Chronicle.lu recently had the opportunity to speak with Jacqueline Milne, a Luxembourg-born, London-based polyglot actor and voiceover artist, about her recent acceptance onto a prestigious one-month artist residency in Paris.
Jacqueline Milne started her acting journey with local theatre groups in Luxembourg, where she later worked as a paralegal before pursuing an acting career in London. The Luxembourgish association of performing arts professionals, ASPRO, recently selected Jacqueline for an artist residency (for theatre-makers) in Paris, which lasts from late November to late December 2023.
Chronicle.lu: Please tell us about your decision to take the leap and change careers.
Jacqueline Milne: What inspired me to change from the financial security of the paralegal profession to professional acting was the death of a friend; a positive, beautiful soul who lit up any room and was a joy to be around. […] She had been diagnosed with cancer and in a matter of months, she was gone. I thought to myself: would I look back at my life and know that I had lived it to the fullest, that I took every opportunity I had? The answer was a resounding “no”. So, I decided to pack it all in and go for it.
Chronicle.lu: How did your theatre experiences in Luxembourg contribute to your decision to pursue an acting career?
Jacqueline Milne: BGT and NWTC laid the foundations for my love for the stage. Bear in mind, I got into acting in my late 20s and I didn’t have much stage experience as a child. Although my stage debut was in 1993 when I performed as a gymnast in a panto production of Dick Whittington. […] It was serendipity that I was asked to replace an actress in a production of “The Lesson” in 2009 which went on to perform at the FEATS festival. […] I had very little stage experience, so it was quite a gamble Wendy Dunning took in offering me the role. But I took to the stage like a duck to water and was amazed when I was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. It just so happened that Tony Kingston [BGT] saw me in that production. He told [his wife] later that evening that he had found their Jane Eyre, a role which he subsequently offered me. My experience of performing in Jane Eyre affirmed my desire to be an actress and gave me more confidence in my acting abilities.
Luxembourg has a wonderful range of theatre groups […] as well as a youth theatre and every experience I have had with them has been incredibly positive. They certainly set the groundwork for me.
Chronicle.lu: What were some of the challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?
Jacqueline Milne: Moving to the UK and settling into a new home was relatively easy. The challenging part was shaking off my ego and self-consciousness. I had to remember that no one in London knew who I was, no one had seen my work. So, it was a case of starting from scratch. The course I did ranged from stage combat to singing, to movement and so much more. Essentially nothing I had done before and, being slightly older than my peers, I became self-conscious. But as it turned out, almost all of us were in the same boat and I have made lifelong friends.
Chronicle.lu: Tell us about your time working in London - what kind of day job did you take on to support yourself while pursuing your passion for acting? How did you balance the two?
Jacqueline Milne: I am very lucky to work freelance for Marvin’s Magic. Yes, I can do a little bit of magic! […] And I can come and go depending on when acting work comes up. I have been working on and off with them for six years and they have been very good to me. They even flew me out to New York to do some work over there for a couple of weeks in September this year! That was an amazing experience.
Chronicle.lu: Do you consider any particular role or project as a significant milestone in your acting career?
Jacqueline Milne: Definitely “The Lesson” and “Jane Eyre” to begin with. They hold a special place in my heart. Post drama school, I would say “Heather’s Wedding”: a one-woman show I performed as part of the Catalyst Festival. It was my first time performing with an American accent throughout and also the fact that I got to portray a variety of characters made the performance both a challenge and a joy for me. And my very first audiobook recording was special as that kickstarted my career in voiceover work, which I’m delighted to say has been consistently growing. I did my first video game character narration this year. No, I can’t give the title away just yet…
Chronicle.lu: Congratulations on your new opportunity linked to ASPRO! Tell us more about this artist residency and your project idea.
Jacqueline Milne: Thank you! The residency is an opportunity for theatre-makers to develop their practice as part of an international residency at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris. Four other creatives from different countries (Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Lithuania) will also be participating and it will give us an opportunity to network, create and develop our own work in a supportive environment. I am incredibly excited for this and extremely grateful to ASPRO and the Mission Culturelle du Luxembourg for giving me this opportunity.
Chronicle.lu: How did the idea for this project come about? And about which aspects are you most excited?
Jacqueline Milne: I have felt the need to workshop a personal experience which, over time, I have come to realise might resonate with people: the intertwined ideas of identity, place and belonging. My project idea is to create a theatrical piece that delves into the complexities of identity, particularly in relation to language, accent, culture and background. This is a very personal project for me because I was born in Luxembourg to an Irish family and then sent to an Irish boarding school where I felt distinctly un-Irish. Paradoxically, as an adult, I have realised that this sense of “other” is one universal to all people. We all yearn to conform and belong, and we have all to some extent felt isolated and imperfect. There is nothing more human, and thus more unifying, than the innate desire to be a part of a community, while sometimes feeling disconnected. I am excited and ready to express and share these ideas.
Chronicle.lu: What advice would you give other aspiring actors or people wishing to make a similar career change?
Jacqueline Milne: If it feels right, it is right. If it’s something you have been thinking about doing for a long time, then grab the bull by the horns and go for it (provided it’s legal, of course). Attend workshops, network and explore places such as museums and art galleries and see shows. I also recommend that you see shows that you wouldn’t ordinarily go to; who knows, it might be the best thing you’ve seen.
In terms of paying bills, my personal rule is not to get a part-time job in the corporate industry. I worked in that industry for years and after taking this leap of faith, I am very hesitant to depend on that as an income again. I am lucky that I have a very flexible job with Marvin’s Magic; it still allows me to perform, meet new people and travel. […] Remember: Not everyone will understand what your life changes will entail or why you would go from stability to unpredictability, but trust in yourself and remember why you’re doing it.