This much I know: Hazel Clifford

Hilary Fennell talks to Hazel Clifford about traits, faults and what she's most thankful for

This much I know: Hazel Clifford

Hazel Clifford - Actress

I’m told I was a ‘born performer’.

When I was a young kid I had some crazy dreams — of being the president or a marine biologist — but then I realised the only thing I was any good at was acting.

I’m not from an acting family, at all. Mam works in Trinity, doing catering, and dad has his own business, Clifford’s Fireplaces. They made sure I knew I was choosing a precarious type of career. But once I’d set my mind to it, they encouraged me every step of the way.

I started acting classes when I was eight, in Clondalkin Drama Group; then I joined Dublin Youth Theatre. After school, it was straight to acting college at The Lir Academy for a four year course — the foundation, and then the BA. We had to pay for it, of course, so it was a big decision.

It was thanks to Lir that I got my big break, playing Sharon in Roddy Doyle’s The Snapper.

I do believe in fate. Because, although I was still only a third year student, I emailed The Gate Theatre loads, begging to be considered for the part. After they’d auditioned many experienced actors, they decided that the girl they were looking for was still in college. Which was lucky for me — as it meant they answered my email and invited me to audition.

Once I’d played Sharon, I got an agent and my career took off.At the end of day, whether you go to acting school or not is your choice. But I can’t imagine how I’d have broken into the business otherwise. And, I learnt things at Lir that I didn’t even know I needed to know — about voice development and movement.

The biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far is feeling that I’m not good enough. I’ve had to learn how to handle rejection — being continually turned down for parts — and realising that it’s OK to fail.My idea of misery would be losing my passion for acting. It is the only thing I feel I’m able to do well. I honestly don’t think I could do anything else.

If I could be someone else for a day I’d be Stevie Nicks so that I could sing ‘Dreams’ over and over.

The best advice I ever received was from my mother — that what’s for you won’t pass you by.

My biggest fault is that I tend to burn the candle at both ends and I can get very stressed.

I try to put things in place for my mental and physical health. I always make sure to get to the theatre with plenty of time to spare for warm ups and relaxing — as I can get into a bit of a blind panic before I go out there — once I’m on stage, I’m fine though. I also keep physically fit by eating healthy food and getting regular exercise when I’m not working. It’s hard to keep up a routine when you’re ‘resting’ as an actor but I do try.

I’m not religious and don’t really believe in any kind of after life. I suppose we just return to nature when we die.

The trait I most admire in others is openness.

The trait that irritates me most is not listening to what others are saying.

The thing that makes me good at this job is that I don’t mind making a fool of myself. I’m fine with being outrageous and loud. My advice to those who think they are too self conscious to even try any kind of acting or performance, is that it’s important to try things that take us outside our comfort zone.I’m so thankful to the brave women who began the #MeToo movement. It is making this industry a safer environment for female actors. And maybe it’s increasing the opportunity for us to play interesting, strong female leads too. Like the part I’m doing now — playing pioneering Irish scientist Kathleen Lonsdale who was a real trailblazer and even spent time in jail for her pacifist beliefs — yet I’d never even heard about her until I auditioned for the part.

So far life has taught me not be so hard on myself.

Hazel Clifford stars in Super Paua’s new play about the life of pioneering Irish scientist Kathleen Lonsdale in The Lonsdale Project which premiere’s at Riverbank Arts Centre (March 14) and Smock Alley Theatre (March 19 - 28) —

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