BAF ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - Tonia Daley-Campbell

We interviewed actor, presenter, writer, director, creative practitioner and producer Tonia Daley-Campbell for this months Artist Spotlight. Check out a manuscript of her interview below.

How/What started your interest in Theatre?

From the age of 8, I have loved to perform. I was at primary school and there was a big audition for the Wizard of OZ at the Grand Theatre. A few children from my school went for the audition and I was one of them. It was the first audition I had ever been to. I had no training in drama or dance like some of the children but I had a big smile. I remember getting a big brown envelope at school and it stated that Tonia Daley got the part! No one else got in; just me from my whole school it was the best feeling ever. This was the beggining of my acting journey.


What was it about performing that made you go for it?

I loved the way it made people feel whenever I would dance, or tell jokes to my friends. They would always say “You’re so funny Tonia,” and I would think ‘Yes I am!’ and laugh out loud.  Growing up I would watch the TV and think, I would love to be on TV acting in a soap or a film. I didn’t know where to begin but I knew I wanted to do it. When I was in secondary school I had made up my mind that I wanted to be an actor. When it was time to pick my options, I said I wanted to do drama but it wasn’t on the curriculum. I then protested to get drama put on the curriculum; I said to the head of English “My school is failing me as I need Drama for my career choice”. My teacher said if I could get at least 10 people including myself to take up drama, he will get it put on the curriculum. So, I went around my whole year group trying to recruit potential drama students. I managed to get 8 and he was so impressed that he honoured his word and got Drama on the curriculum. Drama is still on the curriuclum in that school to this day. You can say I have a determined spirit. 

What are your main skills/interests in Theatre and Performing Arts? And what was your first production/project?

I have different skills; I am a presenter, writer, director, producer, new author, creative practitioner and youth theatre director but my main skill is in acting. I also enjoy comedy and improvisation.

What was the first thing you learned/played/performed?

One of my earliest memories of performing in a professional capacity was for Zip Theatre when I was 13 years old. It was in a play called Wolves the Musical. I had to be on a breakfast TV show to promote it and we performed the show at The Grand Theatre Wolverhampton.

Is your family theatrical? Are there any other family members involved in the Performing Arts? And who in your family is your biggest inspiration?

I’m the first in my immediate family to go into theatre, but my father is a singer and musician. I was most inspired by my uncle Colin who was a poet. I loved the way he would engage his audience with his dry sense of humour. He would speak Patois in his poems and give his audience food for thought. When I was a child, me and my brothers and sisters would make up plays and pretend to be the people we knew from church. We use to catch so much jokes.

Who was your first teacher? Other teachers?

I’ve had lots of great teachers throughout my training but one who was a great mentor was a man called Dennis French - he always believed in me and encouraged me to go bigger than what I could ever imagine. He always could see the star in me and this really helped me to soar.

Which famous actress, performer/theatre practitioner do you admire? Why?

 I don’t really follow celebrities or famous people as I’m busy carving out my own career, but with that being said, I really do admire Whoppi Golberg for her longevity, humour and versatility. I love Julie Walters for her grounded-ness, her Midlands roots and she is a strong actress. Most recently I have totally fallen in love with Viola Davis; she plays amazing roles I would love to play and stands proud as a strong black actor, unapologetically. She is a fantastic actor.

What did you learn from them?  And how has this influenced you/your work in Theatre/Television/Youth Work?

I think with Whoopi she showed me that it is possible to have a long lasting career in the industry. I relate to Julie on a level as we both are theatre trained and have a strong sense the techniques and skills needed to be a strong character actor, and Viola has given me hope that I will get to play a range of characters that is not just my type cast, but more strong leading lady roles. I work hard and this industry is not for the faint hearted, so seeing these women pave the way really helps. 

Are there other Actors, Producers, Directors and/or artists that you see as your main inspiration?

I’m always inspired by the people I work with they dont have to be famous, they just need to be real. 

Have your taste changed over the years or have your favourite genres of Theatre/TV/Film stayed the same? Is there a genre you can't stand/don’t watch to?

I love most genres. I used to love period dramas but more recently have been fed up of the lack of stories from different time periods not telling our stories. Black people didn’t just appear one day as a servant or slave - we existed from time began so why are the stories not being told. This has lead me to start writing and directing myself. The one genre I’m not to keen on is horror but saying that, there are still some that are worth a watch.

What are your fondest Theatre memories? 

