An Interview with Cara Horgan
Updated: Dec 5, 2022
Cara Horgan is an actor known for her work on acclaimed films such as The Death of Stalin, Disobedience, and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, as well as series including Peep Show, Silent Witness, and Waking the Dead. I spoke with Cara about landing her first role, her role as Zelda in The Sandman and her upcoming projects.
Did you always want to pursue a career in acting?
None of my family are actors, but I was fortunate enough to have been a member of a great youth theatre when I was younger, and a lot of the older kids from that went on to drama school so it seemed possible. I was always a big reader so the idea of inhabiting other people’s thoughts and feelings, pretending to be them, living different lives for a bit and telling stories sounded like a dream come true to me.
Did you receive any formal training?
Not really, although I did lots of short courses in various things like mask work, clowning and vocal training. I never went to drama school though. I think for the first few years in my career I felt like a total fraud, especially with theatre work. But having worked a lot more in professional theatre now, I realise that we’re all winging it and no one really knows anything!
How did you land your first role?
I was in a fringe play and wrote to a casting director who ended up casting me in a small part in a film called The Libertine. It was an amazing experience, being on set and seeing huge and established actors. This job landed me an agent and from there I attended auditions working mostly in TV roles for the first few years of my career.
Who are your acting heroes?
There are so many! I was fortunate enough to work with Gina Mckee who I think is fabulous (and the loveliest), Lesley Manville, the late, great Helen McCrory, Olivia Colman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Kate Winslet...the list is endless!
What’s the best advice a director has given you on set?
Very early on in my career a director told me to just think the thoughts, you don’t need to demonstrate or ‘show’ anything. It sounds obvious but I didn’t realise then that the camera picks up absolutely everything. Also, if you have an idea of something different you can offer, asking for one more take is worth it.
Could you tell me more about your role as Zelda in The Sandman? What was the experience like working on the series?
The Sandman was such a fun job but when I auditioned for Zelda, it was with a scene from the second season. I didn’t know much about Zelda when I was offered the role because the scripts were so secretive and we had to sign NDA’s. It was only through seeing how the other housemates in ‘The Dolls House’ were cast that I understood how Zelda and Chantal fit in, as a group of friendly oddballs in the world that Rose enters.
How have the roles you’ve been offered changed since you first started out?
When I was younger, I played a lot of roles of young girls that people took advantage of in some ways. I’m not sure whether that is because of the way I looked, or whether that was what was on offer for young girls then! But as I’ve got older, the women I’m playing have on the whole become more empowered and complex which is great. I think there is a much more interesting diversity of scripts being made now, although there is still a lot further to go. A variety of voices are being championed now and I hope that continues and grows, particularly for women over 35. There are so many amazing stories out there of the rich and complex lives of women to be explored. There are still too many TV shows and films where the female roles are just there to support and bolster the male leads. That’s so boring!
Are you currently working on any projects?
I’ve just finished a cameo role in a series called Black Cake for Hulu. It’s based on a beautiful novel and is a great example of bold and unique storytelling.
What are you currently watching/reading?
I’m currently reading Real Estate by Deborah Levy which is the last in a trilogy of hers which I’m really enjoying. I recently saw The Worst Person in the World, which I absolutely loved. I’m excited to see Sebastian Lelio’s new film The Wonder and I’m constantly waiting for the next season of Succession which never disappoints!
What’s your advice for aspiring actors?
Fill your time in-between work reading as much as you can, travelling, watching as much as you can and learning whatever interests you. Oh, and never look up who got the part you auditioned for that you wanted and didn’t get. That way madness lies!