You may recognise Natalie Gumede as the character Kirsty in one of the nations favourite and longest running soaps ‘Coronation Street’ but Natalie is no stranger to the limelight. Having trained as a dancer from the age of three and winning a presenting role on BBC’s Children in Need aged just 11 years. Natalie since then has gone from strength to strength and her journey has been filled with great triumphs and experiences which have shaped her into the success she is today. We were very excited to catch up with Natalie to find out more about her current role in Corrie, how training in LA helped her overall acting ability and what her career aspirations are for the future. Get to know Natalie a little better, the In-spireLS way of course!
Natalie, Thank you so much for speaking with us, how are you doing?
NG: I’m very excited for the coming year! I have some time off at the moment, so I’m spending time catching up with friends before I move cities to be closer to work.
Natalie, your character in Coronation Street hasn’t been there for the longest time but has already had her fair share of dramas! For you, what has been the biggest highlight within the role so far?
NG: It most definitely has to be my recent storyline involving a car crash between Kirsty, Tina, and Tyrone. With Kirsty’s subsequent discovery that she is pregnant. I haven’t done much stunt work before so it was really exciting to be involved in the filming of the crash, and then the scenes between Alan Halsall and I in hospital were quite harrowing. It was lovely to discover a new depth to my character, and I hope those scenes came across as truthful.
How difficult or easy was the overall audition for the role, what did the selection process entail and how long did you have to wait before you found out you had landed the part?
NG:I wouldn’t say auditioning is ever an easy process! But it was an enjoyable one. My first audition was at the casting offices in Manchester, and I was given two scenes to read. I had an inkling that Kirsty may not be a very nice character, but I had no idea how naughty she was going to be! Then around two weeks later I had a screen test on the Rovers Return set which was suitably terrifying! I played the same scenes again, this time with Michelle Keegan and Alan Halsall (Tina and Tyrone). They were both so welcoming and tried to put me at ease. I felt the audition had gone well and that I had good chemistry with both actors, but you can never be sure! I found out I had the role just two days later, and it was a pretty epic moment! That was a day I’ll never forget.
Speaking with many other actors, they have found similarities with themselves and the roles they play. Would you say you have anything in common with Kirsty?
NG: When I first began playing Kirsty, I liked her sense of humour. I think that is one of the many joys of Coronation Street – the moments of comedy you see in even a character’s darkest hour. But since I have learnt more about her, I have no desire to align my personality with hers! I hope I am a lot more laid back than her, and allow people to be who they are, rather than controlling them.
What does an average day of Natalie Gumede entail when she is working?
NG: There isn’t really such a thing as an average day on Corrie because every day is different! But if we are heavily involved in a storyline, the call time may be 7am in makeup. The green room at the studios is our sanctuary – a place to eat, sleep, gossip, and drink numerous cups of tea, whilst perhaps running lines with our co-stars. We sometimes spend more time in there than on set!
Corrie has three or four units filming at the same time, so we often film out of sequence. It’s therefore important to do your preparation, and make notes on where in the story your day’s scenes come, otherwise there will be no continuity in your performance on screen!
There can be any number of scenes to film on one day, so sometimes after a long day, I’m exhausted and only have energy to flop on the sofa and learn my lines for the next day. But it’s a good kind of exhaustion!
How does it feel to have gained a role in one of England’s oldest and longest running soaps?
NG: It’s a wonderful position to be in! Corrie is a great platform for any actor and Kirsty is a gift of a role – the writers give you everything you could need to bring the character to life. Of course it’s an honour to be on one of the nation’s most watched programmes, and I love every day that I work there. The people are fantastic!
You are no stranger to the stage having started dancing from the age of three. What made you venture into the world of performing?
NG: I think I was an energetic child who loved looking in the mirror and jumping around to music, so my mother took me to ballet classes. Everything else – other styles of dance, school plays, amateur dramatics – was a natural progression. I think performing is in my soul, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Growing up you took every opportunity there was to perform to an audience. What is your most memorable experience?
NG: There are so many. Often the moments that stand out are the ones where things go wrong, and you have to find a way to improvise around it. I remember in an amateur production when I about 9, I was in a chorus of dancers and my skirt fell off! I was on the front row, so I didn’t feel like I could step out of line – what’s a girl to do? I just kicked my skirt off and carried on!
A key moment which stands out was when you won a presenting role on the regional slots on BBC’s ‘Children In Need’ aged only 11. For your average 11 year old, this would perhaps be a daunting experience. However, you fully immersed yourself in the role. What was the best part?
NG: You know what? I’ve never seen the footage of that – which is probably for the best! I don’t really remember feeling nervous, although I’m sure I must have been. I think the best part was seeing how a television production worked at such a young age, learning to adapt to a fast paced and ever changing environment.
