Read the full transcript below.
Intro and outro music by Florin.
Hello and welcome. My name is Sara. I’m an artist and English teacher, and I help creative people to communicate with more confidence so that they can share their art and their creative projects with the world. For this set of interviews, I’m talking to people who already use different languages as a tool to achieve what they want in their lives. I want to create a resource that is hopefully useful and inspiring. Today I talked to Fernando Mariano. Now, I know Fernando as an actor because he performs in theaters in the UK, but the truth is he does many different things. So I started by asking Fernando how he would best describe the work that he does. And he said he would describe himself as a storyteller. Over to Fernando.
But my main practices within that would be I’m an actor and I’m specializing in theater. So I do musicals and opera, and then I do advertising for creative agencies. So I create ads. So I tell stories for brands and I run the artist business school, which is a course for artists to help them get organized and write a business plan, to have a more sustainable life.
Fantastic.Um and now you’re in Mallorca. You were in London. Do you want to tell me your geographical story throughout your life?
So I am the most complicated person in the world. Okay. I literally, I hit the 10 year mark, but I never passed the 10 year mark anywhere in my life.
Okay. So you’ve never lived in one place for more than 10 years…
UI’m Brazilian. I am from Brazilian parents,my mother language is Portuguese with a kind of Brazilian accent. Uand then when I was 10, I moved to Portugal.
I lived in Portugal for 10 years and on the 10 year mark, I moved to London where I was for 10 years. And then I kind of now, COVID happened. So yes, I came from London to Spain, which is kind of a newer arrangement because, well, London stopped making sense. I think London stopped making sense for a lot of people, right? It’s like I was reading that 55% of Londoners want to leave. And now with new technology, I mean, look at us. We are having, you know, a nice meeting and we don’t need to be present in places anymore, so much. Even though my work, we actually do, so I kind of travel a lot, but because I travel so much, it was like, it doesn’t make sense, I don’t need it to be anywhere. So I decided that what I want to do and what I wanted from life is to be close to the city and enjoying the sunshine. So I came to paradise island.
When did you learn English? And what was that experience like?
English, well, the Portuguese education system is really good. Let’s start with that, because that makes a huge difference because they take languages very seriously. So it’s normal that anyone that is like 15 plus they will speak English, rougher or less rough. They will speak English. Yeah. English was like a normal thing. So I used to speak English and French. When I was 14, I could speak both languages.
Now I forgot everything because I didn’t practice a lot, but I used to be able to hold a conversation when I was 14. So I do believe that somehow that language is still, you know, back there somewhere it’s just not being used. So I just kind of forgot it. Ubut English I was practicing. Because, you know, it’s, it’s the universal language, that’s because of politics because of everything. It’s just the universal language. So it’s just the thing that everyone kind of ends up practicing more. Uand then I came to the UK and I studied and that was really hard. I think that was probably the hardest bit because being in a university it’s, it’s quite a job, isn’t it to speak the language that it’s not like,uyou know, just like in a coffee shop or, you know, or having, I don’t know, dating someone on tinder, you know, it’s like, it’s a level of language that you don’t need to explore.
But then when you get to books and because I work with language, my work is language based because it’s acting, so it’s all about texts and words and pronunciation. And so that follows the journey. So that’s it, I was really — I remember being a first year and I was like, I would get to the end of the day shattered. I also danced for like six hours, so that’s part of it, but my head would be so tired because I wouldn’t have to kind of translate all the time. There is this phase, when you’re first learning language that you are constantly on translate mode. So you have to absorb the information, translate the information, understand the information and then pass the next one. So when you’re in university and everyone’s like throwing stuff at you, it’s like ahhhhh.
But it was really good because I, because I come from Portuguese and Portuguese has – (Portuguese from Portugal – there’s two very different accents.) And Portuguese from Portugal has nine vowels. Yeah. Instead of five or six, I think it’s nine or ten vowels that – – don’t quote me on that – We have more vowels. We have more access to sounds. So for me, when I was studying, because we as actors, we go really deeply on phonetics and, you know, understanding accents, like I learned how to write phonetics. So I can understand accents in an easier way, because it’s not about listening and copying, which is probably very easy for someone that’s native in English, but to do, mmerican Southern or to do a British RP or to do an LA sound or to do a Canadian sound, which is kind of the sound that I went for – like I went for when I was learning, I — my teacher was like, okay, for now you need to choose an accent because you’re not from here. So we just need you to sound native, wherever that is, you need to sound like that.
