UP-and-coming actress Eimheár Jackson has been taking New York by storm despite only graduating in June.
The former St Louise’s pupil had been studying Acting for Filming and TV alongside Musical Theatre at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and now has a wealth of credits under her belt including Disney and CBBC.
Describing how she ended up in the Big Apple, Eimheár likened it to an epiphany.
“When I was at St Kevin’s Primary School I played Alice in Alice in Wonderland and I didn’t even know that I could sing. I was always really big into GAA and when I did that show in primary seven my whole family thought that it was going to be a laugh. They were blown away that I could actually sing and it started from there really. Then I chose St Louise’s for the Drama Department.
“I always thought that everyone has to go to university and I knew that I hated written work. It was never me. I felt that I had to go to uni and so I went to Hope in Liverpool and after a year I felt that it wasn’t challenging enough for me. It would have been great if you wanted to be a Drama teacher but it wasn’t very practical.
“Even though I was getting straight A*s, I didn’t feel that it was helping me pursue it as a career. One day I had this kind of epiphany where I decided I was going to go to New York.”
For Eimheár, who had no connections in the United States, this would be a big leap of faith, but one she was determined to take.
“I had never been to the States in my life, didn’t know anyone in New York, don’t have any family in America but I was determined to go to New York. I googled the best acting school in America, clicked the first one which was the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and decided that’s where I was going.
“As an actor, you don’t have to go to school. You either have it or you don’t. But I knew that there was more that I was missing out on. If I wanted to do it as a career, I had to train and learn new skills.”
Having set her heart on moving to New York, the costs associated with attending her school of choice were startling.
“I went home at Christmas and applied to the school in New York. The other side of me was thinking that it would be a bit crazy to move from Belfast to New York. They offered a summer intensive programme which was a month long. I thought that would let me test the waters and see,” she said.
“I had done some more research and been in contact with the school. The school was 32 grand a year for two years so the course would cost 64 grand. There was no way we would have been able to afford that so I settled on doing the summer programme which was around £5,000 and included your dorms.
“I worked in a pharmacy back home for a year which allowed me to save and then I went to the summer programme. I fell in love with the school but I told them that there was no way I would be able to afford it.
“The school really took a liking to me and they offered me a scholarship of $40,000. I spoke to my parents and told them that we could take out a payment plan. They were completely supportive and it was a struggle.
“With the help of my family and the Credit Union, they have been life-savers. But we did it.”
Newyork❤️ pic.twitter.com/EP2VFHZps8— Eimhear jackson (@EimhearJackson) August 6, 2017
Describing her first impressions when landing in New York, Eimheár found the people rude but said she immediately fell in love with the city.
“When I arrived in New York, I didn’t realise that they drove on the opposite side of the road. I got out of the airport and hailed a yellow cab like they do in the movies. I got in the back and the driver got in and sat in front of me. I thought they must share cabs in New York then the car started driving and I thought they’re not that far ahead of us – they don’t have self-driving cars. Then I looked in and saw the steering wheel on the left hand side.
"When I got started at the school, it was all practical work. Each class would have a strong impact on how you form yourself as an actor. It was completely different to Liverpool in that I wasn’t sitting in a lecture room, I was in studios with 4k cameras. It felt like I was walking onto a real-life set every day and it felt like I was going to work,” she added.
“I did a feature film in 2011 or 2012 called Pump Girl and Geraldine Hughes played my mother which started the film and TV journey for me. From there I have worked with Disney and CBBC. With Covid work has been a bit dry but I have done a few commercials. I only graduated in June so I feel lucky to have bits of work coming through.
“I have written a short film and I am trying to help out other international students here pick up work because I know the struggle for international students. I have just bought a load of film equipment because if I am not bringing in work, I need to be sending out my own content too.”
For Eimheár, the Irish-American community in New York has been of great assistance and has allowed her to grow her connections in the city.
“There is a huge Irish-American community. I have done a few readings with the New York Irish-American Center in Long Island. In 2017 I attended New York New Belfast and bumped into Geraldine Hughes again and that was the first we had seen each other since the film. From that, I met another girl and a year or so later we met again at another event.
“It seems like such a huge community but it is like being at home because everyone knows each other. People think New York is so big but I was walking down the street and bumped into another Irish girl who I knew and it turns out she is now living two hours away."
Issuing a piece of advice to anyone thinking of following in her footsteps, Eimheár added: “Go for it, nothing should hold you back from what you want to pursue. It is very important that when you have your mind set on something that you go for it. You have to be determined and really want it. Just take the leap and go for it.”