Rising Music Star Jeanine Sothcott On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment…

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Rising Music Star Jeanine Sothcott On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment Industry

Age is a huge barrier, particularly for women. People tell me that I look younger than I am, but the fact is that I’m 51 and roles for women of my age increasingly become ‘the mum’ or ‘the friend’ and I don’t know why. In “Renegades” the three lead actresses were all over 50 and I’m really proud of that. But the internet’s obsession with youth is a dangerous thing and puts a huge amount of pressure on women.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jeanine Sothcott.

Jeanine Nerissa Sothcott is best known for her critically acclaimed performance in the film Nemesis opposite Billy Murray and Bruce Payne. Her most recent role is in the newly released international action film Renegades starring alongside Danny Trejo, Lee Majors, and Michael Paré. Other notable film roles include The Exorcism of Karen Walker with Shane Taylor and The Krays: Dead Man Walking with Guy Henry, as well as many other award-winning roles in short films. A trained dancer, Jeanine performed with the British Ballet Organization and was offered a scholarship by the Royal Ballet until an injury prevented her from pursuing those dreams. She turned from dance to music and became an accomplished musician and was first violin in the Kingston Youth Orchestra. But it’s her now or never attitude that led her to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an actress. Jeanine is one of the founders of the disruptive independent production company Shogun Films. Since her son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 2, she has become a staunch advocate for Diabetes charities running in several marathons for the charities including the London Marathon. When not working, Jeanine enjoys fashion, fast cars, and spending time with her 4 children and husband, producer Jonathan Sothcott.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Chelsea in London and grew up in Kingston in Surrey, just outside of London. My mother is Trinidadian, and my father is Guyanese — she was a nurse and he was a Harley Street surgeon. My mother was a great proponent of arts and culture — theatre, galleries, museums, and I was obsessed with dance and music from as far back as I can remember. However, I ended up not going into higher education for one reason or another and eventually in my 20s found myself in The City of London working in accountancy. It wasn’t what I wanted to be doing but sometimes it’s very hard to get out of the rat race. Before I knew it, I was in my forties with 4 kids, living in Spain.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

My son Gabriel, who is now 11, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 2 years old. This turned my world upside down. I moved back to England, and I got as involved as I could with diabetes charities, ran 4 London marathons and did anything I could to raise awareness. I ended up doing some radio presenting and one of the guys there said to me I really didn’t have a face for radio, and I guess that triggered something deep inside me that life is short and if I didn’t have another go at the arts there might not be another chance. Acting had been a calling forever but it’s such a closed shop in the UK, especially in your 40s and with my ethnicity — and it isn’t really an industry per se — unless you’re working for the BBC or similar a lot of it is just people on ego trips messing around. But I rolled my sleeves up and threw myself in at the deep end and acted in dozens of short films and fringe theatre shows, eventually setting up my own regular scratch nights which sold out and reinvigorated the local theatre scene where I lived in Dorset. I read all the scripts that were submitted and curated them, produced the shows and of course performed. So, while I didn’t go to drama school, I feel like I put the work in and earned my spurs, it was a hyper-intensive crash course.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

There was a moment when we were filming “Renegades” — towards the end of the shoot. My husband and I took Lee Majors and Billy Murray for dinner at Wilton’s a famous and very old-fashioned English restaurant to celebrate. Lee was one of my favorite actors growing up and he and his wife Faith are great friends of ours now and he and Billy, a big TV star in the UK, had become fast friends on the shoot. After the meal we went back to the bar of the hotel we were all staying in for drinks and just listening to these two legendary actors reminiscing was the most wonderful thing. I said to Jonathan later, that was a truly perfect evening and made me appreciate how lucky I am and what an honor it is to do what we do. It was a real ‘pinch myself’ moment.

On the flip side, some years ago we were making a film called “Aura” (aka The Exorcism of Karen Walker) in a city in the north of England called Leicester. The hotel we were in was somewhat salubrious and on the way back from dinner, walking past the car park I unwittingly interrupted a drug deal that was basically going down in front of my car… and one of the guys pulled a gun. Jonathan scooped me up and sort of glided into the hotel with me like he was on castanets it was totally surreal and the total opposite of the glamour of filmmaking people expect!! Interesting for all the wrong reasons!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

My latest film “Renegades” was recently released in the USA by Saban and has just come out in Germany. It isn’t released in the UK until the end of January so it’s a fairly constant round of promotion, which is great fun. People seem to be liking it. I am incredibly proud of it — it really was the most incredibly cast to work with. My first day of filming I had two scenes with Stephanie Beacham, a truly legendary actress, that was such a thrill.

