Before training at Italia Conti, Miles Paloma had West End experience with Oliver! and as Bruce Bogtrotter in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical, and since graduating last year, he has most recently appeared in Sally Cookson’s production of Peter Pan for National Theatre. Miles appeared in the ensemble for a La La Land parody on Comic Relief in 2017 and filmed as a featured dancer in Gucci’s short film Second Summer of Love. We chatted with Miles about his time in Peter Pan, playing Bruce in Matilda and filming for a Walkers commercial.
How was your time in Peter Pan?
It was pretty sensational! I had the audition three weeks before I got offered it, I realised it was quite a big thing and knew what a great opportunity it was. It was a fantastic team to be part of. We had a month to put everything together and every single day was so much fun. It was like going back to training again because it didn’t really feel like a job, and we were learning so many things such as flying and prop puppeteering, it was incredible.
It was very sad that it ended prematurely because I met great people. We had a cast and team who also focused on mental health and made sure everyone was ok. I think that’s really awesome and should be the blueprint of how professional shows are run. For six months of your life, you are with a brand-new set of people and you spend every day with them, they essentially become your family and support system. You don’t have to be the best of friends, but to be able to go into an environment every day where everyone is positive, is awesome.
What was the Troubadour White City like to perform in?
It was a bit challenging. First of all, it’s huge – I haven’t seen a theatre that big, it’s a bit like a concert hall rather than a theatre. We wondered how Peter Pan was going to fly, but once it was all up and running, it was ok. There was no automated flying or automated scene changes as everything was done by hand, so it took a while for everyone to make sure the show was running smoothly. By the time we opened, it was really slick. The difference in slickness and technical aspect from the previews to three weeks in was insane.
You were cover and swing in Cabaret, can you tell us about the experience?
That was my first contract job outside of college. It was really fun but it was also challenging because I’d never been a Swing or Cover before. I’m quite a visual person and I like to get up and do things, but as a Swing you have to have your mind on paper. Once we were up and doing the show, it was crazy how I didn’t really need the “Bible” anymore. Some things you look over, but once you’re there every single day, you know the show and it’s not as hard as people think it is.
What do you enjoy most about being Swing in a show?
I enjoy being able to play so many different characters, and also having the big responsibility of having to go on when something doesn’t go right. A show could be going great but then someone could break their leg or fall over, so then you have to go on. On-stage and off-stage Swings are two different monsters. I think I prefer on-stage just because you’re on every night and you can actively see how the show is done, rather than being off-stage and looking at it from an audience perspective until the cover rehearsals. Learning every single person’s track inside and out is very difficult, but if you have a good group of people, they help you along the way. I think being able to play loads of different characters is really cool.
Along with Ensemble in Evita, you were also Assistant to Choreographer, what did you learn from this role?
I learnt how to choreograph a show and about the responsibility you have as a choreographer. It was really fun assisting and making sure everyone knew what they were doing and that they were comfortable with the choreography. I was also Swing and in the Ensemble so I had to learn two of the tango dance solos which I’d never done before.
My mum was a dancer and dance teacher in Chula Vista (San Diego), so we are family friends with Javier Velasco (choreographer of Evita), and I call him my Uncle. I was in my second year of college and he asked me to go to San Diego in the summer for Evita. I’m an American citizen as I was born there, so I went out and did it.
Can you tell us what Bruce Bogtrotter was like to play in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical?
That was pretty incredible to do! My dad saw an ad for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical on The Stage and asked if I wanted to go up for it. I was fourteen and very confident, so said yes, as I’d do anything. The rehearsal period was really tough because the original Bruce’s voice broke so I had to be ready to go within a month. I wasn’t rehearsing with the whole company, it was just me and another boy rehearsing for Bruce, so we had to learn it with tunnel vision. I was rehearsing every day for a month, and as a child, you’re not aware of professionalism, you just see it as fun, but you have to quickly adjust to realise that it is a job and you get hired to do a role. You learn that it’s responsibility just as much as it is fun.
It was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life when I finally went on and did it, but it was also incredible. There was so much buzz around the show then because it was just at the start of it and my friends were winning Olivier Awards! Each Bruce was paired with a Matilda and we would travel around each cast. There was a blue team and a yellow team cast of children and then the Bruces and Matildas. I was paired with Cleo Demetriou first and then Eleanor Worthington Cox, and I adore both of them. Playing Bruce was amazing!
What do you remember from your time in Oliver!, and was it the first professional role you booked?
Yes, it was, and I did that for ten months. I actually remember quite a bit from Oliver!. It was really fun and the show was huge, the number of children in the cast was insane. We were even younger in that so we had no sense of knowing what was wrong to do. It was a bunch of children, all the same age and with the same passions, having fun. All of the children in those shows are now all trained and are just coming out into the industry. I remember Ammar Duffus (who played Michael Darling in Peter Pan) being in Oliver!, I didn’t work with him personally, but when we were doing Peter Pan, I already knew him from there. Being a kid and going up to perform every night in a London show was pretty cool and really fun.
How were you involved with Comic Relief?