So this accent was produced. It was like a choice. It was choice. I was like, I want to sound Southern Californian. And my teacher was Canadian. So I have mix of Southern California, which was my choice and her influence from being Canadian and talking so much with her. Uand I kind of just kind of grabbed that and I learned how to write the words, phonetically, how they sounded. And I started practicing those and putting those together. So it was a process.
Yeah, I couldn’t do it – because, I’m just imagining the jump from like using a language, studying it in school and being kind of functional to moving to the country where you’re using it to study all the time. And then almost the next level of acting where you need such precise knowledge of the sounds and the sounds are so important. And that’s insane. How, I suppose my question is, how did you, how did you deal with that?
It’s a process. Like, I am very dedicated to the things that I put myself onto. So it was very much a base of, well, there is the natural work, you know, of doing stage work and working with directors and they would get you notes and he would say work on those sounds and you would practice those words so much that those words, once you practice them they’re kind of, you know, nailed into you somehow. Ubut there is this kind of, it’s just, I feel it’s persistence and just staying with the same thing, with the words and staying with the work and just insisting on the sounds and just really understanding what, what is that you are doing that it’s not the work – You know what I mean? – That is not the correct thing.
It’s precision that you need.
Exactly. It’s, it’s a matter of precision, the matter of precision. And it’s like, how do you work towards that precision, whatever that is that you want.
Was there ever a point where you thought: it’s too hard?
Oh yes! Every day I was like I had a phase that I was like, I will never be cast as anything, you know, because I really thought that and that what’s like for actors that are foreigners, most of them just go back, because accent work is such a challenge and it is really hard, but it comes with, well, it comes with an ease that your mother time can give to you or not. You know? Because it’s like Spanish speakers, they have a lot more difficulty naturally they have because they have five vowels. And if you don’t have those sounds, then if you have to work with those sounds, then it’s like learning the extra step, which is like, for me until today I have trouble with the, I sound like chip. So that, because of course for me, that’s cheap, which it’s not
So, but for me that was one sound that doesn’t exist. And then just being from a language that has like, has the 5, vowels and that’s it? Yeah, it’s really hard. But I feel that it’s a matter of understanding things in detail and unless you understand them just knowing, like I know that I still have stuff to go through. And for casting that’s like, for me, it’s it’s okay beause I kind of end up doing things that I have to do. Like my, my acting teacher used to say that my casting type was general foreigner because I can do anything that’s just not local.
He’s not from here, we don’t know where he’s from…
Exactly like as long as it’s not local, that is not for the people that live exactly there that will be expecting, you know, – like I won’t be playing a Londoner in London because the London accent, it’s very specific
In the time where you were thinking “I’m never going to get cast and it is too much and it’s too hard.”You Didn’t give up. You continued. Why, why did you continue? How did you keep going?
No other options. Isn’t it? There is one way: I stop and I can go some other way and I forget what I want or, I can just go get what I want. And the work is: go get what you want. And then when you, when you’re there, you just, I feel that anything is possible when you break it down, it’s like how you pull things and focus them and then just break them into little bits that you can actually eat and manage. And so I’m not going to think that I need to surpass my accent. What I’m going to think is that I just need to say this word, right. And then I just need to say this word, then I just need to work with this word and I just need to get this phrase. And then once I just need to get into this monologue. And then before you remember, you know, you’re saying the whole of ‘Comma Gets a Cure’ (Comma Gets a Cure is a widely-used passage for identifying and practicing different accents: https://www.dialectsarchive.com/comma-gets-a-cure)and they have, you know, “Sarah Parry was a veterinary nurse at a…”
…Superb private practice!”
Okay. So the idea is you’re taking something that is very big and too difficult and breaking it into manageable parts. Like that’s the structure.
Okay. Like I just did that work right now for Spanish, it never ends. Right. Because I moved to Spain and I am now in the casting process of a very big show in Madrid. I had the finals and they were like “your accent…” Because again, Fernando foreigner, anywhere he goes, because even if I go to Portugal, they go like, “you’re not from here ” because even that accent is not right — because of so much language work. Right. So I’m basically just from elsewhere, anywhere I am I’m from elsewhere. Even in Brazil I was doing this accent work for Madrid. So I had a meeting with the director and he was like, so it just need you to work on these sounds and these sounds and then he was like, we can go into detail here… Of course, because there is an intonation and there are things that for you to sound like someone that was from there, there are a lot of layers that you have to work on, but I feel that it’s, it’s a matter of layers, right? So it’s getting the things that are more ‘screamy’ and then just nailing those. And then once you nail those, then you just go deeper and you go deeper and then go deeper and you go nailing the things that you have to nail until you sound as you’re supposed to sound.
So I was doing this accent work and I literally spent three weeks working on six pages of text and it’s not text like prose, right? So it’s like, I don’t know, 20 lines of text for, for three scenes. So my teachers used to say that if you do anything 27 times, it’s the time that you’re– it’s the repetition that your body needs to create your muscle memory and language is muscle, right? So that’s like, it’s just how you place your muscles and then how your muscles get your air out. So you produce sound, so all of this can be manipulated. So it’s all a matter of understanding that scientifically you’re just a machine that is making things this way. So if you break it down to the position of your tongue, to where your tongue is going to be, be aware of your air flow, where you’re placing your air flow. So if you’re getting more nasal, what does that do to the sound? And how will you sound more from– Or if you just go a little bit lower you’re probably going to sound from somewhere else, you know, so you just understand all of these dynamics, all bodies can do it and you need to not have this thing of “This is the way I speak” but just being like: this is the way my body learned how to produce sound so I can manipulate that to shape that. So it’s just understanding what are the things that you have to manipulate, how can you correct that and then doing them 27 times. So what I do is I go on a text and I say the text properly, using a bone prop sometimes, sometimes I don’t. Ubut just getting the muscularity of the sound out and just getting used to say it that way. And then before, you know, that’s the way you say it.
It’s like physical training essentially. And when in the journey did you learn Spanish?
I had a boyfriend from Seville when I was 17 and he was a hippie and he was like, “come live in my caravan!” And I was like, “yeah!”. So he took me on a journey, literally. So I spent a year in Spain up and down. And I refuse to speak, I would speak English to everyone because I was, I can’t speak Spanish. It’s very close to Portuguese, but I was like, I don’t want to because I’m a bit like my mom. And we don’t like to do things wrong. Okay. So we prefer to not do them, you know, and then go do it which is a problem. But I basically, what I did was like absorbing information. So I lived in Spain for eight months and then I was like, Fernando, you’re a bit absurd. You’ve been here for a while, just try speaking. And in three weeks I was like, “Oh”, because I had accumulated so much information over this time. And because it’s so similar, it was just going through some of that phase of making all the mistakes, which I still make don’t get me wrong. I still have loads. I feel that like they’re composition mistakes, mostly, you know, how do you put phrases together and expressions, and then how you got deeper into the language and things start to mean other things, where words stop making any sense in phrases because they’re just like, expressions. Uso I just started going deeper into that and because there’s so much Spanish speaking in the world, then I just got to practice that too. Uso that, that was kind of the Spanish journey. So I just kept on juggling those two languages, which I use a lot more than Portuguese today.
At the point where you started to go for castings and you started trying to work in those languages, how was that? And how did you feel? What were your emotions?
Well with English, it was a lot more pressure because I was like, I want to do this. You know, but Spanish, I never had any intentions of working here. So it was a bit, “Oh, I got a show.” And it was a big show. And I was like, Oh, I’m going. You know? And then once I was in, then people started calling me and so it was a more natural way into the market and it wasn’t like with English. I was like: I want to be here. You know? So because musical theater is London in Europe. It’s like, it’s the place for it. So I was like, okay, I just need to really, really nail this. So there was a lot of pressure. There is still a lot of pressure. I still like 10 years and, and having had a lead characters in the West End, I still go to a voice class and I still work on words that I don’t get right.
