BA Modern Languages and International Relations
LA based actor and graduate, Alice Amter, talks to the
University of Wolverhampton about starring in hit TV show, The
Big Bang Theory and what life is like on the
WLV: Alice, we have to say, interviewing a Hollywood actress is
certainly a first for us! Congratulations on your success so far,
you must be very proud…
AA: Yes I am; thank you. It’s
been a tough journey at times, but to go from a council flat in the
suburbs of Birmingham to the hills of LA is a blessing.
WLV: Your big career break came in 1998 when you appeared in
the hit US TV show ER. How did you feel getting such a
huge opportunity so early on in your career?
AA: I was cast in George
Clooney’s final two episodes of ER and luckily I got to
work with him. I was a big fan of the show and although I was new
on the scene I was certain I could do the role. Casting in TV is
about fit, and I fit that role. It was a great starting point and
proved to me that I could make this work.
WLV: Since then you’ve gone on to star in films like The
Good Girl and A Man Apart, and you’re now in another
award-winning US show, The Big Bang Theory, as Raj’s
mother ‘Mrs Koothrappali.’ What’s that like?
AA: I love being part of the
show. I play a recurring character so I’m not there as much as the
regular cast members, but when I do work it’s very exciting. The
cast and crew are small compared to other shows, so there’s a real
family bond, and they’re all so talented.
WLV: What do you love most about being on the show?
AA: It has to be a) working
with such an insanely talented group of people both in front and
behind the camera; and b) the response from the live studio
audience when we shoot; they are so full of praise and enthusiasm
and you feel really loved.
WLV: What’s the most challenging aspect?
AA: To be as good as everyone
else. The show runs like a well-oiled machine and everyone is a
professional with a good, positive attitude.
WLV: You’re known as The Chameleon because of your
ability to portray a variety of roles. How did you get the
AA: I gave the name to
myself, but people have always said I’m like a chameleon because
I’m constantly adapting myself to suit my environment.
WLV: That must come in handy being an actor…
AA: Being able to adapt is
definitely suited to film work because you’re a different character
every time. But with TV you’ll be one character on a show that
could run for up to 10 years and so you’re not so much of a
chameleon then! Saying that, people I encounter rarely make the
connection between me and ‘Mrs Koothrappali’ and when I tell them,
they’re shocked to see how different we are.
WLV: You graduated in Modern Languages and International
Relations and initially went into teaching English abroad. What
made you decide to pursue acting full-time?
AA: I always had a childhood
dream of being on stage, but back then, because I was academically
sound and from a disadvantaged background I did what everyone
thought I should do – get a stable job that would bring in regular
income. But I realised that even when I had that I wasn’t really
happy and I still wanted to pursue my dream. I had no idea it would
be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.
WLV: In what way difficult?
AA: Teaching was a stable job
but with acting it takes a while to start making a living. You
might get a role here or there but you have to juggle part-time
jobs such as waitressing or bartending - I did a little bit of
teaching English. You can’t control when auditions come up and it
can be very stressful. It isn’t something you should do unless you
are really passionate about it.
WLV: Do you prefer working in film or television?
AA: I love big budget films
like A Man Apart and for a while I was getting much more
film work than TV. The problem with film though is that the
majority are low budget, which means they take a long time to get
out of post-production and even then may never be cleared for
theatrical release. TV on the other hand is much more immediate.
You shoot the show and you know it is going to end up on air –
usually within four to six weeks.
Currently The Big Bang
Theory is in syndication on four networks in America so I
am on TV every week. You can work really hard on a film and it may
never reach a single screen because getting a distribution deal can
be really tough. Ideally I would like to do both, but being able to
work in just one medium these days is a blessing in itself because
it is such a tough marketplace.
WLV: You’ve worked alongside some very famous people – George
Clooney, Jennifer Aniston and Vin Diesel to name a few. Have you
ever been star-struck?
AA: Generally speaking no.
Living in LA you get used to seeing famous people and I’ve never
been one to be intimidated. To me, Jim, Johnny and Kaley are just
fellow co-workers. Saying that, I do remember filming The
Cleaner with Benjamin Bratt and wishing I wasn’t dressed like
an old lady!
WLV: What are your aspirations for the future?
AA: I want to build an
Empire; I want to create brand Alice – a brand of my own that
symbolises a lifestyle, incorporating things like perfume, music,
clothing, books – the lot! I like challenges and this just seems
like a huge challenge. The way I see it, others have done it so why
WLV: What advice would you give one of today’s graduates?
AA: Think really hard about
what you want to do. What I thought I wanted didn’t end up being
what I’m actually doing. Your career may not be in the degree you
study but you can always find ways of making it work for you. Don’t
limit yourself; think really big.