Playing Queen Nanny Maroon in Gazebo Theatre’s Jamaica 50. I loved that role and I also got to play other great, Black women as I was multi-roling, so I got to play Mary Seacole, Mary Prince, and Miss Lou the famous Jamaican poet. This was a blessed role for me. 

Which is your favourite theatre space?

I love performing at the Birmingham Rep - It’s a great space but I also love the Newhampton Arts Centre as they are so accomodating and always happy to help make your performance a good one. 


Have you entered/won any competitions/awards?  Which ones?

I have recently won Enter Stage Write where I won a writing competition; this was judged by a panel of industry professionals from BBC, Channel 4,  and Writers Guild. I’m proud to say I won both the audience and judges awards. The play I wrote entitled “TRUTH” was met with so much love and I am now in the process of making it into a feature length play.

When writing does it come easily or do you have to go to a special place physically/in your mind?

I write for a purpose to fill the gaps. I’m normaly in some abscure place when the ideas start getting downloaded into me. I will get my note pad out or iPad and just get the ideas out as I don’t want to lose them. If I don’t have pen and paper or iPad to write, I have to try and store the idea in a place in my mind where it won’t get lost. I find writing in the evening works better for me and I think this is because my house is full with kids. I have 4 children and 2 foster children - the house is busy and lively. Evenings are my sanctuary - everyone gone to bed and I can just get everything out.

You do a lot of performances - how is that for you?  Do you get nervous before a performance?

I absolutely love performing! I will do it until I’m unable to. Yes, I get nervous before every show but I use the nerves to help the reality of the character; I fuel my character with the truth of the moment.

What advice would you give to performers who are nervous/just starting out?

Nerves are good, use them to fuel your performance.

How often and for how long do you rehearse/practice when working on a theatre piece?

This really depends on the show and the technical spec of the piece. I have worked on pieces in a day and other projects over 4 weeks. 

Do you teach the Performing Arts?  Do you enjoy that as much as performing/writing yourself?

I run my own drama group called ACTS. I do 1-2-1 acting [and] coaching and I have been teaching young people through the use of the Performing and Creative Arts for over 21 years. I love working with young people - they inspire me to keep going. Young people are my heartbeat and I will always have space to support inspire and encourage them.

What is your proudest accomplishment in your career/life?

 Performing in Gazebo Theatre’s Jamaica 50 - I played the best role and I will never forget it. 

What’s your favourite play/TV programme/film? Your favourite composition?

Lots to choose from, but everyone knows my all time faves are The Colour Purple, Coming to America and The Harder They Come. I also love Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Django Unchained. I like the play To Kill a Mockingbird, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the musical The Lion King and more recently I love the TV series Killing Eve and How to get away with Murder.

Is there an artist you want to work with that you have not yet had the opportunity to work with?

Ooooh lots! Idris Elba, Viola Davies, Spike Lee, Jordan Peele and many more.

What is your favourite thing about working in theatre/TV/Film/working with young people? What is your least favourite? Why?

I love the versatality, creativity, flexability and the unknown. Things are never the same every day is different.  My least favourite is unpredictable payments, having to sort my own finances, and having times of famine and times where I can feast. 

How do you balance your work with other obligations - partner, children, other work?

This is hard and I am getting better at it. Having a diary and trying to make sure dont work Sundays is important. I always try to make sure we have family holidays we have lots of family time in the school holidays and me and my hubby, David, go away on our own at least once a year.

If you weren't in Theatre/TV/Film/Youth work, what would you be doing?

Errrm gosh this is hard. Well it would be helping young people who were disadvantaged so probably a Social Worker, or I would set up my own political party and create a real manifesto for the people.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?

Spa, relaxing with friends or family, chill with my kids and hubby, read books I love to read.

What can we look forward to seeing/hearing from Tonia Daley-Campbell in the next few years?

Well as I write this now I am currently having meetings to secure the green light for my brand new TV series Lucid The Dreamwalker. In my new role as Producer, I have not gone in small but I have stepped into a 5 million pound dream idea and I believe I can make it happen.

What thought/message do you want to leave with other performers/Directors/youth workers?

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can power your most wildest and creative filled dreams. Know your worth, but be humble and learn from your mistakes. Remember those that went before you and build on the legacy or create new avenues for the next generation. As you rise, turn around and see how far you have come and stretch out your hand to help someone else along the way. Tell your story and listen to others. Laugh loud and loads - it’s the best medicine and it’s free.