And I still, you know, I’m working on accents that are not good, it’s… I feel that there’s always room. There’s always room, even for natives. Right. There’s like, if you’re working on something that it’s something else that you’re not used to doing, then you have to work on it. So it is, I feel it’s a process, but it’s really interesting that we’re having this conversation this week, because last week I had three auditions and one was in Portuguese, the other one was – in Portuguese and with a Portuguese accent – the other one was with a Southern American accent, and the other one was in central Madrid Spanish. So that was in three days. So my head was like, a mess.
Yeah. That’s crazy. It’s mechanics also. Cause it’s all fake. You know, it’s like, it’s not, doesn’t affect how I speak in my daily life. But it is an exercise for this amount of pages that I’m going to speak like this, and I’m going to embody this character that speaks in this way. So just kind of understanding, where do you put the sounds that you want to put? How hard do you go onto them? Cause you don’t need to go too hard or because you could get a Southern accent that – maybe if you just get your why, and then a little, you know, that’s probably just enough. So just do a touch of things and then just go into your normal had habitual thing. Because you gave a touch here. It’s like, Oh, this person’s from there, but they’re just neutral.
Did you ever have any negative responses?
I got fired from a show. Because I couldn’t nail my RP on the level that they wanted. Because they hired me – it’s really funny – and casting is a complicated thing, but casting, they hired me to play the terrorist in a show and it was like an Arabic sound. Umhich I kind of nailed because they had no idea what an Arabic sound was. So whatever I would do would work for them. So I did that work and they hired me to do that part. And then they were like, ho we want you to play, hlso the Prime Minister.
So two roles in one show?
They decided for me to have a second role in the show. I was like ok, but the Prime Minister had a heightened RP accent. Yeah. So it’s very specific and a heightened RP accent in England. It’s not like an Arabic sound for England, right? What they took as an Arabic sound, if I would just do a touch it would work. But then when they wanted the prime minister, they wanted the Prime Minister speaking like Boris Johnson. Yeah. In this heightened RP kind of posh sound. And that is one of the sounds that one of the accents that I can do, but I can’t really nail. So because I couldn’t do that on the level that they wanted me to, they finished my contract.
I felt like an imposter a little bit, which I wasn’t. And it took a lot of a long process for me to just be like, it was their fault because, it wasn’t the quality of my work that was in the game because they hired me to play something and they hired me within my conditions. And I feel that that is really important for you to understand that your condition is what makes you special. And it’s not that what other people expect from you because you’re X, Y, and Z. Right? So I am an actor, but I don’t– but I’m still Fernando with 30 years of history. And those 30 years of history play a big part of my life that allows me to do everything positive that I do. And it allows me to not do everything that I can’t do because it’s, you know, because it’s not me, because I can’t be a posh, British guy. If I am not a posh British guy, I can give you that as the character. But that depends on the level that you want that, on the level of precision that you want from that. So, because I couldn’t achieve the precision that they wanted, I blamed me for a while because I thought it was a problem of my work. And then I got to the conclusion that I actually, it wasn’t to do with my work. It was to do with their casting process because they were expecting something. If you don’t hire a dancer and you expect them to do a triple pirouette it’s your problem. I am what I am and I can give what I can give as a body. And my limitations are part of the magic of my work. So that’s the way you, well, I feel that in casting, that is a particular thing, but I feel how it relates to that, is like, what other people expect from you, it’s up to them. What you can provide to people, it’s what you can provide to people, so you can do the work up to the point that you can do the work, and if the work is not right for you, then it’s just not right for you. Like, I feel that in casting that’s when you really learn, which is a process for actors, to not take it personally, but it’s not about you. It’s — there are things that are just not about you. So if you don’t get a job or if you’re trying to do something and you can’t, then it’s great because it’s not for you. It’s just not made for you, it’s just designed for someone else, you know, because that’s the magic of everyone, because everyone they’re super powers are that they are themselves. So you have to play within your strengths. And then if your strengths are — don’t, don’t have the reach that other people want because they want things that are like outside of your reach, that is outside of your reach,
Given all your different experiences and your different ways of learning different languages. If you would go on to learn, now, a completely new language, what would be your approach?
