As an artist, you often find yourself playing the “AND” game. As in, “I’m an Actor AND a Writer AND a Balloon Artist AND the owner of 5 Etsy shops AND a waitress but only on the second Tuesday of the month because my band plays every other Tuesday. To those outside of the creative world, the intense multitasking and hat wearing it takes to be an artist often seems like absolute chaos and therefore seems zero fun. However, to those of us who eat, sleep and dream of our craft, those of us who bleed for our craft, the whirlwind life that allows our artistic expression is more like an intense symphony. A symphony made of deadlines, auditions, rehearsals and late night last minute preparations, where we stand as maestro orchestrating the story of our life. This month Up & Coming sat down with Michelle Lukes; an actor, a dancer, a singer, a voice artist AND a woman who knows a thing or two about what it takes to make it in the City of Angels.
Michelle’s artistic career began as a ballet dancer. She studied at the Royal Ballet School in London and spent several years in the city’s West End Theatre performing in various leading roles. She went on to further her training at the Bristol Old Vic which is one of the most successful and well-respected conservatoire drama schools in the UK. Michelle’s best known for her portrayal of Sgt. Julia Richmond in the HBO/Sky production Strike Back and as Lisa Torres in the BBC drama Doctors.
Throughout Michelle’s career, the common thread is that of storytelling, whether it be through her dance, her character portrayal on stage or her voice work in film. She works hard to reach her audience, and she knows the importance of being adaptable in the entertainment industry. “I’ve been able to support myself solely as an artist, and I think that’s largely due to the fact I’ve always been curious to try new things and keep my vision fluid. Being an actor means living in an unpredictable world. If you’re rigid or unbending it makes the journey much harder and less fun. As humans, we’re constantly evolving and with that comes necessary change; our goals shift, our dreams expand and we find our strengths are in different places. This industry (more than most) forces you to reinvent yourself constantly, and this often means thinking outside the box.”
The life of an actor is not an easy pursuit. There are many hardships that come along with this industry and heartbreak is commonplace. Being a performer means being a warrior; you get up, show up, do your best and know that if you don’t get the part/role/article/slot… then you’re just going to have to dust yourself off and try again. “I always tell people who ask, DO NOT embark on a career as a performer unless you absolutely cannot live without it in your life. This is the case for me which is why I’m still doing what I’m doing after all these years. It’s just too hard otherwise. The lifestyle is ‘feast or famine’ and I’ve experienced both.”
In the entertainment industry, success is found amongst those who study their craft, push through the hard times and believe in themselves and that their work will pay off in the end. Michelle says the hardest part of finding her success has been maintaining a healthy, positive relationship with herself when faced with the rejections that come along with the industry; she also points to those who have surrounded her with continuous support as being valuable factors in her current success. “Acting is a tough, subjective business and it can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable. Even for the most successful actors, ‘no’ is far more frequent than ‘yes’. I feel I owe my success to the people who stood by me during my darkest times. It’s very easy for someone to be ‘on board’ when things are going well, but the real test comes when the water gets choppy. It’s the ones who were steadfast in their support of me that rallied me on to great things.”
What’s Up & Coming for Michelle Lukes in 2018? She has three features in pre-production and two films shot in 2017 that will be doing the festival circuit. There’s a VR episodic shot for Google Daydream which will be released in January, a web series that she’s been working on, as well as, a documentary she hosted that will air later in the year. She’s also been invited to appear on the judging panel of various film festivals this year. This ladies and gents is how the “AND” game is played and won. Michelle Lukes is a woman full of drive AND determination AND… we can’t wait to see exactly where her story will take her next.