Danielle Vitalis: Actress and Storyteller on her breakthrough into the Entertainment Industry
Danielle Vitalis is an actress, known for her role in Attack the Block, and her appearance in Black Mirror. She was born to the Vitalis family in 1999 and currently resides in London.
Originally planning to pursue a degree in Media and Communications, Danielle channelled her creative artistry and love for storytelling into a career in the entertainment industry, combining
her love for creation into her talented ability to imitate fictional characters on the television screen.
Previously engaging in the process of working in print media during her time in education, as journalism was a career she originally considered pursuing, she tells me that, “I’m open to exploring all aspects of media. If I wasn’t an actress, I would have considered going down the social media route - I had a travel vlog years ago. I love storytelling, so I would have had a career that revolves around my ability to tell a story.”
Danielle started her journey by attending opening auditions, and to her surprise, quickly landed roles in theater performances all over the UK. Due to housing issues, she stayed with a friend and managed to land the lead role in the theatre during her first audition.
Further on in her career, Danielle gained a role in the film, Attack the Block which led to a full breakthrough in the industry at twelve years old. Smiling, she says, “Back then, I never saw acting as a career that I could pursue to a high standard. It was never my plan - I had begun University but had taken the semester off to work on the film, and I never went back due to more opportunities that came my way soon afterwards.”
Performing in local prisons, Danielle loves the ability to change lives through her art. “I love what the creative industry is doing for people, and how it is contributing to the transformation of our generation for the better.”
When asked what led her to obtain the role of Adele in The Great Escaper, a British film to be released in October this year, she mentions partaking in an audition after COVID-19.
After not hearing back from the production team for just shy of a year, Danielle resulted in applying to more auditions. Responding to how she coped with the lack of knowledge of the results, Danielle says,
“I enjoy the mentality of metaphorically ripping the script and throwing it in the bin once I have auditioned for a role. This allows me to focus on the future.”
“As my career blossomed after Attack the Block, I was able to work for larger productions such as Black Mirror, which was a delight in itself. I notice that I tend to perform better when I approach every audition with the same mindset, whether I’m working with known celebrities or not, to prevent imposter syndrome, which I’m grateful enough to have never had while working on set for larger production teams. I remember being on set for The Bubble, and there were so many actors and actresses that I looked up to - and then there was just me, from ‘ends. I felt so privileged.”
When asked how she deals with the pressure of working alongside successful Hollywood stars, she tells me, “I’m always inspired and grateful. But, at the end of the day, we are all just talented people who have the unique opportunity to provide an act of service through performance to make those around us laugh, cry, and overall make their day feel that much better.”
During the filming for The Great Escaper, Danielle mentions the positive dynamic on set, stating that she and the cast members got along “very well.” Laughing, she reveals that some would even join her to watch Married at First Sight in between takes.
“We filmed in a real care home, so we were always stopped mid-way while shooting. But, it was honestly a fantastic experience, and such a good idea, because it enhanced the realism and added to the atmosphere while shooting.”
When questioned about any spotted similarities between herself and the fictional character of Adele whom she portrays in the upcoming film, The Great Escaper, Danielle states, “There's very much some similar attributes that we both have. We both take pleasure in speaking to the older generation to gain advice and wisdom. I think that many people in society neglect old people, or treat them as babies by whispering as if they can’t comprehend what we are saying to them. We often belittle them, which is all forms of ageism. But, because I grew up with my grandparents and great-grandparents, I’ve always been an old soul, and have learned to have love and respect for the people older than me. Adele didn’t seem too excited about her role, but she always showed the elders respect.”
When it came to preparing for her role as Adele, Danielle took pleasure in discussing the characteristics of a caring nurse with her mother, who previously worked as a nurse herself. Danielle mentions the glow in her mother's eyes, as she would recall tales that the elders often told her in the care home.
After working on the set of The Great Escaper for two months, Danielle is currently working as a writer and producer for The BBC. When asked about her journey into producing, she mentions her gratitude to have her pitches under commission through The BBC studios and looks forward to what the future holds. “It’s very exciting to see the stories I believe should be recognised on television being considered for broadcast. We need more ethnic minorities behind the scenes in the industry, to ensure that our stories are being told the correct way.”
She recommends that actors work behind the scenes in production, as believes it allows you to have the ability to create the world in which our society will perceive, rather than purely work on scripts based on someone else’s story. “There’s elements of politics in this role, and I believe that actors should write more, to understand what makes good dialogue, and to learn more about the construction of a fictional character from scratch.”
She mentions the most rewarding aspect of her career being people reaching out to her after viewing her work on stage and screen to let her know how much her work has impacted them, though, a complex aspect of performing is the occasional inability to remove yourself from the mind of the fictional character that you are portraying, as Danielle mentions the importance of having alone time with herself, and “remember that it’s not happening to me, as the body doesn’t realize that the trauma is affecting a fictional being, rather than myself - the body believes that it’s all the same.”
“When I’m working, I’m very much working, and when I’m relaxing, I’m very much relaxing. I’ll be spending time with my family and friends, so I enjoy my time off just as much as I enjoy my time working and being involved in production. I love creating thought-provoking pieces that result in discussion - because with my job, I’m not out here saving lives or anything. So, the least I can do is use my art form as a power force for revolution, and humanize my work by changing how society perceives certain topics.”
Danielle desires for more ethnic minorities to be portrayed in the media, and specifically mentions the lack of the South East Asian community in the television industry. “We are trying, but there’s always room for improvement.”
She encourages all aspiring entertainers to “Watch everything. Engage in all forms of television - not just genres you particularly enjoy. Do your research and watch theatre performances, because theatre is a great way of preparing yourself for the screen, as it allows you to access a portal where you master performing perfectly after one shot, as everything is live.”
“Also, it’s important to always do your best on stage, as you never know who’s watching…..”.
The Great Escaper is officially out in cinemas on the 6th of October.
Written by: Chelsea Abili