Saturday, 20 July 2013

Acting & Loneliness

There's been a lot of sad news surrounding the acting industry this week with the tragic loss of three actors in the space of 7 days. Sadly, these losses are experienced by people every day and, of course, aren't exclusive to the acting industry, but with three occurring in such a short space of time, it does make the industry look inwards.

I don't know what had happened to any of these actors, or in fact any others who we've lost far too early, so I can't comment on what must've been going through their minds or look at individual cases. But what I can talk about is just how lonely acting can be sometimes. As an actor, although I still maintain that a group of actors should be called a 'whinge', you feel foolish for ever complaining about your job. Other people are out there saving lives (I presume that anyone who isn't an actor is saving lives) while we're sat at home wondering why we didn't get the role of a tortoise (true story.)

From the outside, acting looks like a wonderfully fun and social career and it is, when you're in work. When you're working, you've got a lovely cast and crew to spend, usually, far too much time with and you build up a little community. You get a wonderful feeling of solidarity and like you can take on the world. But as soon as the project is over, you all wander off full of promises that you'll all keep in touch. And maybe you do. For a while. But then others will move on to new jobs and become part of another temporary family and soon you're lucky to get a 'happy birthday' on Facebook from someone you previously spent a good 80% of your life with.

The problem with acting is that you often can't win. You're either constantly in work and find yourself spending far too much time away from treasured loved ones or you're hardly in work and spend a lot of time padding around the house wondering where you've gone wrong. If you're in work then you feel like you're not allowed to complain, even if you find yourself playing a role you hate or working with a cast you just don't get on with. You feel like you can't whinge about it because, hey, at least you're working. But being in work brings its own stresses as well. There are often very long, unsociable hours involved and if you're doing unpaid work then you often find yourself trying to juggle a day job alongside it meaning you're often exhausted and have no time for anything else.

Acting is an incredibly singular job and constantly forces you to look at yourself. If you're not getting work (or not getting the work that you want) you can blame the current state of the industry for as long as you like but you will find yourself staring in the mirror and blaming yourself. Maybe we're just not talented enough or we're not attractive enough or we need to lose weight or maybe we're just not that likeable? All these thoughts stick with you and it's therefore no wonder that actors start to feel down. And often, unless you're friends with other actors who are in the same boat, it can feel like you have no one to talk to who might understand.

I think social networking does a lot to help. Yes, it can be annoying when you've got one of those 'friends' who insists on posting every single career success when your CV is as barren as a garden during a hosepipe ban but it also helps to know that you're not alone. Speaking to other actors on Twitter has taught me that it's never just me constantly despairing at this often ridiculous job and that there are coping mechanisms. I know that a lot of actors have found great solace from joining groups such as the British Actors' Network on Facebook and setting up regular socials to make sure that a real network of support is out there.

As well as their wonderful legacy of work, I hope that Richard Gent, Paul Bhattacharjee and Cory Monteith, along with all the other actors that have departed too soon, have left us with the courage to reach out more and make sure that no actor ever feels like they're alone.


  1. We were warned at drama school that it is lonely out there and they were right. After doing a fantastic job with the most wonderful camaraderie and being applauded nightly by a enthusiastic audience, suddenly it was all over and we dispersed . Travelling home, with a looming appointment at the job centre, I felt bereft and heartbroken, a feeling which took a long time to shake off. I missed it so much it hurt. I have since learnt to deal with this and celebrate the fact I had a wonderful experience in life rather than mourn it. A very talented and popular actor friend of mine committed suicide. He struggled, like all of us, to find work and succumbed to depression. I think it's important that actors have other strings to their bow - work outside the industry - and cultivate long-standing friendships with actors and non-actors alike. Don't rely on the acting profession to give you all your nourishment. It's great to be dedicated but there is a danger of painting yourself into a corner.

  2. Very true that social media helps. I have written the same sentiment in a couple of articles and think I would have enjoyed long term touring more at times if I'd had the outlet of Twitter or blogging back then. Interesting to have just worked away from home for the first time since stopping touring in 2006: it was much easier! Great blog. Thanks, Miss PR.