Tuesday, 22 April 2014

An Actor's Diary

"So, you been auditioning much lately?"

It's times like this that I wish I'd never mentioned to anyone that I was an actor. I mean, do accountants get asked "Dealt with any spreadsheets recently?" God, I hope they don't.

Of course, if I hadn't mentioned to anyone that I was an actor then my career would be in a pretty sorry state right now wh-oh, right. Yeah, I'd actually have been better off not telling anyone I was an actor so at least I could live my current life without being asked the above question time and time again.

The problem is, it's quiet at the moment. Heck. If I had a penny for every time I mumbled that it's just not that busy at the moment then I'd never need to worry about it being quiet ever again. But it is. We're currently in this seemingly endless season of short weeks where everyone gets the self-employed experience of not really knowing what day it is and finding themselves in their pyjamas on a Monday morning eating chocolate. The problem is though is that if you ask an actor, it's always "quiet at the moment..."

January - everyone's still drunk on Port and wondering just how much more cheese one person can physically eat to possibly think about putting anything on.

February - short month, innit? No one's got the time and everyone's worrying about Valentine's which is pretty bloody important. Far more important than an acting career.

March - yay! An audition. Followed by nothing while everyone tries to work out when the bloody hell Easter is.

April - April Fools! Haha! Oh, your mate is hilarious. Pretending to be the casting director for Game of Thrones and telling you they wanted you. You totally didn't fall for it. No way. You spend the rest of the month crying and miss out on any other possible work.


June - there's actually some work about now but you've spent so much time this year wondering how to make a meal out of three frozen peas and half a lemon that you've got yourself some paid office work. Sorry, dreams. Bills gotta get paid.

July - HOLIDAYS! Not you. Oh no. Them. You get to temp to cover those who can actually afford to go away.

August - you watch sadly as the rest of the world heads up to Edinburgh for a month of being stuck in a cycle of damp clothes and wanting to build a fort of the bazillion flyers in your bag just so you can get a moment's peace from all the other bloody actors up there.

September - Edinburgh comedown? Panto worries? Everyone wanging on about the fact that we haven't had a proper summer? Whatever it is, your diary is quieter than an actor being asked how to create a formula in Excel.

October - the nights are starting to really draw in now so, y'know, shorter days mean no one's got time to put things on. Right? RIGHT?!

November - remember, remember, no one gets work in November.

December - panto time! Unless you can rock polka dot tights with the rest of them then this season is not for you. Oh no. You just get to be asked by people why you're not doing panto. And then there's Christmas, of course. No one's making anything now. They're waiting for January when it'll all pick up again...oh...

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Guide to Talking to Actors

“So what do you do?”

You had to ask, didn’t you? You’re at a party or a gathering, you’re introduced to someone and, of course, you ask that person what they do. It’s natural.

You might then see a grimace. You might get the sense that a few cogs are turning as they work out how to answer. Then they’ll take a deep breath.

“I’m an actor…I suppose.”

Then they wait for the inevitable.

If you’ve asked a woman, then you might go straight for the jugular and ask why they’ve called themselves an actor instead of an actress. Of course, if they’d called themselves an actress then you would’ve asked why they don’t call themselves an actor.

Maybe you’re one of those who’ll say, “Oh, you’re an actor!” and you’ll do some flamboyant hand gesture. If you do that, you deserve all the bad things that are coming your way.

But, more likely, you’ll ask:

“Been in anything I might’ve seen?”

If you have to ask this then you probably haven’t. Or you’re being seriously disrespectful to the actor because, if they say yes, their performance was clearly so forgetful that you’ve just dealt them a massive blow. You’re also ridiculously suggesting that the actor knows your viewing habits. And you’re also opening yourself up to the actor revealing to the rest of the room your appalling taste.

“Why yes. You saw me in Romeo & Juliet With Herpes. Don’t you remember?”

Also, if you ask a particularly feisty actor, you risk these answers:

“Your nightmares.”

“Your bedroom.”

“Your mum.”

However, what you’ll most likely get is an embarrassed “No,” while the actor painfully remembers all the productions they’ve been in that have been poorly attended that their career has been a string of private performances or never made it to air or brilliantly made it to TV but were shown on Channel 5 at 1:35am.

So, best not to ask.

Next, you might go for, “What kind of acting do you do?”

This is near impossible to answer. Unless you’re an actor who refuses to do anything but interpretive dance in the style of a frantic pigeon then the chances are that you do all manner of things. Theatre. Film. Commercials. Corporate. Musicals. Sitting at home constantly worrying that HMRC are on their way over to get you.

“Anything,” you say.

“Porn,” they think.

So now, a person you met only 2 minutes ago thinks you’re an out of work porn actor. To try and break the tension that has very quickly formed, they’ll ask:

“So are you working on anything at the moment?”

Oh god. Never ask this. If the actor hasn’t already told you at this point in the conversation then never ask this. Clearly, they’re not. Or, if they are, it’s so horrific that they really don’t want anyone to know about it. Like Diana the Musical.

So, again, you’ll probably get a mumbled “No,” while the actor desperately tries to remember a time when they were asked this question and they actually were. Never, they realise. 

By now, you might feel the need to lighten the mood. You might ask,

“So, are we going to see you in EastEnders soon?” Never do this. Again, if they were going to be in EastEnders, they would’ve mentioned it. Seriously.


“Is your agent like the one in Extras/Friends?” No. Or yes. Either way, you’re presuming the actor even has an agent. Given the previous couple of minutes of conversation, that’s quite an assumption to make.

Or even...

"Why don't you just do panto?" I've been genuinely asked this more than one person. They're all dead now.

So next time you see someone at an event and you think they might be an actor, walk away. You’ll know who they are immediately:

They’ll be the ones trying to ask subtly whether there’s a free bar.

They’ll be the ones hovering behind waiting staff like a hungry shadow.

They’ll be the ones desperately avoiding any questions.