Arthur McBain is an actor and children’s author. He graduated from The Oxford School Of Drama in 2013. His first job was in the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre of Scotland’s co-production of Dunsinane by David Greig, with which he toured internationally. Other theatre work includes the Lyric Hammersmith and Theatre 503.
He has worked predominantly in film and TV and is best known for playing Snowy Fleet in ABC TV’s multi-award-winning series Friday On My Mind (2017) and series lead Alex Myer in ITV1’s The Trouble With Maggie Cole (2020), alongside Dawn French. He also played Askith in Rupert Goold’s film Judy (2019) for which Renee Zellweger won an Academy Award. Other film and television includes Trust Me (BBC1, 2017) and Blue Eyes (Independent, 2016)
His first children’s book In The Dead Of The Night was published by Little Hare in October 2019, it is currently out in Australia and is due to be released in Korea in 2021. A UK release is yet to be announced. His second book is on the way.
What made you choose the Oxford School of Drama over other schools?
I love that OSD is in the middle of nowhere. I was drawn to the idea of being somewhere I could really focus, away from distractions and the hustle and bustle of a big city. Although I don’t think it’s strictly correct to say that I chose OSD: I think we chose each other. As soon as I stepped foot in the place it just felt right. I instantly clicked with the staff and the students, who were all very welcoming, friendly and inspiring. Finding the right drama school is a two way street, a potential student and the panel are auditioning one another. As such, I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else.
What do you think makes the training at the Oxford School of Drama so special?
The first thing that springs to mind is the sense of community. I think the culture at The Oxford School of Drama is particularly special. It’s a giving, caring and encouraging environment. I think that because the principal lives on site, the school feels more like a family than a school. I remember knowing that every single person at OSD – both students and staff – really wanted to be there and believed in a shared goal. It’s important for a drama training to knock you off centre at times and challenge you to step out of your comfort-zone; this is always best done around people that you know, trust and who want you to achieve your best.
Can you remember a time at the school that was of particular significance for you?
We did a circus performance and I wore a full body skin tight morph suit. The significance being that I learned never to wear a full body skin tight morph suit again.
Looking back, what aspects of the training do you particularly value now you are in the profession?
Every six months or so a lesson from drama school pops into my head and suddenly makes sense. I don’t mean that I didn’t understand these lessons at the time, intellectually speaking, but until you’re suddenly faced with a real life application for that lesson, it’s nothing more than information. It’s like looking at a jigsaw piece. The piece in and of itself makes sense, but until you find the jigsaw that needs that piece, you can’t see the overall picture. A year or so ago, I emailed one of my old tutors the single line; ‘I think that all the stuff you were trying to teach me has just clicked.’ — It only took five years.
How did you find the transition from The Oxford School Of Drama into the industry?
Leaving drama school is an intense time, regardless of what kind of landscape a graduate is entering. Whether it’s straight into work or a period of unemployment, I’m not sure it’s ever particularly pleasant. However it is possible to make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in. For example, signing with a massive agent by no means guarantees work, and visa versa.
I left drama school without an agent, and although it felt difficult at the time, I’m very glad that I didn’t sign straight away. It forced me to learn how the industry works for myself, make my own contacts and get my own perspective on a career in the profession. I worked as my own agent for the first year or so, during which time I got my first job in the world tour of Dunsinane. I did this by putting what I’d learned in professional development classes at OSD into action. It also meant that when I eventually signed with Independent Talent Group, I knew exactly what I was looking for. (I wrote a piece for The Stage newspaper several years ago about starting a career without an agent – ‘Arthur McBain: 5 tips for working without an agent’
Do you have any advice for graduates?
Enjoy every last second of drama school. Some people may leave early, finding themselves already in work, others might find themselves worrying about the huge task ahead (ie. forging a career as an actor). But believe me, you will miss drama school when it’s gone. Have a blast and throw yourself into everything.
Once out of drama school, I’d recommend having a go at making your own work, it’s endlessly rewarding and just look at Wild Card Theatre Company to see how spectacular it can be. Also, be interested in everyone and everything, have a go at as much as possible (acting, writing, producing, directing, astronomy, gastronomy, agronomy).
Celebrate your own successes but celebrate the successes of others more (you’ll be grateful when that comes around on you). Talk to everyone and anyone and learn something new every day, whatever it is. Be good to work with, it’ll stand you in the best stead for longevity – being good by itself sometimes isn’t enough. I am always happy to speak to any graduates who need a sounding board; online I only really check in on instagram, so you’ll find me there as arthurmcbain.