“What would you do to succeed?” imperious life coaches everywhere like to ask. And for us film and television actors, “what would you give for your art?”
The answer is not supposed to be as straightforward as developing your craft by taking class and making videos with friends.
Think more like blood, sweat, and tears.
You’re supposed to be willing, if you want to be a working actor, to do just about anything on command — sing, scream, weep, wail, dance, run, learn lines instantly like you wrote them and never ruffle up your feathers no matter how you are mistreated in the audition room.
You’re supposed to be perfectly abled — whatever that might mean for any given human — and possess no real personal needs.
You’re supposed to be a thoroughly movable object, a puppet who hands herself over. An armored car with a gelatinous filling of vulnerability; available for anyone in power to unlock and ingest.
We actors give our heart, soul, and relentless labor to those we work with and to the audiences that consume our performances; yet we are all too often expected to take wild mistreatment — emotional abuse, physical assault, sexual harassment — as par for the course.
To be an actor who has lived past those younger years of just wanting to please everyone, just wanting to be liked is to have profound cognitive dissonance between the way I live the rest of my life — in which I expect at least basic levels of respect and decency in how I am treated — and the demands and behavior directed at me in Hollywood.
Recently I began a new on-camera audition class which has in many ways blown my mind. The teacher is kind, thoughtful, and never yells at or belittles anyone in the room.
This should not be a shocking experience, but it is.
Quality acting coach aside, I still faced trouble in paradise. Two weeks ago one of my classmates ran into the room to announce that an electrical pole outside the studio was perilously on fire.
Oh, but it wasn’t solely the pole, as we all found out once we made it outdoors —…