A top children’s talent agent believes there’s a huge gap in the market – for non-binary child actors.

Mark Jermin is a leading manager at the helm of theatre schools across the UK, with clients working in commercials, as well as for Disney, Netflix and the BBC.

He thinks casting directors are becoming much more open to diverse choices.

Mark said: “We have just booked a commercial for a teenage non-binary actor on our books, called Cam.

“The casting director had initially asked for girls – but I said I was sending this non-binary person in and once they met them, that’s the direction they went in.

“As well as that, BAME actors and diversity in general is a really big and important thing – it’s vital to be seen on TV.

“Whether you are gay, non-binary, or anything else, there will be opportunities now, which I’m really thrilled about.

“We’re definitely seeing a really good shift in what they call ‘blind casting’ which can only be a good thing.”

But while doors are being opened in terms of diversity – they’re also closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic putting an end to face-to-face auditions.

Mark, who represents Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth who are starring in Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor, is offering advice to all the children on his books, as well as their parents, on how to continue their rise to stardom in a post-pandemic world.

His tips for mums and dads hoping their child can ‘make it’ also include learning to deal with rejection and how to not take over in auditions.

Kids and their parents must also master auditions by Zoom, showing their personalities with nothing to work with but a mobile phone camera.

Mark said: “You need supportive parents. There will be trips to London, changes that happen last minute, tapes that need to be sent in an hour.

“Especially now we’re seeing so much being taped at home, and parents have to be really careful with how kids are presented.

“They need a plain white background, and the parents themselves also need to be able to hold up their part of the conversation in any scene they’re acting out.”

Mark’s young talents have been plucked from obscurity and gone on to appear in Disney projects, Netflix series and regularly on the BBC.

An early success story that set Mark Jermin Management on the path to success were the two girls cast in the famous ‘Daddy or Chips’ advert for McCain – real-life sisters who were given their on-screen dinner by their actual mum.

The starmaker has also seen his wards land the lead role in Disney’s upcoming mega-budget Pinocchio remake, as well as Amelie Bea Smith becoming the new voice of Peppa Pig.

But Mark, who teaches for both stage and screen, warns that kids will need to be prepared to work long hours – depending on their age, with nine-year-olds being allowed to work longer hours than a child of seven or eight.

Another thing Mark believes has changed in the last decade, is the traditional cut-glass English accent no longer being a barrier for children with regional accents.

He said “Regional accents are very ‘in vogue’. It used to be you had to talk with a plum in your mouth, but I don’t think accents or speaking beautifully is that important now – and if it is, that can be trained.

Parents may also worry about their child going ‘off the rails’ and missing out on a normal childhood, and while that used to be an issue, it’s something Mark is keen to try and revolutionise, as well as how their money is managed.

He said: “When we take a child on, they have to have a bank account in their name – although some younger children don’t even know they earn money.”

MARK JERMIN’S TOP FIVE TIPS FOR PARENTS WHO THINK THEY HAVE A CHILD STAR ON THEIR HANDS

1) Ask yourself, and your child – do they really want to do it? This passion and interest in performing is vital. It has to come from the child, and not family members. You can always tell if a parent wants the performing life much more than the child.

2) Get trained. A young performer may have a brilliant look, be able to give a decent performance for a particular role or have the most amazing personality but that is not always enough.  Regularly landing auditions and castings, knowing how to work a creative team, and work with a director or producer comes from experience and proper training.

3) Learn to deal with rejection. This business can be incredibly tough for all actors, let alone child actors. Often, there is no real reason for this rejection. It can be as simple as “They went for a blonde Mum and Dad and your look doesn’t match up”, to “Production is delayed and they think you’re going to grow within the next six months, so they’ve gone for a smaller actor.”

4) Remember casting directors want to audition the child – not you. I have lost count of how many times I have directly made eye contact with a young performer in an agency interview or casting, asking them questions about themselves, trying to get to know them. But before they can open their mouth, an overly eager mum or a desperate dad will answer for them and possibly take over the meeting.

5) Enjoy it for what it is – a brilliant business. There is nothing like it. No day is the same, every casting or filming project is completely different and storytelling and creating different worlds is super exciting for everyone involved. And it’s not just acting. So many of my alumni from The Mark Jermin Stage School are now BAFTA Award winning casting directors, camera operators, script writers, directors – who all got a start through learning as an actor.

 

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