Marama Corlett Works on Her Career and Herself.
Written by Vaughn Eric Stewart
Photography – Joseph Sinclair
Styling – Olga Timofejeva @ The Only Agency
Assisted by Dani Kleinmann and Elena Garcia
Make up – Buster Knight @ The Only Agency
Hair – Shukeel Murtaza @ The Only Agency
Dog – @stewiesinclair
Marama Corlette is currently in The Watch – a super-cool television series about a group of misfit cops trying to save their corrupt city from catastrophe. Outside of her acting, she’s taking advantage of these strange times to focus on herself, by surrounding her life with people and things that inspire her. Cool America sat down to find out some things about her and her acting.
Marama, how did you get involved in acting?
As I child I watched a lot of Italian films and one of my favorites like Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D and actress Anna Magnani’s work really sparked an intrigue in acting and a love for cinema. I never went to drama school but sort of fell into acting when a Maltese casting director called Edward Said took a chance on me while auditioning for a film directed by Lee Tamahori, which was being shot in my native Malta at the time. I remember I was waitressing in London when I got the call to fly down for an audition. I had no idea what I was doing, so I just went for it with my gut feeling. It was a tiny role, but also, crucially, the start of a career. I landed a role in a West End play straight afterwards – Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, directed by Ian Rickson – which gave me the opportunity to work alongside Ellen Burstyn, Elizabeth Moss, Carol Kane, Keira Knightley and Tobias Menzies for seven months. Ellen generously mentored a few of us and taught us the Lee Strasberg method during our free time before or in between shows. The show itself and Ellen’s teaching were my first real introduction to acting. I’ve been very blessed.
For our aspiring actors: How do you prepare for an audition? How do you nail the character you’re auditioning for?
In all honesty, I don’t think anyone ever fully nails the character at the audition. What’s more likely is that, if it goes well, the director will catch a glimpse of the character and your potential to bring the writing to life. Once the role is yours, you’re able to start the process.
What I’ve always found energizing about this business is that you’re never alone: from script supervisors, to show-runners, costume, hair and make-up artists and of course, your directors… it’s a collaborative process through and through. It’s what makes it all so exciting – being given the opportunity to work with all of these teams and create something together. So, I would go into an audition bearing this in mind – the production is not all on your shoulders. You just need to focus and do your part to the best of your abilities. So, rack up your energy levels, breathe and relax, so that you can play with all the facets of the character that you find intriguing.
Tell us about your character in The Watch.
I play Corporal Angua Von Uberwald, who is a member of the City Watch in Ankh-Morpork – a teeming, decadent cornucopia where crime has been legalized… which renders her work and that of her colleagues largely redundant. Bored and lacking in purpose, she passes most of her time aiming her crossbow at any pigeons unfortunate enough to have flown into The Watch House. But things finally take a turn when a naive new recruit joins the ranks of the City Watch, which coincides with the arrival of a large-scale threat that places Angua and her colleagues in a position to either make things better or much, much worse. As the story progresses, we discover that Angua’s distant nature is about protecting those around her as well as herself. She is also a werewolf, you see… and as she likes to say, when that part of her kicks in, she becomes the danger. It’s a complex character mix that’s very enjoyable to tap into: on the one hand, she’s this feral, strong woman but deep down, she’s burdened with fear and guilt as a result of her unique condition.
What’s the most challenging part to getting in touch with Angua?
It’s a fantasy show set in a fantastical world, but there’s a lot to Angua that’s relatable, so I wanted to make sure those aspects of her poke out through the special effects and reach the viewers. Essentially, she is a person struggling with duality: flitting between human and werewolf and all the complications (and hassles!) that such a predicament implies. I love that our story focuses on the repercussions of her transformation from werewolf to human and the scarring effects it has on her mental and physical state. But what I also like is that her ‘condition’ is really depicted as such – an unfortunate state which her friends luckily understand she has to deal with, so they are seen as supportive when the worst is about to happen. I think this is a touching and poignant twist of the werewolf trope, which also underscores the core theme of the show itself: outsiders sticking together to fight for a better world, no matter how cynical the world itself endeavors to make you at every turn.
It’s really a crazy-cool series. What went through your mind when you read the script?
Crazy-cool is a great way to describe The Watch! I loved the pace with which it was written, the wit and sarcasm, and most of all the love stories that run through it. Inspired by the incredible work of Sir Terry Pratchett, our showrunner Simon Allen did a brilliant job of transferring 20th century writing and elevating it into the 21st, including our ever-evolving society and its people.
How did you react when you saw the pilot?
