It has been a year like no other, especially for those employed in the creative industries. Here, film and stage actress Karen Johal shares her experiences about adjusting to a new normal.

With everything going 'Virtual' it has meant on the one hand there are many delays and cancellations but on the other hand it has meant that a lot of my work is online and I can connect with people from all over the world.

This year I have been involved in several virtual Theatre readings in New York, often staying up late in order to reach audiences live in the US. Most recently I was cast as the lead role in “Lysistrata” a greek comedy. The New York Theater company The Mechanicals who I have worked with before adapted fairly quickly to the pandemic and had their production design team create zoom backgrounds, trailers and posters using my image.

There is a demand and a need for Theater despite the hard times, people miss it.

As an artist I can say working on these readings is important because it keeps me connected to my craft and artistry but as an audience member it helps to fill the void that has been left by UK Theatres being closed down for so long.

We haven’t had much support as freelance artists from the UK government but as a community actors are really resilient and they will keep creating so long as there is an audience to perform for, even virtually.

The upside of pandemic has meant that I have gotten to work on my material during the downtime and really hone my skills. I recently signed to the UK agency Shack Artists who have worked with a number of clients for major film productions such as “Life of PI”, “MisBehaviour” and “Yesterday”.

The networking part of the industry is still thriving, everyone is itching to get back to work now that we can in a covid safe space. Meeting virtually also means being economic and able to reach out to each other more without having to travel up and down the UK.

I have had many auditions since the beginning of this year with casting directors for film and TV and it makes sense to see each other via self tape and then virtually before meeting in person, that way you can see how I would potentially fill the role on screen.

Having a solid base in the US has also meant that I can audition in New York without physically being there until the project begins filming. I was contacted by the casting director of NBC’s The Blacklist with James Spader for a role.

As an ethnic minority there's been huge changes as well, we’re seeing people like Riz Ahmed and Dev Patel play leading roles and being recognised by the Academy for their work.

Years ago this would have not been the case. I think after the events of 2020 the gatekeepers of the industry have opened up their eyes to the fact that people of colour are often left out of the limelight and I think what is happening now is because of that.

There are real artists from all backgrounds making really important stories that need to be shared and I am excited to be a part of that narrative. In 2022 I am set to start filming “Victimhood” for Kill the Lion films in NYC where I play a Muslim American woman on a journey of discovery in regard to her sexuality.

The industry is ready now to see us play more than the terrorist or shopkeeper roles that have been done for years. Most of us have spent lockdown watching Netflix and using streaming services and the people who make these shows have been hit quite hard.

When you choose to take up a career in the arts you take on a huge risk of potentially not working or being out of work for unexpected periods of time, with the pandemic most people have been in that same situation so I think creatives have garnered a lot of sympathy this year.

My main two focuses have been to work on what I can, while I can, here in the UK and to really join the buzz that is happening around people of colour in the creative industry.