Interview with Dominic Burgess
Dominic Burgess studied at ALRA winning a Dance and Drama Awards Scholarship on our three-year acting course. He was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, “just like the captain of the Titanic!” – he states on his IMDB bio.
Shortly after Dominic graduated, he went out for a trip to L.A. where he has developed a successful film and TV career.
Dominic will star in Ryan Murphy's new Mini-Series Feud alongside Susan Sarandon, Jessica Lange, Stanley Tucci and Alfred Molina. He is also recurring on Syfy channel's “The Magicians”, based on a series of best-selling books by Lev Grossman - Dominic plays Ember, a Ram God of a magical kingdom called Fillory.
We had a chance to have a quick chat with him about Feud and his career, here’s what Dominic told us:
ALRA: Can you to tell us a little bit more about the show and your role in Feud?
Dominic Burgess: 'Feud' is about the legendary feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the making of the 1962 film, 'Whatever happened to baby Jane'. It is from the writer/director Ryan Murphy, who is responsible for ‘Glee’, 'American Horror Story' and most recently, 'American Crime Story'.
In Feud, I'll be playing Victor Buono, who was Davis and Crawford's co-star on the movie, and who earned an Oscar nomination for his work on the film. Susan Sarandon is playing Bette Davis and Jessica Lange will be playing Joan Crawford. Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci are also starring and Brad Pitt is producing. I'm very excited about it.
ALRA: You just mentioned about “The Magicians” which is another show you’re on and has been on air for a while. This is such a popular show, Rotten Tomatoes shows that 87% of its audience like it! Could you tell us a bit about this trilogy?
DB: 'The Magicians' is based on a trilogy of best-selling books by Lev Grossman. I play Ember, the God of a magical realm called Fillory... Also I'm a ram... I'm a Ram-God... It's a wonderful role, possibly my favourite role to date.
The writing is wonderful, and it's been described as a cross between 'Harry Potter' and 'Lord of the Rings'. It gets pretty dark, and they deal with some heavy subject matter. The cast and crew are a delight.
I travel back and forth to shoot in Vancouver, which is a wonderful city, and the make-up process is insane. Six hours in make-up and hour or so out of it all, but it's so much fun. Also I have furry legs and hooves. I had to learn to walk again! It's actually somewhat liberating working behind so much prosthetic make-up. I love it, we start filming season two this summer.
ALRA: We know you are involved in other exciting productions, do you want to tell us what’s next?
DB: Coming up is the remake of 'Roots', in which I play a real historical figure, Lord Dunmore. This eight hour mini-series was a great production to be involved with. We shot down in New Orleans which was just phenomenal. And I'm also popping up briefly in the 'Gilmore Girls' revival series for Netflix. I think that's set to stream this Fall (Autumn... Look how American I've become!).
Other recent shows I've worked on include 'The Leftovers' on HBO, 'It’s always sunny in Philadelphia', and '2 Broke Girls'.
ALRA: Would you like to tell us something more about your choice of moving to L.A.?
DB: For me, moving to L.A. was always my goal. I guess I was always more attracted to TV and Film work, that was one of the reasons why I chose to study at ALRA.
I'd get home from High School and I'd do my homework while 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', 'Buffy' and 'X Files' played away in the background. That was the programming I'd watch. I never really got into UK shows.
Shortly after I graduated from ALRA I took a three week trip to Los Angeles. I took classes. I explored. I fell in love with the city right away. I know it's not for everyone. But it's the right fit for me. And I personally think there's an abundance of opportunities here that aren't available in England. Just, the amount of TV and Film productions here alone outweighs anything in the UK. Now there's a lot of tax credits to film in other States, but the majority of the casting still comes out of Los Angeles.
I'd say if you're curious about Los Angeles, or New York, or Vancouver, or any other market, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Even just for a few months if you can.
ALRA: Any graduate, from any kind of faculty, has to face the very first experience with the professional world and therefore has to challenge also rejections and bad feedback. Young actors, who have freshly graduated, often face many challenges having to face rejections and negative feedback many times before they land “the” role. What was your experience when you left ALRA?
DB: When I left ALRA, I think I had this kind of naive world view where I thought that auditions would be free-flowing and I'd be constantly busy. You know, you're in a kind of bubble world while you're in drama school, kept busy with third year productions, or prepping for showcase, and there's always material and scenes to prepare for class, you're meeting up with friends to rehearse or go over fight routines and choreography and such... then you graduate and everything suddenly stops.
Monday morning rolls around the weekend after you graduate and it's kind of like, "oh... cool... what do I do today?".
Auditions trickled in every now and then, but I learnt very fast to be hustling and pro-active and constantly looking for the next job. And for me, when I graduated, I was very much already focused on coming to work in America. That I think was always my ultimate goal, which kept me driven too.
ALRA: This is something that many young actors experience. If you could give some pieces of advice/tips to ALRA drama students, what would it be?
DB: Well, first just know that your journey is your own. Don't compare where you are to what anyone else is doing, nobody's acting career is ever going to be the same. You could be with the same agent, meet the same casting directors, but you're going to have wildly different careers.
The funny thing about acting is there's no clear defined path like a regular day job. You're not guaranteed that promotion in twelve months, the pay raise, and the company car. So... Get used to that?
I'd say, always keep creating. Write. Make your own work. Here in LA, I've been part of a sketch group - a collaboration between about fifteen friends and we write and put up shows pretty frequently depending on everyone's availability. We've been doing that for five or six years now. We self-produce, we have fun and we invite industry guests. It's a ridiculously good time.
I'm still in multiple classes each week. I'm always in class, I love it. I'd encourage everyone to do the same. Don't get rusty. A year or so ago I started screenwriting classes and that's been one of the most exciting things I've done. Now I've written a few features and a couple of pilots, and I'm excited to see where that avenue takes me.
Also, I'd say find a day job that you're not attached to. That's what worked for me personally, and again, it's a personal thing. I know it can be hard. I got day jobs that I could just walk away from.
That work didn't feed my soul, and sometimes it's soul destroying knowing that's not what you want to do. But that just made me more determined to act. I don't want to get comfortable. I get sad when I see people getting opportunities and auditions and they have to turn it down because they're "temping in an office this week" and their boss won't give them time off to audition.
Also, have fun. Probably should have put that one first. Have the most fun.
ALRA: Thank you so much Dominic for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us and best of luck for your future endeavours!
We had a great time catching up with Dominic, if you’re an ALRA Alumni and would like to share your experiences with us, please get in touch via email on firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of the team will be able to assist you.