Next year my first movie will be a Western called “Reckoning Day”, written by Robert Dunn and directed by Brandon Slagle. I’m looking forward to working with Ian Ogilvy and Lee Majors again on that. It’s set during the Gold Rush, and I play a woman whose husband and sons are murdered by a money lender after they discover a valuable nugget. I enlist a bounty hunter to teach me to kill so that I can take revenge. I guess it’s kind of Hannie Caulder meets I Spit on Your Grave. The script is fantastic, and I can’t wait to work with Brandon and really kick some ass! Brandon’s latest films, “Frost” and “Battle of Saipan”, really broke out as special cult movies, I think he has an amazing energy as a filmmaker.

I’m doing another film with him next year called “Chase”, which is a very dark thriller — Duel meets The Wicker Man — based on the novel by the famous English horror author Shaun Hutson, who has adapted it for the screen. It is one of the darkest things I’ve ever read — it really gets under your skin, and I think it will become a real cult movie.

I’m part of the film company Shogun Films, which is producing both of those and we have a massive slate of elevated genre movies beyond those — some I’m in, some I’m not. I love acting but I also like the development side of things too and one day I’d really like to direct.

We’re also developing a mafia thriller called “Eyewitness”, which Josh Ridgway is writing, and it will be directed by Reg Traviss. That will reteam me with Michael Paré from “Renegades” though this time we’ll be antagonists. I think that will be a very special movie — Reg is such a cool character, I always say he should be in the movies, not just directing them!

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

I was very, very lucky to have had a career and a life before acting. It means I had some security and some life experience going into something very daunting and confusing. I think the thing I’d say is, never expect acting to pay your bills, especially in the UK — unless you want to be working in a coffee shop for the rest of your life, make sure you have another string to your bow that gives you something to rely on. There are so many actors and so few jobs that its unavoidable that 99% of actors will be out of work a lot of the time and having something else you can do not only support you financially but gives you something else to think about.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

The most important reason for me is that growing up in the UK in the 70s and 80s I never saw myself or my ethnicity represented on screen. And in many cases, it still isn’t — when I’m filling out forms I’m still usually ‘other.’ I’m not black, I’m not white, I’m not Asian. Some people think I’m Russian. Italian. Spanish. Arabic. This made me struggle to feel that I belonged — and it certainly isn’t just a UK thing. I hope anyone watching my films with similar heritage to mine might feel seen.

I also found that actresses are under huge pressure to have these tiny slender figures so when for example Eva Mendes and Jennifer Lopez burst onto the scene, I felt represented — she’s a beautiful girl with amazing curves but obviously super fit and healthy. The rise of Latina actresses in the last few years has been fantastic.

The other thing I think is important is not just diversity for diversity’s sake — you have to make it work, otherwise you’re not helping anyone. For example, in a film I made called “Nemesis”, I was very keen to have strong female roles — which is very rare in UK crime movies. Usually, the girls are hookers or strippers or human punchbags. My character was a very strong woman and the other girls in the film had great parts — and I think it made the film stand out. The reaction was very misogynistic though — I had a topless scene in the movie which was my idea — and the reaction from male viewers was totally polarized — either ‘wow I loved that scene’ (ok, thanks) to ‘that poor woman was exploited, and it was trashy” (and I’m phrasing that more eloquently than anyone did). The behavior of people who need to (often anonymously) spew their vitriol online is very strange indeed. I’m sure we’re supposed to be living in the ‘be kind’ era but they clearly didn’t get the memo.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. I wish people had told me what a cesspool of predators it was. Harvey Weinstein gets all the attention but there are so, so many scumbags at the shallow end of the pool too and of course they never get any bad press because they’re nobodies. Social media allows people to look much more important than they actually are, particularly to the untrained eye. Everyone knows who the head of Miramax is, nobody knows who the guy using a pay as you go phone making out, he’s got a slate of ten movies on the way is. Cannes is like a mecca for them because anyone can buy a pass. I definitely had some close calls and I’m still shocked at the shamelessness these guys have.

2. Sir Roger Moore once said that success in the film business is 0.5% talent, 0.5% looks and personality and 99% luck and I think he’s absolutely right. It isn’t about how talented or good looking you are it is about being the right person in the right place at the right time. Some of the most talented actors I’ve worked with are completely unknown (and some like it that way, which I totally respect). You see people hustle and hustle and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. My husband casts all his own films and I see it from a different perspective that way — he sees through all the fakery and BS and just wants the best people. And chasing for castings relentlessly on social media is the opposite of what people want.

