Growing up in Cumbernauld

MY mum was a single parent. We moved houses a lot. I moved 11 times before I was 11 years old.

When I was a child I wanted to be a dentist. But in sixth year at high school I had to do an extra subject, and I thought: “I’ll try drama, I think it would be fun.”

I remember an actress who worked in the learning department at the Citizens Theatre [in Glasgow] came in to see us and she told me my performance was really good. She encouraged me to think about taking up acting. I went home and told my mum that I didn’t want to be a dentist any more, I wanted to be an actor. And she was like, “oh fuck!” [she laughs].

But my mum sang in a band herself so she got it and she said: “You’ve got to do something that makes you happy.”

Getting into drama school

I WENT to Coatbridge College to do an HND in drama. After that I applied for various drama schools and did really well. I got recalled for a second audition at RADA [the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London], I got offered places at LAMDA [London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art] and the RSAMD [Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow].

I chose the RSAMD, because, that way, I wouldn’t have to pay tuition fees and I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to find the money for rent in London.

Training at the Academy

IT was such a bizarre experience for me. I’d never done anything like it and I just jumped in. I remember [then head of acting] Hugh Hodgart saying to me: “Just be nice. You can be a good actor but be nice, work well with people.”

The National: Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming in The Macbeths. Photo by Alan Peebles.

Really, he was saying: “Don’t be an arsehole, because you’ll be remembered for that, and people won’t want to work with you again.”

I just loved my time at the RCS. It was the first time I’d felt wholeheartedly a part of something.

Meeting my friend Helen Mackay

I DID a lot of growing up at the Academy. First year was all about going out, having fun and coming in hungover. I wasn’t great. I love a party. I met my very close friend [actor] Helen Mackay there. We always said we were very yin and yang.

I’d be out until 5am, she’d be home having her cup of sleepy tea and waking me up in the morning. I think sharing digs with her really helped me. Helen has helped me so much with the kids during my current tour [of Danny Robins’s play 2:22 A Ghost Story]. She’s been incredible. Meeting her definitely changed my life.

Getting my first TV role in Taggart

WHEN I was at the Academy I got a really small WPC [Woman Police Constable] role in Taggart. I think I had two lines. It was the first time I’d ever been on the set of a screen shoot. I hit it off with the producer, and any time they needed a WPC after that they just got me in. The character didn’t even have a name at the beginning. I ended up calling her Sarah.

I met some great people working on Taggart, like Colin McCredie, John Michie and Blythe Duff.

Becoming a mum

NOTHING has changed my life as much as becoming a mum. I was 26 when I had the first of my two children. There’s nothing like parenthood. I wasn’t prepared for it. I’ve learned so much about who I am through situations in which you don’t put yourself first.

On this tour [of 2:22] I’ve had them in Southampton with me. They were in the dressing room, they came down and saw the stage.

Co-parenting with Al Seed

I MET [physical theatre maker and performer] Al Seed, who I later married, at the Academy. He and I co-parent. We get on really well. He’s my best pal. He has a very structured routine. I’m not like that. If I get a tour, my kids might come with me, they might not. It’s a juggling act, but I love it.

Working in the theatre

I’VE worked with Graham McLaren [former associate director of the National Theatre of Scotland] on Men Should Weep. Working with Grid Iron [theatre company] on Barflies was amazing for me.

The National: 16 The Macbeths - Charlene Boyd and Keith Fleming  - Image by Alex Brady.

Earlier this year I did The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart in the States with [director] Wils Wilson [for the National Theatre of Scotland]. I’m really, really lucky as an actor because I’ve always sort of known, by the end of one job, what my next acting job is going to be.

Being directed by Dominic Hill

WORKING with Dominic Hill [artistic director of the Citizens Theatre] has been one of the most amazing experiences in my career.

I think he’s incredible.

He’s challenged me in a way that nobody will ever challenge me. He will look at me directly and be like: “Charlene Boyd, not good enough.”

And, when he praises me, I can believe it, because I respect him so much. His casting me as Lady Macbeth [in Shakespeare adaptation The Macbeths] was huge for me.

Joining the band Jericho Hill

ONE of my teachers at Coatbridge was Bill Wright, who’s now at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He invited me to sing with his Johnny Cash tribute band Jericho Hill, which I still do.

I’m currently under commission to the National Theatre of Scotland to write a solo play about June Carter Cash, which I hope to perform myself. I had an amazing research trip for the play, going up into the Appalachian mountains [where June came from] and talking to people there.

Charlene Boyd is currently appearing in 2:22 A Ghost Story, touring to the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, November 21-25