As a short actor, I want to break down the height barrier – #EndtheAwkward

Guest post from Francesca Mills, who stars in our ‘What Not to Do… In a Job Interview’ film, co-produced with Channel 4. She has dwarfism, and previously appeared in ITV hidden camera prank show Off Their Rockers.

It’s amazing what people will believe. In Off Their Rockers, a sketch show where we pranked members of the public, I managed to convince customers at a launderette that the boss let me take home all the clothes that shrunk in the wash.

I even told them that if I saw something I liked going into the dryer, I’d cheekily turn the temperature up so it would shrink! The two women whose reactions eventually aired were totally on board with it.

My work on Off Their Rockers led me to get a part on Scope and Channel 4’s short film, ‘What Not to Do… In a Job Interview’. In it, I and another actor get into all sorts of trouble because of his awkwardness around my height.

Filming What Not to Do…

The other woman in the interview had no idea what was going on. She was a businesswoman who was used to doing mock interviews on video, and we’d told her she would be helping out a big company with their staff training.

By halfway through, she was starting to get very flustered! She kept smiling at me, but because she was there to do a job she kept quiet – which is fair enough, because it was all quite light.

Sam, the ‘interviewer’, was brilliant. I found it so hard to keep a straight face most of the day. Between takes we’d go into the other room and just break down laughing, it was so funny.

Awkwardness in my life

I’m quite young, so I haven’t experienced many situations like the job interview yet. Certainly no one has ever picked me up and put me on a chair!

Fran and a male actor talking, both sitting behind a table
Fran and Sam in our What Not To Do film

But you do get lots of situation where, like Sam’s character, people are scared of putting a foot wrong. They get really conscious of what they’re saying.

Sam represented that really well, because you could see the fear in his eyes. He really didn’t want to offend me, and that’s why he was getting so worked up. He was just trying to handle it the best way he could.

That’s why the film is so good – because it makes people realise, ‘Oh, actually I don’t have to freak out every time I’m talking to a disabled person.’ We have exactly the same sense of humour as everyone else, and we actually won’t be too fazed if someone’s being awkward.

Breaking down the height barrier

I just moved to London about two weeks ago. In November I start rehearsals for Peter Pan at the New Wimbledon Theatre; I’ll be playing Tinkerbell, which is very exciting.

In the future, I’d love to do a serious play, or a musical – anything, really! I’m enjoying the diversity of the jobs I’m doing at the moment.

But I do think all short actors want to try and break down the idea that short actors can’t be used for ‘tall’ acting jobs.

Warwick Davis, whom I’ve worked with, is a real inspiration – for example, he appeared in Spamalot in a role that could have gone to someone of any height, because he’s proved himself.

We’re all striving for the same thing: to get casting directors thinking about employing short people for roles where no reference is made to them being short. Where it’s just accepted.

Watch all six shorts now on Scope’s YouTube channel. Do you have a similar awkward story to share? Email stories@scope.org.uk