By BRUCE DENNILL
Born and raised in Cape Town, with a degree in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town, Sholto-Douglas is no newcomer to acting. Her acting résumé includes work on movies and series such as Samson, The Dating Game Killer, Troy: Fall of a City, The Kissing Booth, and Black Mirror; and also includes theatre and singing performances, as well as work on short films and television commercials.
Can you distil what it is that you love about film or television acting particularly – over other types of performance such as theatre? Are there aspects of the craft of acting that are different in front of a camera than when performing for a live audience?
I think for the most part, I conflate theatre and film acting and enjoy them equally. Of course, there are differences – especially in their respective processes and environments. But, the thing I love about acting is the intense focus on living a moment truthfully. It’s the most exciting feeling. And it doesn’t necessarily need to happen while in character. I’ve created and performed my own performance art pieces, which involve a lot of improvisation and awareness of the self and the space around you. Playing around and creating from a place of personal investment in a high-stakes environment gives me a bunjee jump kind of thrill. What I really love about film is that there is no fear of being “too small”. The set or space that you’re in is often more immersive, and, of course, if you mess up, you get another shot! With theatre, the process is the best part. You come to the same space every day and you have the time to delve deep into the world of the piece and get to know the space and people you’re working with. You get to watch the piece grow from day one.
Film and television can involve an enormously lengthy creative process, with months or even years passing between coming on board via auditions and the premiere of the piece. What’s that like emotionally as a performer – investing heavily in something and then having to wait?
It has taken some practice for me to let go of work once it’s finished. I’m self-critical, so when a film comes out months or even years later, I usually wish I could turn back the wheel of time and redo every line. But then, I just assure myself I’ll do better next time and work hard to do so. That sounds kind of unhealthy, but it’s actually the opposite. I don’t stress about the details once it’s out of my control. I just focus on what’s next. Ultimately, I’m just grateful to have had an opportunity to grow. I’m only starting out really, and I have a long way to go.
How important is a message for you in terms of the types of stories you prefer to get involved with? Are you part activist (and if so, for what causes), do you want something that primarily presses artistic buttons, or is it a matter of simply working first and foremost? (Perhaps it’s a mixture of all three…).
This is quite a question! I’m having an existential crisis while writing this. Again, I’m still in the early days of my career and I just jump at the opportunity to act. I have opted out of auditions for moral or political reasons, though. And I do feel a certain fire for projects that align with my political views and try to seek them out where I can. I can’t give myself the credit of being an activist, as I haven’t done much to effect change in the world. But I do have strong socio-political beliefs, especially around the mistreatment of marginalised and impoverished communities, and I feel that these beliefs naturally work their way into my everyday life and conversations. Human brains are obsessed with narrative, so I do really believe in the power of film and theatre to challenge or influence the narratives we form regarding our lives. I try to be aware of that when putting my efforts into projects.
What do you need from a director? Conversely, what won’t you put up with from a director?
Vision! If there’s a clear vision, I feel far more determined and passionate. The second part of this question is tricky for me. I’m going to have to skip it…
Does the way a film or show is distributed make a difference to you – the impact of the big screen and epic sound in a cinema versus a film or series being watched on a laptop or phone? Please answer as both a performer and a fan.
When it comes to watching movies, going to the cinema is the ideal option. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s the best. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter to me. I watched the whole of Handmaid’s Tale on my cellphone.
Who is your character in The Kissing Booth 2 and why was she satisfying to play?
I play Vivian, a matter-of-fact, over-achieving British student council president. She comes across as a little cold and quid pro quo, but deep down she loves her student population deeply and wants to fit in. I adored getting to walk in her – very fashionable – shoes. I loved that she was a comedic role: I never saw myself doing comedy before The Kissing Booth, but it was so much fun. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity.