• Jo Armstrong

Actor Steve Leeds - Finding Inspiration in Lockdown

Updated: Mar 12, 2021

Steve is a Leigh-on-Sea based actor / screenwriter who has created the ground-breaking 'Isolation the Series' in lockdown. An online series featuring a cast of actors including Matt Lucas, it was borne from a moment of inspiration, produced in a pioneering way, and is now creating a genuine buzz. Due to the current restrictions, our chat had to take place over Zoom - how apt!

Gaining good progress in his career prior to lockdown, including a part in 2019 award-winning Bollywood movie ‘The Sky is Pink’, starring Priyanka Chopra, it obviously came to a sudden pandemic-sized halt.

However, ever the optimist and with a passion to look for new ways to create, he found some benefits, explaining, “I always like to create things but life gets in the way … this time opened up a massive gap to do all the things I’ve not been able to do in the past couple of years by pushing the creative side … and getting new material out there”.

Inspired by casting directors setting up Zoom meetings for actors during lockdown, Steve turned his mind to how he could keep himself and other actors motivated. The idea of ‘Isolation The Series’ came to him suddenly one morning. He wrote a short script for one scene between two actors living apart. Both would film their parts separately on their phones and some clever editing would create the illusion they lived in the same house. Once he posted the scene on social media, the buzz began …

Encouraged by the response, Steve reasoned, “if I could do this with one scene, maybe I could do it with an episode and then from the episode, maybe a series …”. He went on to write, act in and edit seven episodes. A call for actors went out on social media and he received thousands of replies from around the world! An influential Hollywood casting agent & director even invited him to create a live video promoting the project on her Facebook page.

A cast was eventually made up of over 80 actors worldwide, including notable names Jon Campling (Harry Potter), Californian actress & writer Tracey Birdsall and the UK’s Matt Lucas. The episodes were uploaded onto Facebook and the finale received over 100,000 views! Some actors were offered other jobs as a result and messages still flood in from viewers saying how much it inspired them.

Achieving success with an unprecedented way of filming brought Steve much pride but it wasn’t an easy journey. Over the seven weeks, each day had a strict schedule of writing, filming, distributing scripts and editing to ensure an episode went out every Sunday. I was relieved to hear he had Thursdays off while the other actors were filming!

He will be doing it all again soon for a second series, explaining “even though the first series I thought I would leave in lockdown, it’s clear that everyone is still attached to it and it was so important to them during lockdown ... that it makes sense to build it and continue to create as many opportunities for people as possible”.

Plans for growth include creating its own platform and ideally including actors from every country! He has built a small production team for the second series but is looking for sponsorship to bring in more writers and creatives. He’s keen to hear from local companies who would like to get involved. Steve states, ”I’m trying to bring some of the arts to us because we’ve got so many beautiful places around Essex … so local businesses we can promote as well will be amazing”.

Filming has already taken place locally, including Leigh-on-Sea, for another of Steve’s projects - a film he has written and performs in - ‘Becoming Everything’. Telling the story of a recent widower and his young daughter, it focuses on subjects of grief and mental health. Intending to help people look for signs of distress in others’ behaviours, it took on even more meaning during the pandemic and has expedited its progress. “The story has quite a powerful meaning to it anyway," explains Steve, "and because of what’s happening in the world at the moment, it made me realise I needed to make this story even more”.

Clearly possessing strong drive and resilience, Steve is also honest about the ups & downs in the industry and advises those just starting out, “whatever happens, don’t be too hard on yourself … be yourself and respect what everyone else is doing … find a way to turn a difficult situation into something positive and follow other people on social media who do that”.

‘Isolation The Series’ illustrates how a positive focus can create energy & enthusiasm during dark times. Its creator states, “in five years’ time we may have been able to turn it into something that’s played on TV every night – that’s the dream”. Judging by Steve's ambition and tenacity, that dream may very well turn into a reality!

You can watch ’Isolation The Series’ on Facebook and check out Steve on Instagram.