Former Student now Working as a Full Time Actor and Acting Teacher

Johnny Neal is now a professional actor and is also working as an acting teacher. He has recently finished working on two feature films, as well as being part of a theatre tour for a new play.

My name is Johnny Neal, and I am currently a full time actor and acting teacher. I have recently finished work on two feature films and completed a theatre tour of a new play.

I came to The Henley College in 2005. After studying AS Levels for one year, I rediscovered my love of acting and went on to study the 2 year BTEC in Performing Arts. I loved every moment of the course and it began my journey into the real craft of acting, and also forged a lot of my artistic decisions to date. I graduated with a distinction in 2007 after being at the College for two years.

Upon arrival, my first impression of the College was that it felt like somewhere I wanted to be. It felt professional, and a place for students ready to be treated as adults to begin preparations of moving on to further education.

When making my choice to attend The Henley College, it was really down to both the course and the tutor. Knowing that the course was primarily practical was a huge part of my decision and I loved how passionate my tutor at the time was. The institution as a whole gave a lot to the performing arts and it made me feel respected rather than pushed to the side like they do in schools.

Attending Henley gave me some great memories over the two year duration. I had a few really awesome accomplishments, including performing the titular character in Macbeth. But I think my best memory was the first time we performed our assigned monologues for the class. We had learnt the rudiments of Stanislavski’s technique and spent a number of weeks prepping speeches from Mamet’s Oleanna. I made a bold choice and worked hard and was rewarded for it. It was the first time I really felt like an actor.

I hadn’t always directly wanted to be a full time actor as I am currently. I was a child actor and in my mid-teens I stopped because I wasn’t getting a lot of auditions. I would watch TV shows and take on the characters goals. I watched Ally McBeal and wanted to be a lawyer, I watched Frasier and wanted to be a shrink. It was only after sleeping through half a year of AS levels that I played the radio DJ in the school Christmas production of Grease and I realised that what I really wanted, was to play a lawyer and play a psychiatrist.

A big influence on the subjects that I studied and ultimately the career path I have since taken, was and is my passion to the craft. I can’t really imagine myself being happy in any other profession, and it’s a hard business, so another path would probably have been easier. I discovered a love of living in the moment through my Henley tutor Nic though, who introduced me to beat poetry. This has carried through to my acting technique and how I work on set today.

Ultimately, when looking to the future and my ambitions within the industry I am in, I want to be respected in my field and for my craft. I’m not sure how much I care about being uber famous. I’d rather be able to do my own shopping without harassment, and be known as a skilled actor who is respected amongst his peers.

When looking back, The Henley College really gave me a feeling of professionalism, being able to concentrate on the subject that I wanted to do as a career meant that I was able to commit myself whole heartedly to it. You aren’t spoon fed and you aren’t babied. You are expected to act like a grown up and are given the space and freedom to do so. It also really introduced me to the art of acting, my tutor was a young guy who cared about his job and his craft and wanted to do something important.

If I could tell my 15/16 year old self one thing it would be to not be too hard on yourself. If you have a passion, follow it and see where it leads you. But enjoy what you do, and enjoy the learning experience.

A final thought I would like to add is that The Arts are consistently underappreciated in our schools and in our society, but without artists and performers what is left in society except the dreary process of survival? Value what you love and what you do and pursue it to the bitter end.