Braving the celluloid seas | Marama Corlett

While still in her twenties, Marama Corlett has performed alongside Keira Knightley on stage and appeared in The Devil’s Double. The London-based Maltese actress speaks to us about her prominent role in the Sky 1 series Sinbad – filmed in Malta last year, its first season will debut on July 8.

Marama Corlett: “Many people in Malta have great potential, they just need to do something about it. The doors have been opened a while back.”
Marama Corlett: “Many people in Malta have great potential, they just need to do something about it. The doors have been opened a while back.”

How were you chosen for the role of Rina, the thief?

Well, I have Maltese casting director Edward Said to thank for that. He was the first ever to give me a chance and cast me in my first acting job in The Devil's Double. Sinbad director Andy Wilson and Hubbard casting in London were prepping for the series at the time. They were still searching for a Rina. Edward showed them some footage of me from a recent film audition we had worked on together. They were interested and got in touch with my agent. The process took around three months, with several auditions, and in the end, I got the role.

Why do you think you were chosen?

I made sure I was very well prepared for the auditions. I guess in the end I was the best option and had the ability to transmit emotions intensely and naturally on screen.

How did you first get into acting?

I have been acting professionally for nearly three years. I started out as a ballet dancer working with Olivia Dow's company Ballet Russ de Malt in Malta then went on to further my dancing career in London. I was very much in love with it, and still am. I've always been intrigued by film and theatre, I just never had the time to get formal training but I figured I could learn on the job and use life experience. After graduating from dance college in London I started working on short films and soon enough The Devil's Double came along, which got me an agent and then other auditions.

Apart from appearing in The Devil's Double, you also trod the boards alongside Kiera Knightley in the play The Children's Hour in London's West End last year. What was working with the Hollywood superstar like, and how did you find the theatre experience as a whole?

Keira Knightley is an extremely passionate and hard working actress but also very down to earth and truly genuine. Just like on screen, she has a strong presence in person and this ability captures audiences in live performance. I learnt so much from working with her, and it was a real privilege. The West End theatres are so enchanting, and the walls seem to carry energy from all of its past performances. It's just really overwhelming to be on stage every night, it gives you a real buzz. I was auditioning for Sinbad while working on the play and it definitely gave me confidence when approaching the role.

How is your career progressing now?

It's progressing shockingly well. I have a multitude of projects in the pipeline, it's just a matter of which ones I would like to do. I feel very blessed, and have been quite lucky really.

What did you learn about the craft of acting from your experience during Sinbad?

I have learnt an endless amount of things on this job. Doing my own stunts was a major one, as well as getting the hang of underwater scenes on-screen fighting. Another important thing I learnt was to always keep a stash of Twistees in my bag on set - keeps you going! Soon enough everyone was doing it. Twistees galore!

How would you describe working on the series? What was the atmosphere and working schedule like?

A lot of the time we worked on the ship built specifically for Sinbad. We had five different directors over nine months of filming. Each one comes with different ideas and way of working. New script drafts come in regularly so you have to be on the ball and flexible to change. The schedule was of course intense and physically challenging, with long hours, early starts and late finishes for all involved. Like any other job, not every day was a good day, but that doesn't mean we didn't have fun. I think most days my belly hurt from laughing. The cast and crew - both English and Maltese - worked extremely hard and got along very well. We all took care of each other so there was a family atmosphere.

How did feel to be working on home turf for so long?

You know, I kind of 'escaped' from Malta to look for work... and seven years later, I get a job in Malta. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life. I was in my element, really and truly at home.

Do you think that the series will be a hit among international audiences?

Sinbad will air from the first week of July, and it has already been sold to countries like France, Australia and Canada. It's looking positive and from what I have seen so far, Malta has given it a great feel. Sky have put a lot into this and have not got anything quite like Sinbad on at the moment. I'm sure it will have a good following.

How would you describe Rina? What do you like most about her? How did you prepare for the role - did you do any research?

Rina is like a fox, she lives on the streets, owns anything but owes nothing. She starts off so tough and almost numb to her own feelings so there was a lot to break down and work with through the episodes to make her feel human again. Creating a spine for the character is always good fun for me. You start off with what the writers give you, then fill in all the gaps. The research was endless really: spanning from mythology and Middle Eastern history to human trafficking.

Do you think that more Maltese actors have the potential to break into Hollywood?

Of course! Maltese actor and legend Joseph Calleia (1897-1975) - who broke into Hollywood way before I was even born - or for instance Manuel Cauchi and Charles Thake - who have been in numerous international features - are great examples. I admire these Maltese actors who are brilliant, and feel very proud to be following in their footsteps. Many people in Malta have great potential, they just need to do something about it. The doors have been opened a while back...

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