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Philip McGuinness

Actor

BA (Hons) Drama

I loved my time at Edge Hill. The most important lesson I learned at University is, like anything you do, what you put into it you get out of it.

In 2019 I played a character called Fat Jack in The Alienist: Angel of Darkness – a perfect fit, 6ft 4 and a slim frame! I was a massive fan of the first series so it was a thrill, but also slightly daunting, to be part of the sequel. We got to film in Budapest, Hungary and the set was just incredible.

All of the actors were wonderful to work with. I had three main scenes, the first with Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning, the second with Daniel Bruhl, and the final was an ensemble blood bath. Daniel came over to me when we wrapped and shook my hand, which spoke volumes about his character and professionalism.

Life as a professional actor can be exhilarating and challenging in different ways. It’s exciting when you land a part you’ve wanted for a long time, or didn’t expect to get, yet challenging to receive a ‘No’ and trying to use it to push you on. It takes tremendous perseverance. As soon as one job finishes it’s back to auditioning again.

I believe if you want something, sacrifice goes hand in hand with success. On my graduation day I had the opportunity to get my first professional headshots, with my first agent. I had my eye on the clock all afternoon. As soon as we left the auditorium, I had to get a taxi into Liverpool, before heading back to University for a celebratory meal. That’s how much I wanted to succeed in this career.

All the lecturers influenced me in different ways: they nurtured, counselled, and challenged me. Our educational debates were where I felt I grew the most.

The facilities at the University are fantastic. Every time I come back there’s a new building! When we were working on an Edge of Your Seat production, the department was incredibly supportive, and helped get productions off the ground. I’ll always be grateful to everyone who helped us.

I really enjoyed the big productions at uni: Fear and Misery of the Third Reich and Convicts Opera stand out. I was also an assistant director in Convicts Opera. Assisting in the direction of your peers was really challenging, but one that definitely helped me to grow.

My absolute University highlight was forming a theatre company: Edge of Your Seat Productions. When I started there were no drama societies, so I decided to speak to some of my fellow students, and put on some productions. Our first production was Willy Russell’s Our Day Out which we performed in The Studio Theatre for two sold-out nights. This success encouraged us to create a new piece of work based on the tales of Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, called The Trials of Alice. We toured the production to Llandudno, where Lewis Carroll was a frequent visitor.

When I left University, I knew getting an agent was key. While I was searching, I started a PGCE in Post-compulsory Education, teaching drama. On the last day of my PGCE I got an acting job and never looked back.

I worked my way up from the bottom. I really wanted to work in film and TV, and found an extras agency. The chance to be on set was a joy. Standing next to the likes of Cillian Murphy was an opportunity to study actors; how they are off-screen, on-screen, their process, how they treat people, set etiquette, and technical aspects of filming.

The thing that I’m most proud of is being able to work as an actor. Whether that’s being on stage with The Del Boy and Rodney Show, doing pantomime at St Helens Theatre Royal, commercials with famous footballers, short films such as Being Keegan with Stephen Graham (an inspiration to another Kirkby lad like me), my first big TV role in Emmerdale, or as Fat Jack in The Alienist. I always try to give my absolute best: no role is more important than another. I’m proud of my body of work. They were all essential steps.

I loved my time at Edge Hill. The most important lesson I learned at University is, like anything you do, what you put into it you get out of it. You can’t always control the amount of natural talent you may be born with but you can try to develop your skills. Underlying everything is hard work.

To find out more about studying this programme, please view full course information for BA (Hons) Drama.

The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is streaming now on Netflix.