3. I wish someone had told me years ago how rewarding it is — no other job compares to the satisfaction acting gives you. If I’d experienced that in my teens or twenties, I don’t think I’d have been able to do anything else, at least until I’d done my best to make it my career. Being on set and immersing yourself in a character really is the greatest buzz.

4. Age is a huge barrier, particularly for women. People tell me that I look younger than I am, but the fact is that I’m 51 and roles for women of my age increasingly become ‘the mum’ or ‘the friend’ and I don’t know why. In “Renegades” the three lead actresses were all over 50 and I’m really proud of that. But the internet’s obsession with youth is a dangerous thing and puts a huge amount of pressure on women.

5. How hard it is to put yourself in the public eye in the age of social media. There are great things about Twitter, Facebook and Instagram but they are also a real sewer and the endless abuse women receive is disgusting. I never knew that people existed who wake up and decide to spend their day sending hateful messages to people they’ve never met. I mean, how unhappy must you be to do that? And normally they’re the ones hash tagging ‘be kind’. I feel sorry for their partners and kids (if they have them) because I think they’d be mortified. But you really do have to have rhino skin in this day and age, and I wish that these people would take a look in the mirror and have a word with themselves.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Look after your health — do everything in moderation, don’t follow fad diets. Eat properly and enjoy yourself but work out and stay in shape — treat every day as though you’re a week from filming. I play hard and I work out harder. Your health really is your wealth. I think also the Covid nightmare taught us that you have to make each day count and enjoy human experiences as much as possible — one day you’re walking on the beach, the next you’re locked up in your home for months,

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Limit everyone’s social media to an hour a day, wherever you walk people are just glued to their phones, scrolling and swiping. Like I said, I know it has a lot of advantages, but I think the disadvantages probably outweigh them. Young people in particular are under the most awful pressure to conform to (often completely fake) standards of appearance and behavior and nothing is given a real value anymore. When I was young when we saw something on the news or in a magazine, we knew what it was. Now on Instagram, Kevin who works in the tire shop is faking his private jet holiday and music career at the weekend — and some people believe him. I really do think it’s becoming increasingly dangerous and divorcing people utterly from reality.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband Jonathan Sothcott. The first time we met — and it really was absolute unconditional love at first sight — he literally opened my eyes to the reality of the film business and has never stopped encouraging, supporting and pushing me to be the best I can. We met completely randomly, and he was just very honest and up front about the film industry, which I was just starting in, which was very refreshing — but if he’d been a dustman I’d still have had to marry him! He’s a gentleman and a gentle man. But he’s nobody’s fool. He knows instinctively who and what is and isn’t real. His bullshit meter is off the scale.

We are incredibly lucky that we get to spend a lot of time together, though a lot more of it is spent walking the dog and watching DVDs than people might think, and we cherish that. He’s been through so many ups and downs in this business, he’d literally been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. When it comes to me, he’s incredibly selfless, he always puts me first and does what is best for me. The worst thing anyone can ever try to do is come between us — he just cuts them out of his life like butter… and so do I.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That you don’t have to be a product of your environment — growing up I often wasn’t in a situation that encouraged me to flourish. Throughout my life my aspirations have been quelled by the negativity of people around me and you have to pull yourself up to get on the path you want. I wasn’t encouraged at school at all, I think if I had been my life would have gone a very different way and I’d have ended up as a lawyer or something similar. But looking at where I am now, I have no regrets, I just took a slightly longer path to get there. But I always try to encourage my children in their beliefs and ambitions in order to give them the best environment in which to flourish I always tell my daughters to make sure they are financially independent as anything else never ends well.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Angelina Jolie because she’s everything that I want to be in a woman, inside and out. I think she’s an amazing human being, she’s impossibly beautiful. She’s a dedicated humanitarian who works so hard for the causes that she believes in, usually with little or no public acknowledgement. And as an actress for me she’s without equal — from her early roles in films like “Gia” to her full-blown ass-kicking in my favorite female action movie “Salt”, she really is a big screen goddess.

How can our readers follow you online?

Twitter — @JanineNerissa

Instagram — @JeanineNerissa

Facebook — @JeanineNerissaActress

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you so much for asking such interesting questions.

Rising Music Star Jeanine Sothcott On The Five Things You Need To Shine In The Entertainment… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.