there’ll be this massive burst of activity so you have to really focus on getting the job done quickly and right. Luckily I’d always had quite an old head on my shoulders and had no trouble just chatting to the adults on set or taking direction. I’ve got very fond memories of filming ‘Boon’: eating biscuits with Michael Elphick in his trailer, watching all the behind-the-scenes stuff being done … Most importantly, though, it taught me the difference between acting for stage and acting for screen. On screen everything’s far more subtle and I saw it as a wonderful challenge. ‘Hmm … ok, how can I take what I’ve learned for theatre and adapt it to work here?'”
VF: And how did you get into doing voiceovers?
AT: “Again, I blame my mum! I learned a lot from watching her working so I ended up doing my first paid voiceover gig when I was incredibly young, but making the switch between child voiceovers and teenage ones was a shock. Suddenly they didn’t want a cute tot to charm the listeners, they wanted ALL these words read as quickly as possible, and in many different styles, so I quickly became very good at sight-reading and doing character voices.”
VF: Things began to really happen when you turned 17 and ITV called, asking you to audition to be CITV’s new continuity announcer.
AT: “I thought they were joking! Live continuity work can be incredibly demanding and I’d have to write my own scripts so I never thought they’d want someone as young as me, but I went along anyway and was amazed when I got the job, becoming ITV’s youngest ever announcer! I remember my producer showed me into recording booth on the first day, handed me a little black box with a red lever on it and said “pull that switch towards you and you can say whatever you want, push it away from you and the whole of the UK can hear you.” I’d imagine most kids that age might go to pieces in the same situation but I loved every minute of it.”
VF: When you graduated from university you were signed by the fantastic agency, titled ‘Excellent’ in London, and from there your career skyrocketed.
AT: “I’ve worked for some amazing companies like Disney, SyFy and the BBC. Acting’s great fun but voiceovers open you up to a whole new way of working. You have to be able to adapt your voice, to shave a specific number of seconds off a read without the aid of a stopwatch, and to convey everything an on-screen character could without ever being visible. Also, on screen I’m unlikely to get cast as a fat, middle-aged northerner, a barmy granny or a giggling baby but in voiceovers I can be anyone. The anonymity is wonderfully freeing.”
VF: Your acting credits include “ass kicking heroines to evil temptresses” in both modern and period productions, but what kind of role do you enjoy most?
AT: “I honestly don’t think I could choose! I was trained from a very early age in classic stuff like Shakespeare and Chekhov so I grew up with a real understanding and love of period roles (and corsets!), but on the flipside of the coin I’m a total tomboy so running around fighting men twice my size and being a general badass is a huge amount of fun!”
“I have to admit that I enjoy playing baddies but I suppose what I really relish is any well-written role I can get my teeth into. Whether I’m playing an all-action ass-kicker or a serious dramatic role I like to get into the character’s head and make her believable. It’s a great chance to explore different aspects of your personality, plus, my mum’s thrilled that I’m finally putting my Psychology degree to good use!”
VF: Until recently you were unsure of your ability to do comedy.
AT: “I just never thought I was a funny person, but as it turns out I was totally wrong!”
“In 2008 I starred in a lovely short film about vampires called ‘Blood Actually’ which was very subtly comedic, then last year I played the lead in a web series called ‘SatNav Lifestyle’ which was TOTALLY silly, real plastacine face stuff. It was so refreshing to cast off all those worries about looking good or being ladylike and just behave like a total idiot for a few days! A lot of people think comedy is easy but it’s just not true – it takes just as much skill as a dramatic role, you’re just using a different rulebook.”
VF: You make no secret of your love for all things sci-fi and horror.
AT: “My dad’s a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy so I was brought up on a healthy diet of Star Wars, Bladerunner et al. – not a bad way to grow up, really! As a budding people-watcher I think it struck me at quite an early age how a well-made movie can really influence the way people think, and that sci-fi and horror are the main culprits for that.”
“Horror is a very primal feeling, taking us back to our fears and animal instincts, whereas sci-fi opens up our minds and gives us fresh perspectives on personal, national and even global issues. That ability can be incredibly powerful. They’re an absolute hoot to make, too! I’ve had maggots on my face, operated a futuristic CGI floating computer screen… I suppose that’s what attracts me the most – they really set your imagination free and as an actor you get to experience things you never would in a typical drama.”
