Erica Muscat: ‘I used to have dreams where I could control flight. There’s nothing quite like it’

Actress Erica Muscat tells all in our Q&A

The professional stage and screen actor is a graduate of the prestigious East 15 School in the UK, whose driver and inspiration stems from her simple love of the sea and a deep-seated curiosity for the unknown.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

I’m really fortunate to live by the sea. So my routine usually consists of a freshly brewed cup of coffee looking out and breathing the fresh sea air. Unless I’m heading out for the day, then it’s a quick hop in the shower while praying that I’m not caught in traffic!

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

My acting coach once said: You live in a state of extremes. Embrace it! And also: drive, not ambition.

What do you never leave the house without?

The Three-Piece rule plus one: Phone. Keys. Cash and hand-sanitizer (I keep my stash of masks in my car…)

Pick three words that describe yourself

Passionate. Curious. Tenacious.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Last year, after years of being fascinated by the woman behind the role, I had the opportunity to play Lady Macbeth at Teatru Manoel. It was directed by British director Clive Judd and the production was Unifaun Production’s swan song. The collaboration was entirely too perfect to dream up myself. Around the same time, I also taught my 2-year-old nephew to say the opening line from Hamlet’s iconic soliloquy. It’s a toss-up!

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

A steaming hot bath with lavender oils, candles… Nina Simone in the background.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Life’s not fair, and plans rarely follow through as intended. But if you approach life with a healthy dose of curiosity, then you might find that it’s really about the tiny moments that you’re usually too busy trodding over with greater ambition.

Property and cars aside what’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

When I moved back to Malta, I invested in a mobile projector. It’s the size of a coke can, has inbuilt speakers and costs less than a TV. I’d always dreamt of a private home cinema and this comes pretty close. I’d planned on taking it out camping a few times this summer but… COVID! So the roof will have to do.

What is one thing you wish you knew when you were younger?

History is subjective. Don’t believe everything you read in history books. Unbiased, educated research is key.

Who’s your inspiration?

Nature. The sea. And the tiny tots in our family. The way children view the world is astounding.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Fully accepting myself. It’s still a work in progress; I’m not a particularly patient person.

If you weren’t an actor what would you be doing?

An archaeologist, with a specialization in either Hellenic Studies or Egyptology.

Do you believe in God?

Yes.

If you could have dinner with any person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Dame Judi Dench. I received sponsorship from both her and Janatha Stubbs when I first went to study. Luckily I have been able to nurture a beautiful relationship with Janatha who continues to amaze in her support of the arts, but I’ve never had the opportunity to thank Dame Judi personally. I’d pay, of course!

What’s your worst habit?

I’m a night owl, which works great for me, but not so much for my sister, who’s the driving force in organising early morning family events.

What are you like when you’re drunk?

I’m more of a ginger beer kinda girl but when I let my hair down I’m definitely cheekier and playful than what most people expect of me.

Who would you have play you in a film?

Tatiana Maslany. I have many ‘faces’ and she’s the obvious choice for being able to keep up with them!

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

A lack of passion and integrity.

What music would you have played at your funeral?

Poems set to music.

What is your most treasured material possession?

I’ve always taken pride in being able to live out of a suitcase. So I’d say, my memories: it’s not material, per se, but it’s what all my money has gone into. I’ve ‘collected’ so many unbelievable memories along the way but my most treasured was working with voice master Kristin Linklater in Orkney in prep for my role as Lady Macbeth at Teatru Manoel.

What is your earliest memory?

Eating a yoghurt whilst looking out of a window overlooking the fountain in Piazza della Repubblica in Rome. I would have been about two years old.

When did you last cry, and why?

A week ago when I was informed of the death of my voice tutor up in Orkney. Kristin Linklater was an absolute force of nature. She passed away on 5 June. She was an inspiration. Her work changed me on a nuclear level and I feel her loss acutely. She left behind an international community made of some of the most beautiful souls I have ever met in my life and we will keep honouring her memory through the work she shared with us.

Who would you most like to meet?

I’d rather think I’d love to ‘work’ with him but it would be Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story, 2019). He writes most of the work he directs and it’s always incredibly personal with this unbelievably naturalistic dialogue. It’s a particular style of film that would work incredibly well in a live theatre setting but he manages to heighten the film experience through extended moments of weighted silence and imagery.

What’s your favourite food?

My mum’s homemade chicken breast battered in crushed cornflakes. Also her quiche Lorraine: she’d always have a pie waiting for me in the oven, each time I came back to Malta for the holidays.

Who’s your favourite person on social media right now?

Viola Davis, one of the world’s greatest actresses. With everything that’s happening in America and the world right now, she has this breath-taking eloquence that opens your eyes and heart to the pain being experienced by the black community.

If you could travel in time, where would you go?

I’d travel back to the time of the early hominid. Prof. Steven Mithen suggested in his book ‘The Singing Neanderthals’, that man may have sung before he spoke. If it’s true, wouldn’t it be spectacular to travel back and hear the Original Song, instead of the grunts and groans we’ve attributed to our ancestors for all these years? What could that mean for the development of language today?

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Flight. I used to have dreams where I could control flight. There’s nothing quite like it.

What’s one thing you want to do before you die?

I’d love to go on a trans-Pacific or Trans-Atlantic Cruise. My dad spent a number of years working at sea and I seem to have inherited that love. I’m most at peace when I’m by open sea.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

John Legend. I happen to be going through a period of intense creative writing and his dulcet tones just set the neurons firing.

In the shower or when you’re working out, what do you sing/listen to?

I have a playlist that I add to, daily. From movie soundtracks, to 90s ballads, musical numbers and noughties head-bangers. But it all tends to be lyric-based. If the lyrics hold any significance you’ll find it on my playlist.

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