Kaisa Hammarlund is a screen and stage actress, singer and voice over artist, having stared in a variety of shows we got to speak to the star of the smash hit Young Vic production of Fun Home about falling over in front of Paul McCartney and how Fun Home was already a love for her with a ticket being brought before her audition and the high hopes for it to come to the West End next.
What’s been a funny moment for you on stage? Any mishaps you want to share!?
Came on without my sketch pad in Fun Home..not ideal if you’re playing a cartoonist! Also fell over spectacularly in Mamma Mia when Paul McCartney was watching!
If you hadn’t have been an actor what would you be doing?
I love horses and grew up competing a lot. So probably a show-jumper! Or a salted liquorice-taster!
What advice could you give someone who would like to be in the industry like you?
Be prepared for hard work. And if there’s ANYTHING else you could see yourself doing..do it. It takes 100% dedication. Going to drama school here also helped me to understand the industry and get me introduced to my first agent. I highly recommend training first.
How do you juggle work between the UK and Sweden?
I go where the work is. It’s so easy to fly between the two. Luckily I’ve got my British citizenship too now when Brexit is looming . . . But I’ve mainly worked in the UK so far.
How did you get into acting, was there a particular performance you saw that resonated
My neighbour in Sweden was the star and director of an outdoor summer theatre. I started working there when I was a teenager. First renting out blankets and selling programs. Then I had a stint as a dresser. Finally I graduated to a place as villager number 3 in Funny Girl. I was only in the number Henry Street but that was enough to get me hooked! I also saw Cats on Broadway when I was around 10 and mum said she knew by the size of my eyes throughout the show that I was sold..’
What has been your favourite role you have played and why?
So hard to say. Each job is different and enjoyable in many varied ways. I adore playing Charity in Sweet Charity at The Manchester Royal Exchange last year. A beautiful and complex character in a beautiful theatre surrounded by a beautiful team of people. Charity is a delightful and flawed character with so much hope and joy for life. I think we can all take a leaf out of her book of outlook on life. Maybe not relationships though!
What’s the process for you when putting together a character, how do you prepare?
I love the research part of a show! I start by buying a new notebook to transfer the script to. I glue
one page of the script on every other page in the notebook so I have a blank page to make
notes on in rehearsals. This is my little tradition. Also satisfies my stationary-fetish! I also try and read as much as I can about the person/era/period/place as I can. So much easier now with the internet so no excuse not being prepared. I try not to watch other people’s performances if avail but try and make my own interpretation as much as I can. Take accent/singing classes too if needed. But I never learn the script before rehearsal starts. I’d like to discover the text as a communication with my scene-partner instead.
Can you tell us about your time in Fun Home, what drew you to the role of Alison?
I saw the show on Broadway and loved it. I couldn’t wait to see it again and booked tickets for it as soon as Young Vic opened sales. I never thought I’d be seen for it. Then I got my audition! She’s a very different part to what I’ve played before and I guess I had even pigeonholed myself out of the job before considering it being a possibility. But I was thrilled when I got it and very excited to tell her story every night. It’s such a beautiful and tragic story that is so narrow but yet universal in its kind. Anyone with a family can relate to the themes brought up. At the first glance it’s the coming-out story of a lesbian cartoonist with a gay closeted father. But then you realise it’s a story of a father/daughter relationship, family dynamics, shame, yearning, art and self-realisation. It’s probably the stillest I’ve ever been on stage too which has been a challenge!
You’ve worked with many terrific people in your career what are some of the things you
have learnt along the way?
Good manners and a happy company starts from the top. I’ve worked with both good and bad versions. The late and wonderful Tim Pigott-Smith for example was a brilliant leading man and a brilliant leader/role model of our company when I did The Tempest. He’d walk up four flights of stair every day just to say hi to the ensemble. And I’ve learnt that listening is your greatest asset in most situations.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
The people you meet and the things you learn from them. I’m so lucky to meet new people all the time. But having people waiting for you at the stage door just to tell you how much the show/play moved them to laughter/tears/thought is also extremely lovely and rewarding of course. I get to tell stories for a living!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m quite restless so I like to exercise and keep fit. I alternate between yoga, running, dance classes, the free fitness movement group Project Awesome, horse riding or walking. But I do also have a big penchant for an afternoon cinema visit. I see a lot of films..and popcorn!
Who are your influences and inspirations?
I’m surrounded by a lot of lovely friends that I’ve picked up on different jobs along the way. Support in the theatrical community is so important. It’s a tough industry with lots of up’s and down’s. So I’d say my fellow actors and actresses that I can turn to in both jubilation and strife.’
Is there a role (regardless of gender) you would love to play?
I would love to play Joan in Joan of Arc. Or any fierce warrior queen in general. Violet in the musical Violet is another beautiful Jeanine Tesori musical with a strong female lead. Or Eva Peron in Evita. Small and feisty ladies!
What’s next for you?
We hope that Fun Home will transfer. I’d love for this show to be seen by a wider audience. I’m very proud of the show and its message. But I’m also auditioning and doing voice over jobs on the side. You can’t really ever relax as a freelance actor!
Where can people follow your work on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube etc?