“Also, sci-fi really was the flag bearer for feminism and sexual equality in general. It’s great to see so many strong female characters appearing in movies and on TV these days, but they’ve been in sci-fi for decades. Ellen Ripley, Lieutenant Uhura, even Maria in ‘Metropolis’ way back in 1927! These were independent women with authority and ability who gave new generations of young ladies the courage to stand up for what they believe in and forge their own paths. That’s something I’m 100% behind. Who wants to see some wimpy, wishy-washy girl let a man sort out her problems for her anyway? I’d much rather save myself, ta!”
VF: Your first lead role was in the award winning feature ‘Wasters,’ which you described as “an absolute ball to film.” But it was also a real learning experience.
AT: “I’d played lead roles on stage many times but on screen it’s a totally different ballgame! Due for release next year, ‘Wasters’ is a comedy drama about four friends who work in a bar and follows their lives over a single night as secrets are revealed and friendships betrayed. Oooh, the mystery!”
“I played Sarah Smith, the baddie of the piece, and playing such a nasty piece of work was a real joy. It would have been easy to make Sarah all legs and cleavage but Luke (Rufo, the director) was keen to make her someone you could hate and sympathise with at the same time so we had a lot of interesting chats about her psychology and why she did what she did.”
“I’m starting to wonder if my performance was a little TOO convincing, though – a few people I talked to after the premiere were really off with me until they realised I’m nothing like my on-screen character! I’m nice in real life, honest!”
VF: Last summer ‘Triple Hit’ was screening at Comic Con in San Diego, and you were asked to go along and speak on the panel.
AT: “I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited, the whole thing just blew my mind! I also did a few interviews while I was there, plus covered the event for the SyFy Channel, so I wrote a daily blog and got to interview some wonderful people, like Richard Hatch and Virginia Hey.”
“It’s incredible who you randomly bump into at that place. I was chatting to a lovely guy in a baseball cap for several minutes before he revealed himself to be Lenn Wein and did a little video interview with me! The whole trip was just madness from start to finish. As you can imagine, it was a huge deal for a geek like me and I adored chatting to fans of the genre about the movie and my other work (and spending far too much money on things like Lego and nerdy t-shirts). Sci-fi fans are brilliant beyond words – hands down some of the friendliest, most well-informed and generally ace people I’ve ever met.”
VF: What about upcoming movie roles?
AT: “I’m afraid that’s one of the most frustrating things about working in this industry: all the NDAs! However, I can say that I’ve got an incredibly busy 12 months ahead, I’m in at least one movie shooting at Pinewood this year, and ‘SatNav Lifestyle’ will be hitting the internet very, very soon. I’m working on a whole bunch of other projects at the moment too, both short films and features, plus I’m currently writing my first solo feature film script, working on an awesome secret project with the lads from Entanglement Productions, and it looks like I’ll be filming in the USA sometime next year so … exciting times! I update my blog (on www.ameliatyler.com) whenever there’s news to tell and I’m pretty active on twitter (www.twitter.com/ameliatyler) so hit me up on there to find out all the latest goss.”
VF: But success has not changed you.
AT: “God no! Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have my work praised by others but that’s such a tiny part of the job. I love the actual process of making a movie so anything afterwards is just an added bonus. Besides, I’m far too much of an idiot to let success go to my head. I trip over. A LOT. There’s nothing like a good solid faceplant to keep your feet (and the rest of you) on solid ground!”
VF: So, what advice do you have to anyone starting off?
AT: “Ooh, where to start? Ok, first off, immerse yourself in your craft. Watch movies, plays, drama, comedy, horror… learn from everything and everyone and never assume you’ve got it sussed. The second you think you’ve got nothing to learn you might as well pack up and go home! Never believe your own hype. If you get a bad review, especially from someone who really knows what they’re talking about, then don’t ignore it – learn from it and resolve to be better next time. That person has just made you aware of how you could improve your skills. Brilliant!”
“Always be on time, get a good night’s sleep beforehand, and be sure to treat everyone on set as you’d like to be treated yourself. When you’re busy preparing for a scene it might be easy to forget to give due credit and time to people like runners, lighting technicians and makeup artists but they’re usually working far harder than the actors and have a huge amount of pressure on them. These are the people who make you look good and without them there’d be no production at all.”
“Above all, don’t forget to have fun and if you do make it big (or even just medium) try not to take yourself too seriously or be blinded by the praise people are throwing at you. You’re just you, the same as you were before all this, no better or worse than anyone else in the world. You just happen to have an exceptionally weird job!”