My Comedy Career: Juliet Cowan

Juliet Cowan

You'll have seen Juliet Cowan acting in a number of TV sitcoms and comedy dramas. As she prepares to bring her debut comedy hour to the Women in Comedy Festival in Manchester at the weekend, we ask her about work-life balance, tips to get into the industry, and more.

Tell us what you do in your job.

I am an actor, writer and stand-up.

What key skills do you need to be able to do your job well?

I think the key skills are adaptability, resilience and curiosity.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Cuckoo. Image shows from L to R: Jane (Jacqueline Boatswain), Ken (Greg Davies), Nina (Juliet Cowan). Copyright: Roughcut Television
Cuckoo. Image shows from L to R: Jane (Jacqueline Boatswain), Ken (Greg Davies), Nina (Juliet Cowan). Copyright: Roughcut Television

My biggest career achievement to date, hmm... that one is so hard as I have had many highs, I have been a part of so many seminal and brilliant shows like PhoneShop, Pulling, Am I Being Unreasonable?, Back To Life, Cuckoo - the list is endless, but I think a personal biggie has to be The Power.

It was such an incredible series and my part was so emotional. I got to play Eddie Marsan's wife for the first time (I play his former wife again in Back To Black) and to work with such incredible actors. I am known for comedy and that is because I didn't go to drama school, so started as a stand-up, but inside I consider myself to be a heart-breaking and subtle straight actress. I love comedy but my biggest joy is when I do work that really looks like real life.

And what has been the biggest challenge/disappointment?

My biggest disappointment was definitely not getting the part of Maggie in Extras; I got to the wire and then was pipped. That taught me so much about life and grief and humility and disappointment. But I went off and joined a cult and then had my third child and the whole experience totally changed my outlook, it opened me up to ideas and possibilities I had never considered before.

How, if at all, do you aim for a good work-life balance?

It is really hard the work-life balance because, if you are working a lot, you aren't worried about money but your family life definitely suffers.

When you aren't working so much you get to spend lots of lovely time with your family but sometimes you are worried about money.

I have three kids which has always meant that, from both a time and a financial point of view, theatre has been a bit of a no-no. I think to do theatre you have to either be independently wealthy or have outgoings that are tiny and commitments that are minimal.

However, we are also really lucky in this profession that we can have more free time than people in other professions.

Juliet Cowan

Tell us a trick/secret/resource that you use to make your job quicker/easier.

I use a technique where if I am scared of something or dreading it or daunted by it, I turn those feelings around in my head and try and make myself feel excited and challenged in a positive way. It can be hard and time-consuming but it is totally possible. I also love classes; I think that you can never stop learning and practising in this profession and I love that.

If you could change one thing about the comedy industry, what would it be?

I would definitely make it more female-friendly. I think women can have a tougher time, and even saying that can sound like a moan. But it is true.

What tips would you give for anyone looking to work in your area of the industry?

Do it, remember that the hard times will be the ones when your ship is becalmed so try and gain skills to deal with that. Try as hard as you can, insist on having a life, prepare to be poor and rich and they can both be challenging. Be supportive of others, find your tribe. If you can seek out people you find an affinity with and work with them then that is fabulous.

Published: Wednesday 4th October 2023
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