Actress and producer Joanna Pickering has been telling us about an exciting new TV project, Actors On, which “explores dramatic literature, including Shakespeare, by experiencing the actor’s creative process”

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Pickering as Lady Macbeth

A British actress and producer based in the USA, Joanna Pickering has most recently performed the role of Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth in a dramatic series, Actors On. This ambitious new TV series aims to help others explore dramatic literature by experiencing the actor’s creative process.

The show was created by stateside Shakespearean actor and teacher Jeff Monahan. “The main aim of Actors On is for younger actors to access the world of Shakespeare, and without expensive fees,” he says. “It is more about the journey for the actor working on their roles, how to break into difficult texts and find character, than showing a finished product.”

“It’s been a great experience,” Joanna tells Shakespeare Magazine. “We are still shooting as it is being performed for camera, on stage and then interviews as the actor prepares. We performed a lot of it on stage, which was fantastic”

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Joanna Pickering and Jeff Monahan on stage as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth

The pilot for Actors On has been made with support from Shakespeare in The Park, PSTV studios and The Porter Theater in Pittsburgh. It will air on cable for public educational purposes at the end of year in USA, and the producers are now taking the series to bigger networks such as Netflix.
“I actually saw your [Shakespeare Magazine] tweet about why they did not have Shakespeare on Netflix,” Joanna says. “And that’s what we are trying to change, to get it into the mainstream, to make it cool.”

Monahan describes Actors On Macbeth as being similar to the style pioneered by Al Pacino in his 1996 documentary/performance hybrid Looking For Richard. Referring to Pickering’s performance as Lady Macbeth, he says: “Joanna brings a sensual ferocity to her role as Lady Macbeth. We’re approaching the couple not as a ‘butcher’ and his ‘fiend-like queen’, as Malcolm refers to them, but as a man and wife dedicated to each other and intimate confidants. I knew Joanna was right for the role, having seen her perform and from how passionate she was about delving into the part.”

Pickering regards it as one of the most challenging roles in dramatic history. “I spoke in preparation with directors Catherine and Paul Calderon,” she says, “who pointed me in the direction of researching Lady Macbeth afresh from the eyes of a warrior who would fight for her country. I researched feminist papers and I tried to play her strength, ambition and need for power over the femme fatale villain – more as a Celtic warrior fighting for her people, where murdering kings was not so unusual. I made no judgement on her actions but attributed them with bravery, and, of course, ruthlessness.”

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Speaking on the overall experience, Pickering is excited, “It was a challenge and delight to work on Lady Macbeth – given the actors whose footsteps I was following. And although it was small budget, the performance edits will be on screen for time to come. I am ready for The Globe! I was very grateful to my experienced and talented co-stars.”

Check the Actors On cast and series information on imdb.

For more information about Joanna Pickering and her work, or to contact her, visit her website.

Set photography by Tanya Dovidovskaya

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