Actor Michael Jinks has had a busy year in TV, Film and on stage. Daniel Perks catches up with him after a successful Edinburgh Festival Fringe:
Autumn is only just starting to emerge, but I am about to go into a media launch of a new winter festival. I question why I’m about to sip mulled wine and hear Christmas carols so far away from the dreaded event itself. But actor Michael Jinks is pre-occupied with the idea of a new jam business to notice the overtones of Christmas in the air:
Michael: There’s so many other things I need to do with my life. Like make jam, predominantly jam. In fact, I’m gonna sack it all off for a jam empire – I don’t think there is one. I wanna be a jam connoisseur.
Jinks’ Jams. The alliteration is beautiful. That’s the rest of my life sorted
I meet Michael next to the Cutty Sark, a landmark he has never seen in London – you rarely take the opportunity in your home city to visit the tourist traps. I imagine Michael is somewhat pushed for time to relax as well. In the last year he has performed in the award-winning play, Flesh and Bone, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017; appeared in blockbuster films such as The Hitman’s Bodyguard, as well as independent films Lockerbilly and The Long Road (both in post-production); co-written and directed short film Canal; and launched a new actors’ agency, ING Artists, with business partner and successful theatre producer Jamie Eastlake.
Is there a risk of going stale as an actor if you don’t have regular work?
Michael: I think so. You tend to lose your mind. Having the opportunity to stay sharp is really important – if the opportunity that you’ve been waiting years for turns up and you’re not ready for it, or you’re a bit flat, then it’s going to go by.
You need to be on your toes all the time
I first spotted this talented actor at the Edinburgh Fringe playing jack-the-lad Reiss in Flesh and Bone, a character who pretended to be something he wasn’t in order to fit in. The comparison isn’t lost on Michael – originally from Birmingham, he now has little of the natural accent he grew up with. It’s a common theme with Northern actors that move to London to make it in the business:
Michael: I made a conscience effort when I moved to London to lose my Birmingham accent so I could get more work. To a certain degree, it worked. But I don’t want people to have to lose their identity because then no local stories would be told on a small or big scale. Culture gets lost forever.
I am still amazed that in a business focussed around your ability to connect with an audience, there is the preconception that you have to sacrifice your identity to be successful. A preconception indeed, but not necessarily a misconception. Do we all have to go down the same route to get into the business?
Michael: I wasn’t really too arsed with acting as a lad. Then my secondary school entered a TV show called The High School Musical, which gave us our first experience of what it might be like to be on the West End. And I got slaughtered.
In the final cut, they showed a singer from a school in Liverpool with the voiceover:
“Some children are naturally talented”.
Then they cut to me in a rehearsal, singing to anyone for the first time ever. Absolutely howling I was:
“Some people aren’t so naturally gifted”.
I just died
I tried to get into drama school and failed because I was completely unprepared – I didn’t what it was, didn’t know which school was good or wasn’t. So, I worked in a hospital for a year. I would hand instruments to surgeons; run and get blood; bring patients down.
It was the most informative year of my life, I learnt so much about what was important to me and how little time we have here. And how AMAZING the NHS is as well.
Big up the NHS
One day we were doing an organ harvest on a guy in his 40s. When I brought him down from intensive care, he looked like a normal person. But within an hour, there were a team of surgeons in the room. They opened his chest and I got to watch his heart stop beating.
They cut it out, put it in a box, gave it to me, I put it on ice and off it went. They took his lungs, liver, kidneys, some veins from his legs.
About six weeks later, we got a letter – I’ve got it still – to say where his organs went. That guy fell down the stairs and saved six or seven lives. He’s a hero and he’ll never know it.
It gave me perspective on what’s important to me and how little time we have here
So, I reapplied, got into The Actors Studio in New York, quit my job – a regular thing for me – swiftly found out that I couldn’t afford to live in New York and so reapplied to The Courtyard Theatre. It’s all gone from there.
As someone who has followed a non-traditional route to get into both the theatre industry and into journalism, I can relate in some way to Michael’s backstory. It’s refreshing to know that you aren’t inferior to your peers because you didn’t go to RADA, or Oxbridge. It’s important to embrace your individuality, be proud to be different.
Michael: I do something each year that scares me or that I’ve wanted to do for a long time – last year I hiked to Everest base camp. All the experiences I have will inform my work, so I put as much effort into having a varied and interesting life as I do into developing myself as an actor.
Five years ago, in my first ever voiceover lesson, I recorded a plan for my future. It said that I wanted to be an actor who’s worked on more than one continent in more than one medium. I’ve recently had a chance to reflect on the old plans that I’d made and I ticked those off – I was in a global film, The Hitman’s Bodyguard; a theatre piece in New York; and Flesh & Bone, which is going to Australia in 2018.
The dream is James Bond. But I also wanna work at The National Theatre; I wanna work with The Royal Shakespeare Company; I want to do some more TV dramas, something like Riz Ahmed in The Night Of, or True Detective season 1 (not season 2); I want to do a dramatic film, something like La Haine (even though I don’t speak French), as well as making daft films – American Pie 2 might be my favourite film of all time. Basically, all the things.
Every so often, I am lucky enough to meet people who genuinely inspire me with their honesty and openness. Michael is an exceptional actor, one of the best that I saw in Edinburgh this year, yet is equally down-to-earth and grateful for every opportunity. They don’t fall into his lap by any means, but he is no less humble from having worked hard enough, as well as being lucky enough, to make a living from this competitive business:
Michael: There are people that I meet every day, trailblazers in how they live their lives – they identify what they like and they go for it. Having that level of conviction warms my heart. If I can copy that and do my thing, I’ll be happy.
I don’t think I’m going to change the world, but I want to make a difference to the people around me
Featured image courtesy of Carol Rosegg