We were out in Cape Town for seven months working on The Watch, and when the pandemic hit we had to go on hiatus for a few months before wrapping in London. We never really got a chance to say goodbye properly after wrapping this first season. We had a huge international cast and crew out in Cape Town, and we all dedicated so much time and love into this project. We became each other’s family for that entire time, and so it was really exciting to finally see the pilot, and all the subsequent episodes that were aired since. So many long hours spent with all these beautiful people and wonderful memories just came flooding back. I miss everyone dearly.
Are you working on anything else right now?
I guess you could say that I’m working on myself. I’m taking advantage of this strange and uncertain time to connect to what’s important and to strengthen my inner self.
When you’re not working what do you do as an actress to increase your skills?
It’s all about living life to the fullest, really! Meeting new people, surrounding myself with positive and inspiring friends, and just finding ways of evolving as best I can. But it’s the simple things that help you most, I think. Like listening to people. Really listening. It increases your sense of awareness of the world and human psychology, and, in turn, betters your craft.
“I don’t think anyone ever fully nails the character at the audition.”
Name a director, actor and actress that you would love to work with.
I find the works of the Safdie Brothers so inspiring. Just mind-blowing really. I really felt an affinity to their early indie films, but their recent work is just incredible. Their fusion of apparently loose but actually laser-precise filmmaking is something to behold, and I feel they have such an intuitive sense of what it means to work with actors. I also love Al Pacino and met him a couple years back. He’s just as incredible off screen as he is on. Octavia Spencer is also one actor I admire. Her work is fresh and her soul goes deep.
On another note, how has the pandemic affected your life?
It’s been a very reflective year. So much has gone on and then again, nothing much at all. We’ve all been affected in one way or another but if anything, it’s confirmed our love for each other and how we cannot function without human connection.
Do you think the world is going through something with all that’s going on globally?
It’s like someone’s just grabbed our world and shook it, and just when we’re about to find our feet and our center we’re shook again and again. It’s going to take time for things to be the way they used to be, but we’ll get through it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’ve taken up a few things over the years. Learning Arabic has been a recent interest. I’ve also bought a trumpet which I’m hoping to start learning soon.
“Fanelli Café in Soho (New York) is one of those special places.”
What’s something you like to do with friends?
I spent the second lockdown in West London with my very close friend Hannah and her 13-year-old dog Charlie. Charlie saved us during the pandemic; he gave us a legit reason to leave the house, and we both love walking. Hannah is this beautiful, generous powerhouse always helping those around her and I felt extremely lucky to be in good company during such unpredictable times. The great thing about having good friends is that it doesn’t matter what you’re doing together, whether it’s as simple as removing mould off bathroom walls together at midnight or saving trees from extinction – it’s always fun.
What’s something you love to do alone?
Sitting at the cinema alone is one of my favorite things. It’s meditative.
How do you like to dress normally?
Aggressively black! Any shade or texture of black will do. I was in mourning for a relative seven years ago and it’s been something I’ve felt comfortable in ever since. My mother can’t stand it, and made me promise I wouldn’t wear black for her funeral.
“What I’ve always found energizing about this business is that you’re never alone.”
On the red carpet?
Black dresses. But going forward – and once the pandemic allows us to strut on the red carpet again – I’d love to be bolder and braver.
Any favorite designers?
Givenchy and Alexander McQueen have got to be my favorites. I love how they have evolved through the years, never failing to be beautiful, exciting and daring.
We are called Cool America. What do you find cool about America?
I grew up on the tiny island of Malta, and learned about America mostly through my dad’s stories about his time in the US, where he moved to from his native New Zealand in his 20’s. My mum and dad had an arranged marriage in Madison Square Garden in the 70s after joining a new religion, so I’ve always felt a strong connection to the city… not least because I would not exist were it not for that fateful moment in NY which brought them together. The city always just felt so dream-like and magnificent. And when I finally visited, I couldn’t help but fall in love. Everyone’s so open to talk to in the street, there’s an excitement in the city you can’t quite find anywhere else. I made some wonderful friends there over the years, just sitting and chatting to people. Fanelli’s Cafe on Prince Street in Soho – one of the oldest bars in the city – is one of those special places. I’ve met people from all walks of life in there. A wonderful introduction to the city and its cool people of all ages: the grafters, artists and hard-working New Yorkers. Like this one extraordinary man called Don who is at Fanelli’s every morning without fail. You’ll find him reading his paper. If you’re ever there, send him my love. He’ll welcome you with open arms and amuse you with the best NYC stories.
What do you find cool about yourself?
I hated being short growing up, no one took me seriously. Now I think it’s kinda cool.