Go live there! I would probably like, I want to do that with French. That would be just like, that is like awakening my memory, you know? So I, I know that I have that somewhere, that it just needs to be taken out. So I feel that if I just go and spend six months in France, it might just awaken a lot of things. Yeah. But if I have to go like learn Mandarin or something, I dunno, I would probably feel desperate first. And then after. So like really I would, well, I saw this exercise one from a guy that I really appreciated his work called Nathan Daniel drew.
And he says that he can speak a language in two weeks, I’m not sure if it’s true, but he has this technique that it’s like, he has a list of 2000 words, which are kind of the most used 2000 words. And then he can just translate them. And then he learns those words and their translations, and then having those words, he can start constructing badly constructed phrases. But I feel that it’s the most important thing. What I like about that approach is like, just go there and talk because it’s the only way, it’s practicing, because you can learn things in theory and you can learn how to put them correctly. But it’s all about like – my parents, my parents are 60 something and they moved to London – crazy move – like, “what are you doing? Why are you doing this?” But they moved to London and they don’t speak any English and they will never speak any English because they are just too afraid. Mom doesn’t like making mistakes, or anything that feels really out of her comfort zone. So they got into this bubble of Portuguese speakers so that they don’t need to move on because there’s only like 10 people that you actually need to speak to in your life. Right. Like it just needs to have like a basic zone of comfort and then you can just live your life. So they know words, but they don’t get to practice because they don’t put themselves out there. Um, s do feel that whatever it is, it’s going out there and start speaking, I would probably go somewhere and try to speak, or go to a class and try to speak, but just having the constant practice of speaking and trying to listen and speak and listen and speak, and I feel that things start organizing themselves in your brain alone.
Yeah. But I think the, the thing about the 2000 words, it’s like, you need to speak and practice and it’s almost as though you need this kind of minimum amount to then start experimenting. And maybe that 2000 words is your, is your base. And then you can go and experiment or you have some kind of, I don’t know, some kind of starting point. And then you just practice and work it out and learn as you speak.
If you were talking to someone who was in the same position as you, right, so you’ve done all this work. You’ve learned the language and you kind of have those skills and it’s this tipping point it’s, it’s showtime, and you have to use them, Uwhat would be your advice for someone at that moment?
Understand your weaknesses and strengthen them. I think that that is the most important thing in your practice or anything. If you’re going out in the world, it’s really important that you understand what you don’t do well. So those are the things that you’d have to keep on tackling because things that you have ,good, they’re there, so show them off. But then on your own time, your practice keeps going and it needs to be developed. So it is about showcase what the young Fernando that’s coming out of Urdang (dance / musical theatre school) has. It’s like kick, kick, kick, kick. And he’s really great at those things. It’s amazing. Show them off and don’t show your weaknesses and castings, auditions, meetings, reunions, interviews, whatever is that you’re doing do the work. But then when you’re in your own time, really understand, don’t sit on the work that, you know, because that is the problem. Cause that’s why often people don’t develop because they sit on what they know, and they’re happy with what they know, but it’s just understanding that you always have stuff to work on. So if you note those down and if you just keep on doing the work towards those, when you’re not showing off, I feel that, that’s the way. Yeah.
And you said that, even now, you’re still doing that work to maintain — still training…
Absolutely maintaining the skills that you have. And then also getting the skills that you don’t have, you know, cause there are, there are loads of skills that you don’t have, it’s normal because we’re people. So it’s just understanding what are those and getting those and just, you know, putting skills in your bag. The thing is that we all have things to provide, and we all have things to give. We are people that are extremely, extremely capable of doing and providing things and going forward and providing things on the level that we are. There are things on the level that are for us, and those are the things for us. And those are the things that will help us develop and grow and go so that you should never be stopped by, “Oh, I can’t do that.” No, you can do that. You can’t do that. And if you can’t do that and then you have to work on the way to ‘can do that’, right. Because if you have the basic for the potential, then you just need to make it work and making that work, it’s literally showing up and doing the work. So if you, I don’t know, if you’re actor that gets an accent or for a business person that you know, is afraid of speaking in public or for someone that speaks very very slowly or very very, you know, with no volume at all, or for someone, for anyone, it’s just – the matter is just understanding the things that you don’t have. And then you’ll go get them and then you practice and then you’re going to stumble or you do it, even if you’re doing badly, it’s a part of your process of going to where you need to go. No one should ever be stopped by anything.
