Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Been In Anything I Might've Seen?

“Oh, you’re an actor? Been in anything I might’ve seen?”

You know your career is in dire need of help when it reflects poorly on the person asking if they have. Like many actors, it would be highly unlikely that you’d have clapped eyes on my brief offerings to the actor gods (Dench & Hurt.) In fact, unless you're one of the following people...

  • A lover of Theatre in Eduction
  • The person behind the fact that all three adverts I’ve appeared in have never made it to air
  • Have a knack for stumbling upon poorly advertised plays
  • My mum

…then I’ll never have been in anything you might’ve seen.

Never ask this question. Firstly, it makes the actor question their own dubious career and what if we have been in something you might’ve seen? Was our performance so unmemorable that you need to ask us? Are you really going to put us in the position where we have to meekly remind you that we were once in Channel 5’s Family Affairs? Really? Is that how you get your kicks?



And you should really stop watching Come Dine With Me and, please, clean your net curtains.

Basically, all you’re asking with that question is “Have you ever been on telly?” And I dread that question. Because I haven’t. In 8 years as an actor, I’ve had one TV casting (Hollyoaks. I didn’t get it but I did get to see the Grange Hill building so, y’know, those 3 years at drama school definitely paid off.) I can’t tell people things that might impress them when they ask me about my career. Of course, we don’t do this job to impress others (well, we do) but it’s hard to feel upbeat about your job when you watch someone’s interest physically get up and leave as you tell them about the time you played a stag in front of 8 people. And of course, a TV career doesn’t mean that you’ve made it, but in party-chat currency, it’s pretty damn useful.

Brilliant things are being done to ensure that more actors get at least a slight chance to be seen outside the trusty comfort of friends and family. The Act for Change Project that's asking for greater diversity on our screens and the calls for the BBC to stop going to the same agents time and time again to cast their shows are working hard to open up the TV industry to those who aren’t white or privately educated.

But there’s still a huge gap which was proved today by two stories currently in the news: one listing the top 10 earning actors (Robert Downey Jr made about £44m last year) and the other about Sir Ian McKellen calling for actors to earn a living wage (£8.80 an hour which would allow actors to earn £18k should they be lucky enough to work full time.) Most actors currently find themselves earning way below a living or even a minimum wage and are more reliant on their temp agency than their acting one. 

The main argument is that there are just too many actors but it would be easier to tell how many we need to get rid of ask politely to try a new career if the acting work and wealth were spread out even just a little bit. If the actors we see in EVERYTHING (I'm not naming names but I'm looking at you, Cumberbatch) donated just one job a year to previously unknown actors then imagine that. A few more actors might be saved for that special wince that's reserved for CVs and bank accounts and they would no longer dread being spoken to at parties. 

So, next time you meet an actor and go to ask that question, think about what you’re really asking them and just offer to buy them a drink instead.


  1. Simon Griffiths22 July 2014 at 14:14

    Even if it's your Mother it doesn't mean she will want to see what you've been in. I had the amazing news, that a film I had co starred in was on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination. My mum's reaction was, "do you get paid for it now?" I didn't but that's not the point. Then I received the even more amazing news that we had had actually been nominated. Cue local press interviews etc and my mum's reaction to her only son being in an Oscar nominated film..... "wellllllll it's not like it's for the best actor is it!" Thanks Mother....

  2. Poor you, I'm sure things will pick up.
    I'm now 61 and have been on telly a lot. I still get asked that question. These days my reply is,
    They say, "What?"
    I reply, " I don't know, what might you have seen?"
    If they don't get it and start reciting everything they've ever seen, I just keep saying "No" until they're bored, or I slope off and find some interesting paint drying nearby.
    Good luck!

  3. Is it okay if when an actor tells me they're an actor I respond with "Sorry" and a sympathetic wince?