Bolton School Former Pupils

Paul Holowaty (1996-2003)

From Bolton To Beverly Hills

A career in the performing arts is different for everyone, but the same for most – an infinite series of disappointments, near-misses and, of course, rejection. Brutal rejection that can be contrived to look like bad luck. Empty bank accounts and deferred milestones are the ‘table stakes’. But they are tolerable because you want it so badly that it drowns out the ability to want for much else. Once you have tasted that elixir of performing, once you’ve been to the mountaintop and experienced that high, the ecstasy is intoxicating ... alas nothing lasts forever. Weeks go by before you can acquire your next hit, those weeks turn into months, a long winter of discontent. This barren season will surely be over soon, regardless you’re a man for all seasons, or at least you think you are. The omnipotence gives way to impotence and you’re forced to step back from the hive for a moment and then you see that the chaotic life of each performer assumes the order of a colony. The majority living a little less so that the chosen few can live so much more.

It was actually Park Road (Bolton Junior School) that lit the touch paper for my love of performing. Despite neither of us being the requisite age, my brother introduced me to the adult TV series Bottom (Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson). Being a fan of Rik Mayall, I watched his version of Toad in a TV adaptation of The Wind in The Willows. It just so happened that the Park Road school play was Toad of Toad Hall and I was cast as Toad after imitating Rik’s voice in the audition. (Maybe imitation is the highest form of flattery.) That buzz of performing gave me an unprecedented feeling. Add to that the fact that after one of the performances, a returning parent gifted me a £5 WH Smith book voucher – I thought maybe there’s some money in this (talk about a red herring ...)

After that experience I dabbled outside School with some amateur dramatics. Then, at 14, after attending an open audition for Oliver at the Manchester Opera House, I won a part in the show for six months and the legendary headmaster Mr Wright (the Albus Dumbledore of Bolton School) was kind enough to let me have some time off. I discovered that a lot of the children in the play had agents, so I got myself one. From then, it was bit parts in the staples of British television (Coronation Street, Emmerdale etc). Bolton School had instilled in me a love of learning and studying, so when it came to post-school life I decided to continue academia and studied History and Russian at the University of Nottingham. Whilst there, as well as playing for the university football team and being involved with the drama society, I also did a few TV jobs, including a six-month stint in Hollyoaks. This was another skill that I learned from Bolton School; have the confidence to try everything and say ‘yes’.

After graduating from Nottingham, as I’d never received any formal acting training, I decided to do an MA at the East 15 Acting School in London. I stayed in London for another few years, doing plays in the West End, regionally and in Berlin, coupled with a few more bit parts on TV. ‘A learner mindset’ was something else that I had acquired thanks to the Bolton School environment, and so I also spent a summer in Paris with the legendary clown teacher, Philippe Gaulier.

The auditions and opportunities had started to dry up in 2012 so I decided a change was in order. I visited LA for the first time in January 2013 and fell in love with the place almost immediately. (Sunshine, palm trees and rollerblading Barbies – what more does one need?!). I moved to LA permanently in September of that year and have been based there pretty much ever since. I’ve continued to have bit parts in television and film, including NCIS and Dolittle with Robert Downey Jr and Michael Sheen. I guess you could call me the bit part man, but any time you get paid to do what you love is a blessing.

Some recommendations that might be useful: Books – Audition by Michael Shurtleff, Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen, Being An Actor by Simon Callow. Podcasts – Audrey Helps Actors, 10000 Nos. A few quotes have helped me over the years: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.” Another one that speaks to me is “Comparison is the thief of joy,” particularly resonant in the age of social media.

As well as the aforementioned traits that Bolton School implanted in me, another was a love of languages. Because of the language teachers there (in particular the inspirational Mr Brace), I already had a solid foundation when I decided a few years ago to return to languages as a hobby. I will hopefully add Portuguese before the end of the year which will take me to six languages. A good number for me, as this was my old Bolton School football number. I’d be remiss if when talking about Bolton School I didn’t mention 2003. Mr Rigby and Mr Knibbs, both great teachers as well as fantastic football coaches, our annus mirabilis being marked with victory in The ISFA Cup. (Unfortunately, I believe we are still the only year to win the cup for the U18s.)

Paul’s next two projects will be out later in the year, including the feature film Numb. If you’d like to follow him on social media or reach out with any questions, you can do so @paulholowaty.

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