Actor Steve Aaron-Sipple has appeared on hit BBC shows EastEnders (1985 – ) and Cuckoo (2012 – ). Here he discusses escaping the 9 – 5 life and backing himself creatively to pursue his love of acting.
Steve studied screen acting at the International School of Screen Acting (ISSA), located in the heart of the prestigious 3Mills Studios. He can be seen in films such as Cam Girls (2021), Dawning of the Dead (2017) and Cute Little Buggers (2017), as well as the award-winning web series Horizon (2019).
The pressure of picking a safer job
Steve’s love of performing and being the ‘centre of attention’ began when he was a kid. He never took part in drama youth clubs but instead took part in school plays. It wasn’t until high school that he was able to take drama classes which he later took as a GCSE.
He admits: “I listened to people that chose the safe way of life and I was convinced by people that it was never going to happen.
“I didn’t carry on with my acting and thought I should choose a safer career path, which I regretfully did.”
After leaving school, he started working in an office but he was unable to shake his dream of being an actor.
“It wasn’t horrible, but I was unfulfilled. I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life spending 90% of my time doing something I didn’t enjoy just to pay my bills.
“Acting was what I always wanted to do, so I thought I would rather try and fail than live the rest of life with regret.
“In some ways this was better. I lived life for a few years before coming back to it. It gave me a lot more to pull on when acting now.”
Steve started auditioning for drama schools mainly directed at film and TV and managed to get into a small screen acting school in East London.
“As an actor there isn’t a ladder to climb that will directly take you to the top.
“So there have been years in the last five for me where I thought, ‘This is it. This job will propel me to the next step on the ladder (or, if I’m really wishful, take me all the way to the top) but it just isn’t like that in this industry.
“You could be in a very well-recognised production one week, and then unemployed the next.
“For me, constantly trying to create opportunities and network have been my main goals these last few years and, luckily, they have been showing some dividends.”
The life of being on set
Steve said he loves being on set regardless of the size or production value of the project he’s on – even though bigger productions mean some perks.
He said: “So, chances are you are not going to be the first person on set. There will be a lot of people who have been long before your call time to get things ready for shooting.
“I normally like to show up, find my point of contact, and then let the production direct me where they want me – normally be a green room with the other actors (if you’re in luck it will be a trailer).
“This is your hub, where the crew can find you to take you to make-up, wardrobe, any table reads/blocking that the director wants to go through and then eventually to the set for shooting.
“Like any jobs the day will revolve around food. Again, if you are lucky, some of best meals I’ve had have been film set catering (but also some of the worst!), then straight back to work.”
When asked about advice for being on set, he suggested being aware of how important every single person is on that film set.
He added: “Make sure you are prepared when they shout ‘ACTION!’, because so much work has already gone in to get the set to that point, and enjoy it, if you are lucky enough to be on set, especially in the current climate, don’t take it for granted.”
It wasn’t horrible, but I was unfulfilled. I knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life spending 90% of my time doing something I didn’t enjoy just to pay my bills.
Working on EastEnders and Cuckoo
He said: “They were both such amazing experiences. EastEnders felt like a rite of passage of being a working actor, pretty much every successful British actor has had some involvement with a soap.
“Cuckoo was a crazy experience. I remember arriving on set, getting brought into make-up and there were four chairs: Greg Davies, Helen Baxendale and Andie MacDowell were in 3 of them, and I got shown to the empty fourth.
“I remember having to tell myself to play it cool the entire time.
“It was such a great experience as an actor to watch very successful people work and realise that they have similar processes to most actors.”
Challenges actors faced during COVID in 2020
Steve started 2020 off with a big high, with a few jobs booked along with shooting a feature in February.
Looking forward to the rest of the year, like the rest of the world, Steve didn’t expect the sudden pandemic and the ramifications of that .
He said: “When the first Lockdown hit everything came to a halt. Any jobs I had booked got cancelled and there were no auditions for the foreseeable future.
“It was a tough time, especially to be an artist.
“I guess the only thing I had control over was my own personal development, so I worked on that, tried my hand at writing, and in partnership with fellow actors have now written a short film, and a premise and first episode of a tv series.
Acting was what I always wanted to do, so I thought I would rather try and fail than live the rest of life with regret.
Auditions slowly started to pick up after the first Lockdown ended and, luckily, films and TV productions have still been able to go ahead through the subsequent Lockdowns.
He added: “Working throughout COVID was tough. I like to be social on film sets, and COVID made that difficult, but it didn’t make the experience any less; I still loved being on set even through the pandemic.
Other than dealing with the difficulties of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of the biggest struggles for Steve is coping with rejection.
He said: “Constantly getting told no or even not hearing after putting so much into an audition is a hard pill to swallow.
“You never really get used to the feeling; you just get better at how you respond to it.
‘With auditions now I put everything into doing it to give the best performance I can. But, as soon as I walk out the room, or press ‘Send’ on the self-tape, I let go of it.
“I’ve done everything I can and now it’s out of my hands.”
‘Being an actor is a marathon not a sprint’
When asked what he wished he had known when he started his career he said working hard to secure bookings is key.
He added: “For most actors it’s a marathon not a sprint.
“Every actor comes out of drama school expecting to work and become successful straight away, and some lucky few do, but most actors have to really work at it.
“Also, learn the business side of the industry. That’s something I really struggled with in the beginning. Learn how to market yourself.
“Don’t forget to live your life whilst pursuing acting as a career. It can become all encompassing.
Enjoy it, if you are lucky enough to be on set, especially in the current climate, don’t take it for granted.
“When you want to be an actor so much you forget to actually live your life.
“You’re too scared to travel or get into relationships on the possibility of ‘what ifs’ – what if I get offered this job, or I miss this acting opportunity.
“The beauty of acting is that it has no age limit.”
A potential crossover to Hollywood
Steve is now looking forward to shooting another feature in the next few months, depending on Covid.
He is also now signed to an LA agency and hopes to receive opportunities abroad.
“It’s really exciting because Hollywood is always the goal for any film or TV actor.
“In terms of getting behind the camera I think it definitely is something I would consider in the future, but for now I just want to really work on being the best actor I can.”
Interviewer and Editor: Daisy Jayne
Second Editor: Richard Williams
Artwork: Richard Williams