What is your language for creating or does it change and how does it change?
It changes. But mostly it’s English. I’m most – yeah, because it’s my work language. Cause I feel that that also — because I have my heart language at the moment, I have a social language, a heart language. And so like when I speak things from the heart and I, I use Portuguese, you know, I read Portuguese poetry. Even though I write poetry in English because Portuguese, it’s getting a bit like you know, stiff- because I use English so much, but it’s, it’s my work and language English definitely. So I have more freedom to write in English. Spanish, I hate writing in Spanish, because it’s such a spoken thing for me so then when it gets to the paper, it’s like, “Oh”, so that, that for me, that, that is a thing that I need to work on. If I wants to get work here, mn the advertising part, because I create like ‘soundy’ things and soundbites. I’m working on, hn a TV series now. And that’s all English because it’s just, it’s the language that I use for work. And you just kind of associate things to things, right. But it’s like, it’s really hard to choose to speak to someone in a language that you’re not used to. It’s like if I have a friend that I speak Spanish with, even though their English might be great, it’s gonna be really weird to speak in English because you’re so used to that communication being like that.
Yeah. It’s difficult to change once you start communicating in a language. And what are your — l like, so look at the point you are now just, what are your like next steps, language wise, and ‘lifewise’, what’s your plan?
I’ve been working on a plan over the last two or three years, which is expanding markets because I really want to work in my heart language, because that’s a thing that I had never done. You know, I haven’t done a show in Portuguese since well, since school, I did that first degree in Portugal. So since then I have never done a show in Portuguese. So I feel that that is the next step, just going back to Portugal or going back to Brazil and trying to work in my mother tongue, because that is something that I’ve never done. So it’s kind of like rewinding and trying to go back to that and open markets that are in Portuguese. And I really, really want to explore this thing. That’s why I came to Mallorca also because it’s strategically, it’s kind of away from everything, but in the center of everything because it’s between London, Madrid, Lisbon.
And if I can get Rio, that’s like a 14 hour flight, then that is the next step. And it’s expanding to be an absolute banger — with, with Netflix and everything that’s coming, everything it’s so important to be who you are and for you to really, really, really work on the things that you have that no one else has.
We are living in a moment in the world, that, it’s like, globalization never had more of a sense than now, you know? And I do feel that when — just having other languages in your pocket, it’s just, it’s magical because it gives you so much. It’s so rich in culture, it’s so rich in work. And so it just gives you so much that I think it’s — I just feel that it’s, it is really worth it. And you just need to work within the word, the world that we have today, you know…That we can be anywhere that we want. That we can explore the world as we want. And we can be, you know, nomads and, you know, remotes and the enjoying the sunshine whilst working in China. Now we can do everything we want. And so just really use that. And I do feel that COVID has a lot of special things that we didn’t — and it has loads of horrible things too, don’t get me wrong, but it has loads of those special things, that if we just change the frame that we work with, then we can just really nail it.
And there you go. Thank you so much for listening and thank you to Fernando for answering all my questions. If you want to hear more from Fernando, you can find him on Instagram @thefernandomariano or go to http://www.artistbusinessschool.co.uk. And if you want to hear more from me, you can find me on Instagram @speaklikeyou, or to read more about my work, to find more interviews like this and information about my courses, go to http://www.nativeenglishfast.com and I’d love to hear what you thought of this interview, so please send me any feedback, questions, ideas, thoughts, anything you can send me an email or a message on Instagram and yeah, that’s all for today. So thanks for listening and see you soon.