Meet Tharan Sivapatham: The Sri-Lankan refugee who set up his own acting academy in Glasgow

Tharan set up the Southside acting studio to help under-represented communities get into professional acting
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A Sri-Lankan born actor who starred in the Netflix production ‘Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga’ has warned of an acting talent drain within working class and minority ethnic groups.

Actor Tharan Sivapatham, 31, has urged casting directors to consider more performers who have not attended ‘prestigious acting schools’ in order to prevent under-privileged actors from moving south for greater opportunities.

To combat this dearth, Tharan along with his colleague Julie Gladin, set up the Southside Performance Studio – designed to help actors from under-represented communities gain high-level acting training which is accredited by Spotlight UK.

Despite his breakout performance in the hit Netflix film, self-taught actor Tharan has found opportunities difficult to come by, and believes that those continually cast in productions are of a certain demographic, experience and privileged background.

Tharan, said: “It’s without shock that acting is an incredibly competitive industry and Scotland produces some of the most talented actors in the world thanks to our prestigious acting schools and training opportunities.

“That said, I feel more needs to be done to ensure acting talent from disadvantaged backgrounds who may not have the means to attend these facilities are given an alternative route to achieving their goals.

“Over the years I have found it difficult to acquire roles I felt I was born to play, and it can have a real impact on one’s mental health. Southside Performance Studio was created to provide actors from a similar background to myself with a better chance of getting that coveted casting call.”

After fleeing Sri Lanka at the age of eight with his family due to an ongoing civil war; Tharan settled in a council estate in Glasgow.

Even though Tharan would fantasise about being an actor in his youth, upon arriving in Scotland, his family had £50 to their name and the luxury of acting school felt like a far-away dream.

Despite gaining a degree in engineering from the University of Strathclyde, Tharan’s passion for acting continued to take precedence, and after performing in his first stage show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014, he began pursuing his dream.

It wasn’t until after his appearance alongside Will Ferrell in the Hollywood movie that Tharan struggled to gain more work. Disenfranchised with the system, he set up Southside Performance Studio during lockdown to help others get a better start in the industry than he did.

Tharan leads an acting class at Southside Performance StudioTharan leads an acting class at Southside Performance Studio
Tharan leads an acting class at Southside Performance Studio

Tharan, added: “Acting has long been a glamourised and sought-after profession, whether it is shooting a thriller on film or receiving a rapturous applause for a stage performance, the adrenaline experienced when taking on a crucial role cannot be matched.

“I want people from all backgrounds to experience the buzz acting can give you, no matter your age, ethnicity or difficulties.

“Everyone – regardless of where you schooled or where you grew up – should be given the opportunity to succeed in an audition, and this is our number one goal at Southside Performance Studio.”

Since its inception in 2020, Southside Performance Studio has produced six theatre plays, three feature films, 14 short films, 24 sketches and a TV series which can be found on Prime Video.

The Glasgow-based studio provides professional acting and singing courses with group and one-two-one training available.

To find out more about Southside Performance Studio, visit their website.