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.

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