What’s your full name?
Greta Elizabeth Gould
How old are you?
Where were you born/brought up?
What do you do for a living?
Actress, Writer & Director
What’s your ethnicity?
In short - Half Venezuelan-Trinidadian, half Eastern-European Jewish American, or as my dad once said Hebraic-Hispanic. In full - my mum was born in Venezuela and grew up in Trinidad. My dad was born and brought up in California, both of his parents were Jewish. His mother was originally from Prague, his paternal grandfather was Polish and his paternal grandmother was originally from Lithuania.
How did your mum and dad meet?
At work. My dad is a lawyer and visited England on a working holiday and never left. My mum travelled and worked her way around Europe. When she met my dad, my mum was working as the office manager for another law firm that shared offices with the law firm my dad worked for.
How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?
Sometime in primary school, I guess. I’d start getting questions about where I came from. It made me aware that I was a bit different, but I’d always felt like being different was a good thing. Everyone’s always trying to fit in, but I always find strength and pride in standing out.
Did you want to change your appearance when you were a child?
Not really as a child. I had a friend at school who told me my nose was big, and I felt a little self conscious about it at the time. Later on during puberty I developed insecurities about my body, which I still deal with today, and that has a lot to do with the depiction of women in the media. However, a few years ago, someone once told me they thought I had the perfect nose, and it made me feel that it doesn’t matter if lots of people think you’re too this, or too that, because there will always be someone, even if it’s only one person, and even if it’s only you, who thinks you’re just right.
Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.
As a young child, I remember getting out of the car, and a couple of boys my age shouted across the road, “Go home you Greek!” To which I replied, “I’m not Greek!” I have to say, at the time, I found it more funny, than anything else. The 'trouble' with being hard to identify or label is, that racists can’t properly make insults about where I’m from!
Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?
I don’t think anyone can be prepared for a mixed race life, because it’s a different experience for different people. At first glance, with my hair pulled back, someone might assume that I’m of Asian or Middle Eastern heritage, and mixed race for a lot of people in the UK means someone with one white and one black parent. So even though I’m mixed race, someone isn’t necessarily going to think that I am at first glance. I live in North London, was brought up there and have moved in generally liberal, tolerant and diverse circles, so the way I look, in this context, isn’t that much of an issue. The one area of my life where my background and the way I look is more of an issue, is my work. As an actor, my ethnicity is what’s going to get me in the room for certain roles, and keep me out of the room for others. In this context I am defined by the way I look (as most actors are), in a way in which I am not in my daily life. My heritage also comes into play, because there are certain roles where they ask for someone with a specific background or upbringing. So on the one hand, I'm not able to apply for some roles that are for mixed race actors (despite that being my background), but can apply for Middle Eastern/Asian roles, and on the other hand, I can't apply for those Middle Eastern/Asian roles that also want someone specifically of that heritage. So, I don't feel like I'm easy to categorize in the acting world, which has it's pros and cons. I can’t tell you what it’s like to be mixed race for someone with a different ethnic background. There will be some similarities, and some differences. Technically we are all of mixed heritage, and we are all one race, but that doesn’t stop people being defined a certain way because of how they look.
What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?
It’s not really overt comments, but occasionally when I meet someone new, they may imply that in some way I’m not English or British. I was born in this country, went to school here, I live here, I work here. And yet I must clarify that I am British. I did a pole dancing class recently, and the teacher who was white British noticed that almost all the class was from another country. So she goes round asking everyone to tell the rest of the class where they originally came from (It felt a little condescending). So people are saying Poland, China, Nigeria etc., etc., and she gets to me, and I say “East Finchley” and you could tell she was slightly taken aback. She had made an assumption that I don’t look English, so I must not have been born here.
What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?
That mixed race doesn't just mean one thing. That really we all come from one race. That I don’t fit in a tidy little box or label, and that labels can be restrictive/reductive. That if they delved a little deeper into their own history they might find out some interesting things about their own background too.
Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?
It's getting better, but as with most depictions of non white people, there's room for improvement in. It's as much about seeing those non white faces behind the scenes as in front.
Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?
Depends on what you look like and where you live. My own experience is that I face little in the way of overt racism, but I live in London. Maybe, if I lived in a more homogeneous part of the country, or somewhere else, I would be subject to more discrimination.
Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?
A blessing. People can make assumptions about who I am or where I come from, but I know that I am blessed because I get to be immersed in all these wonderful cultures that enrich my life. I feel like my experiences have made me more open minded and accepting of other people.
Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?
I think my identity is constantly evolving. Of course I’m changing and getting older, and my perspective is shifting, but the world is shifting alongside me. I think getting to know and work with people with different backgrounds, white and non white, has had an impact on my identity, but generally for the positive. I'm more aware of certain privileges I've had, as well as feeling much more connected to my identity as a non white person. I’m not struggling with my identity, as much as I’m simply engaging in a larger conversation about what it means to not be white in a predominantly white country, what I want to achieve in life and what impact do I want to have on others. I may struggle with certain insecurities, but I don't have to let the way others see me affect the way I feel about myself. The beauty, fashion and entertainment industries have a certain definition of what's normal, of what's beautiful, of what's 'correct' and if I don't happen to fit into aspects of that, I can choose to make that a problem, or I can choose to say "So what? I'll be as beautiful, weird and wonderful as I want to be, and no one's gonna tell me otherwise."
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You don't have to stop yourself, because you think you'll be judged, or you might fail. Just go for it.