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Jennifer Bulcock, Actor

 

 

 

I started acting after kids, marriage and Me Too.  

I’ve had a conveyor belt of challenging life experiences. On their own, each challenge would be deemed manageable:  I had a breast tumour at 18 and a bad car accident at 19 which left me with kidney and bladder problems.  I have an autistic child; I have another probably autistic child too. I have another child with coeliac disease.  I married a…,  ah, let’s not talk about my marriage.

I did modelling and acting when I was seventeen. I had an agent and got accepted into drama school in London. I then had an unpleasant experience at a TV channel where I was working. Let’s just say that there was an expectation of something that wasn’t written into the contract. I felt very naïve because no-one else seemed to question it. They used to say ‘He wants to see you in his Office.’ Eventually I thought, ‘If I’m not happy with this, then I’m not going to get a job as an actor.’

So I moved back up north studied became a qualified Mortgage Advisor instead. It’s bit like acting because everything’s scripted:

‘Hello. I’m your mortgage advisor. How can I help you today….?’

 

That’s when I met the father of my children. We bought a flat in Sheffield, got married and out popped three kids, one after the other. The first was a pretty easy baby. Apart from the severe morning sickness and the mastitis that became a breast abscess and septicaemia, right as our apartment complex was flooded in the 2007 Sheffield floods. 

Yeah baby number one was a relatively easy baby, until after we’d had baby number two when he became much more needy. It was hard then: I was sleep deprived with two babies.  A year later we were still having very little sleep;  I was trying to force-feed Weetabix to a baby with undiagnosed coeliac disease to get him to sleep.  I went back to work from maternity leave on the due date of my period, and the period didn’t come.  

I delivered baby number three at home because I went into labour early. There was no midwife, just my partner and two toddlers. It all happened very quickly. 

I massively reduced my hours at the bank to care for three kids. Everyone else with kids seemed to find things so much easier. I was so sleep deprived that when my daughter was three, I made the tough decision to leave my job.  I started an online nutrition and fitness business.

What saved my sanity was getting up and out for a walk every morning;  my boys in the double buggy and baby in a sling. The weight just fell off me. I discovered work-outs on DVDs while the kids played. I did an AFN nutrition course and a personal training collective course. I did get offered a university place, but there wasn’t enough support for that one at home.

I ran the business successfully for 2-3 years; I was the highest wage-earner during that time. But then, my physical health problems got worse; my periods got really heavy. I had surgery on my womb. They blasted away most of it with thermal ablation. It really helped, but things were getting worse. I was raising the kids and running my business. Weekends were spent doing household chores to prepare for the following week. 

I’ve got hip dysplasia and scoliosis so my biomechanics aren’t great. That led to a bulging disc that caused sciatic pain. One day my whole right leg became paralysed. I was in and out of hospital, dosed up on diazepam and until I had emergency spinal surgery, they didn’t know if I’d walk again.  My business didn’t recover.

On set, Tin Star 3

A friend who knew that I’d once got into drama-school found an advert for a Sci-Fi TV show looking for extras. I applied. Nothing came of that but it reminded me of what I’d wanted to do as a kid. At the same time, the Me Too movement sparked chats about equality. I thought, ‘maybe this time I won’t end up being accosted in some dingy office.’

I registered with lots of different agencies. I couldn’t have afforded to just continue as an extra; extra work isn’t very well paid. I needed a job. My fitness & nutrition business was pretty much over; I put everything into looking for work in the performing arts. 

I was contacted by one of my agencies saying ‘we need a stand in for a big TV show but it’s working full time in Liverpool for 4 months.’ It was such an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t say no. After the difficult year I’d just had, I felt like I was owed some support to follow something I really wanted to do.

It was the best decision I ever made. 

The stand-in and doubling role on Tin Star 3, has pretty much changed my life. It’s the final series of a drama on Sky Atlantic. I was booked as a stand-in and double for Angela Worth played by Genevieve O’Reilly. I got to work a stunt scene. I had fire-arms training and I can now see what they filmed. I got on very well with the stunt coordinator and the stunt team took me under their wing. I stayed in touch with Tim Roth’s stunt double and now I’m in a very positive relationship with him. At the weekend we binge-watched the new series together. 

I have signed with an agency and worked on a few adverts. I’m working on numerous films with independent film makers, plus I was the Grinch for a school Christmas show.

I got on the Tin Star credits, but it’s not about the credits. It’s about doing good work and being part of a team.  I feel like I’ve come round full circle back to where I wanted to be before I got married and settled down. I also have three fantastic kids. So I’m really proud.

Like any parent, I’ve got to be careful which roles I take. I need to be very present in my kids’ lives, and juggling childcare can be quite challenging. My priority will always be my children, but as they have all said to me, “this year you have been so so happy, Mummy” and a happy mum equals happy kids.

 

 

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