When being a performer, confidence is everything, but everyone gets challenged from time to time. You are originally from Lancashire, but you took the bold move to move to London to attend one of the cities oldest and most renowned drama schools ‘The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts’ how did you adapt to moving from one city to another?
NG: It was a challenging time – and one I’m going through now, moving to Manchester to be nearer to Granada Studios. I think you have to keep in mind the reason you’re doing it, even when you feel homesick. It was actually very exciting when I moved to London – I was moving from a small town to a huge metropolis, and had so much to discover.
In your opinion, what are the benefits of honing your skills by taking the drama school route?
NG: The discipline it instils in you. The experience is whatever you make it, and I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to be the very best they can be. You are at your very best when you are training all day every day, and you have to get good at organising your life under those circumstances.
Since graduating from Drama school, you have gained a wealth of experience in both TV and Film and prior to your current role in Corrie, you have gained notable roles in television programmes including: ‘Emmerdale’, ‘Doctors’, ‘Ideal’ and in films including ‘Clubbed’ and ‘Side by Side’ How proud are you of all of your acting achievements to date?
NG: I’m not sure I would say I’m proud of my achievements so far, but I’m grateful for each of the roles I’ve played, as they have helped lead me to where I am today.
Who would be your dream co-star and why?
NG: I would love to work with someone like Tina Fey. She is supremely talented, and I love her programme 30 Rock. Her comedy characters are so on point, and I really admire women who are in charge of their own destiny by writing, producing and starring in their own show. We need more women to do that!
It was during your time working within these diverse roles that you developed a lasting passion for comedy. Was it something you had a natural flair at or was it a skill you had to develop over time?
NG: Definitely over time. I’ve always enjoyed finding the humorous moments in a story, but I don’t think I’m funny – I just like to laugh – it’s the nicest and most honest way to connect with other people. And if you bring that honesty to the screen, people believe your story, and will often laugh with you.
You moved to LA for a time to further hone your skills and studied sketch comedy with ‘Saturday Night Live’ veteran Anne Beatts. How valuable was your experience training with such a seasoned professional?
NG: I found that the best directors or teachers are the ones who don’t tell you exactly what to do, to get the best performance. They just give you the tools and ideas to help you find your own style and your own truth. Anne is definitely one of those people, and learning with her was a surprising and fulfilling experience.
These days’ actors are more in charge of their career, developing their skills both off and on the camera. You produce your own comedy material where do you take your inspiration from?
NG: Everyday situations, everyday people. There is both the sublime and the ridiculous everywhere, if you take the time to notice.
Every actor has their own list of actors/actresses that they look up to. What actors do you admire and why?
NG: Tina Fey, for the reasons listed above. Cate Blanchett, because she is a beautiful actress – she can play anybody of any age. I also admire Robert Downey Jr – if there is a more charismatic and engaging screen presence, I don’t think I’ve seen it.
Who would you list as your biggest supporters?
NG: My family and friends for sure – they keep me sane, and my agents David Marsden and Paul Martin.
What would you say drives you the most within your career?
NG: The love of telling stories, of reaching out to people and moving them in some way through my performance, and hopefully to one day make a difference to people’s lives.
Who or what in-spires you?
NG: Music inspires me – it’s healing, it’s uplifting, and it can completely bring you out of a funk.
What advice can you offer other budding actor/actresses who are trying to get their big break?
NG: To never forget that the very pursuit of your career, is living the dream – not very many people get to do that, and when things are tough, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact. And to always be pro-active – the industry is constantly changing, and the best way to be a part of it is to showcase yourself – right now. There’s nothing to stop you writing some material – even a 30 second sketch, and taping it – even if it’s on your phone, then putting it on YOUTUBE. Show people that you’re not waiting for a job to come to you. Social media makes it easier to put your work out there and connect with people.
Do you have any positive quotations you live by, if yes, what are they?
NG: ‘The best way to predict your future is to create it’ – Abraham Lincoln
Do you have any up and coming projects outside of Coronation Street over the coming months?
NG: I’m contracted to Coronation Street until at least July, and I’m loving every minute!
How can In-spireLS readers keep up with you?
NG: I have a blog on my website, nataliegumede.com, and you can keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter – @NatalieGumede.
Finally, in the face of adversity what would Natalie do?
NG: Drive head first into it – the fog always clears eventually.
Thanks Natalie for answering our questions, please round them off by completing these sentences…
I am at my best when……….I’m being creative.
Life is………….an opportunity to leave the world in a better place than when you arrived.
I am most passionate about…………..my fellow human.
Success is………….waking up and feeling excited for what the day holds.
Three words that best describe me are……….Loving, Dreamer, Steadfast.
I am a ‘Wonderwoman’ because……..I’m an ordinary woman – we’re all Wonderwomen
Keep up with In-spireLS Editor Sasha Shantel on TWITTER@Sashashantelvip
W| Interview by Sasha Shantel I| Courtesy of Natalie Gumede-All Rights Reserved