My college called us all in and said they had a Comic Relief parody of La La Land that we were all going to be in. We were called in at six o’clock and it was the opening to Comic Relief. There were loads of celebrities and comedians in, such as Joel Dommett and the two women from Smack the Pony, which was really fun. We were there with another college, who I think was ArtsEd, and we were background dancers. I really want to pursue a career in TV and film.
What was the Walkers commercial like to do?
That was really fun! I had to go for a fitting before filming and they asked if I wanted to be in another part of the advert as well, because I have nice hands apparently! I became the hand model for two seconds, which was fun. It was incredible, it was a Christmas advert, and we filmed in the middle of September. It had a Christmas setting with snow in the back garden, and it really did look like a beautiful December day, which was insane because it was around 20°. I had to bat Brussels sprouts over a fence, which was really funny, and they had to get it so the camera could see the sprout go over the fence, I was like, “I’m not Roger Federer!”. I wasn’t good with the racquet, it was very difficult, but other than that it was really funny. I had a fake family, who I don’t think made it into the advert, and it looked like we were having a Christmas dinner. It was a really good experience.
What did you enjoy about working on the short film Second Summer of Love?
I was still in college at the time and I think that was my first thing that I did outside of college. I was auditioning for other things and my agent called me and explained what this one was about. I wouldn’t normally describe myself as a dancer, and I walked into the place and there were so many dancers there that I know very well and know they are a lot better than me! We had to go in a tiny room with a camera and dance for a bit. You just have to go for it when you’re in them situations. I booked it and then I found out it was for Gucci, which was really fun.
I showed up on set and the fitting was so cool – I was wearing head to toe of Gucci! There was a short storyline but the majority of it was moving around and vibing with the camera. I’m a very big fan of a lot of the dancers that were in there and everyone apart from me was very experienced so I was able to learn from them.
Where did your interest in acting come from?
I guess by wanting to do something that I was good at and that you can express yourself with. My parents were both professional dancers, so I was brought up in the artistic community and that was always how I would express myself. I went to an amateur dramatic place in Watford called Pump House, and that taught me everything I know. I think being able to become another person for a bit, experience a different walk of life which is completely different to yours and still finding things that you can connect with is really awesome. Acting’s not very strict, you can very much add whatever part of yourself that you want.
Being a child actor is a different thing to being an adult actor because you have a lot more experience and a lot more is asked of you. I just did an acting workshop and the first person I saw when I walked in was my dance captain from Oliver!, which was nearly ten years ago. What are the chances of that happening?! It’s a very small world bearing in mind there were about six people in that class.
Was there anything that encouraged you to train at Italia Conti?
I watched a documentary series called School for Stars on CBBC and I saw what them kids were doing every day and it was so cool! I hadn’t really seen a lot of representation like myself within the industry, so to see Layton Williams, a mixed-race boy, be a really great dancer, being able to train and being celebrated, was really awesome. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to go to that school. I was so uneducated in different drama schools so I never had another school in mind. Luckily, they advertised a full scholarship programme for boys. Training is so expensive, which I think is a problem because it sets up privileged people more, it doesn’t mean they aren’t deserving, as they can be very talented… however it’s much easier if you have a privileged background. I was very lucky to train there for three years, it was awesome. I’m very grateful for them.
Have you seen any theatre shows recently that you would recommend?
The last theatre show I saw was Dorian Gray at the Jermyn Street Theatre, with my friend Helen Reuben playing Dorian. They were all covering different roles, so depending on the set up, she would be playing someone else. I thought that was incredible. It was directed by Tom Littler, who also directed Cabaret. I’ve never really looked into Dorian Gray that much, but the script really spoke to me – the lines they were saying really translates to now, especially in the world of social media. It really blew my mind, and the whole play was incredible. Helen Reuben is a sensational actress.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Probably just get by for a bit because it’s not all roses and fun being a working actor! I think it’s really awesome that I have no idea what is going to happen, but the opportunities that I get from my agent (I’ve been very lucky to have him!) have been awesome. I don’t think there will be anything else this year just because there’s a small gap, unless it’s for TV or film. Right now, I’m just focusing on having a good side job. London is a very expensive place to live and that’s the main battle.
I’m also focusing on my mental health and making sure I’m happy and confident because I think before, for a bit, I used to think everything was only great when I was in a show or doing something. It’s important to get rid of that because life is not just about your career, there are so many other things. Live your life – it’s not all about auditioning and who you’re being seen for. Them things are great, and you should, of course, be focused on that, but you owe it to yourself to be happy, have fun, see your friends, have a hobby and have enough money to do what you want to do. It is difficult having to manage getting shifts and also needing time for auditions and prep. I’m trying to get a balance in my life and set up good habits for myself because it’s probably going to be my life, intermittently auditioning until the ball starts rolling, for five to ten years. I’m happy with that as long as I’m happy in myself. You’re not just the industry, you are a person, and I think that’s what I’m focusing on, personally, for the rest of the year. I’m very happy right now.
Miles Paloma is represented by Lee Morgan Management http://www.leemorgan.biz
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