What it is to be an Actor

What it is to be an Actor

It is a dream many of us have, but few of us follow. Many people at some point in their lives has wanted to be a superstar, but then they grow up, get ‘proper’ jobs and leave the ‘childish’ fantasy in the past.

Yet, there are still those few who follow the dream with the hope that they are going to be the next Angelina Jolie or Jonny Depp. These determined people participate at the local theatre, donating hours of their time, and probably spend most of their wages on head shots, acting classes and expensive audition sites. Some even go to Drama school.

Anyone who has pursued acting as a career would be aware of the countless conversations with people who say this is not a real degree; that you are wasting your time on some pointless pipe dream; and the only job you will be able to get with a qualification in acting, is one that required you to say the line ‘Would you like fries with that?’

I remember telling my eighty year old grandmother that I was going to University to study a degree in both Drama and Film. I also remember the way she looked down at me, her eyes narrowing as she glared over the silver rim of her large glasses. She asked me why I chose to choose something so pointless, why I did not choose to study something like science. The simple answer was – I do not want to be a scientist.

I am sure every actor remembers people telling them that Drama must be an easy degree, that it is not a real subject as it involves nothing more than messing around with your friends, then writing about how and why you were messing around with your friends.

This makes me just a little bit temperamental. So I am here to set the record straight, once and for all.

First of all, Drama is far from an easy degree. You are constantly judged not only on your ability to act, but also by your appearance, and then you are expected to write about how and why you did not get the part you have wanted for years, because you were either too tall or your nose was not the right shape.

You can forget about having a social life, because all your time is devoted to either reading the mountains of material that you are given, remembering entire scripts, theatre practitioners and historical influences as well as hours of rehearsals with groups that include at least one know it all Diva who always wants to steal the spot light.

There is a reason that almost half of the class disappear after the first few months. They thought it was going to be easy too.

Secondly, when you have finally done your three to four years at University, you dread coming out into the real world, because you know when you do, the hard work truly begins.

Being over thirty grand in debt, no job and no ‘usable’ qualifications, you live day by day, normally living out the clichéd life of an out of work actor working as a waitress or waiter. You obsessively apply for auditions, agents, extra work, intern-ships and sometimes become one of those people who dance around the Town centre, wearing one of those ridiculous full body costumes, essentially becoming a classically trained panda.

Picture Source: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=panda+suit&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=dU6sU4DACdGb1AXg7YCwCg&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ&biw=1440&bih=732#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=cHTKW46cfHBJwM%253A%3Bp7f8wk9eecJs6M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fbearmascotcostume.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2010%252F07%252FEconomicalPandaMascotSuit-300x300.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fbearmascotcostume.com%252F%3B300%3B300

Picture Source: Clipart

Then, just as you are about ready to disappear forever, the phone rings and you have been invited to an audition you forgot you applied to. They send you a script and you cancel all your plans to learn the lines by the next day. However, you are never able to get rid of that cold floating feeling in your pit of your stomach, or the thought that you will make a total fool of yourself, resulting in the Director dramatically standing from his chair with a flail of his arms, saying, ‘You will never work in this town again!’

Cue the dilemma of Actors Equity. If you don’t have an Equity card, you are unlikely to get any other role other than the panda I mentioned earlier. However, if you have not had a paid role as a principal character in either theatre, TV or Film, you cannot get an Equity card…Twenty points to whoever came up with that one.

When you do finally get a part for a commercial or a production, there is always the fear of that dreaded line, the line that strikes fear into all actors hearts , the line that again makes us question absolutely everything we have done in our life to this moment.

‘We will not be paying you, but its great exposure!’

Cue the blood boiling rage that you always seem to have under control, even when you want nothing more than to rearrange the smug look on the casting director’s face, then continue on a psychotic killing spree that would make even the most hardened criminals fear for their lives. But you force a smile and a nod, all the while thinking. ‘Exposure doesn’t  pay the bills buddy!’

Many people reading this article probably still question why people go into acting. Maybe even the actors themselves are starting to question what they were thinking when they chose such a risky and cut-throat career. The answer is simple. So many people refuse to follow their dream, simply because they believe they cannot do it, but you can still fail at something that you don’t want to do, so why not risk it all, by working hard to succeed in something you do want to do?

Acting is like a drug to many actors -they cannot live without it. It runs through their-blood, keep them going and makes them happy, and even though it comes with hardships…it might just be the best job in the world.




Why everybody loves the villain!

It’s been the plot of many movies since the silent film era. The audience gets introduced to the good guy, normally a tall, dark and exceptionally muscled man; we meet his lover, the fair faced blonde that always seems to get in to trouble, then boom! The peace is broken and the bad guy is introduced. It is the way all films go. There is balance,  conflict, and then finally – equilibrium.

As films have progressed and Hollywood has become bigger and mightier, the villain in film has evolved from the distasteful hunch backed, top hat wearing, impressive moustache bearing man in black, to the strangely likable sociopath who in no way, shape or form resembles anything like the comical villains of the ‘20s and late ’30’s. In fact, the villains have changed into the guise of  ’ bad boys’, ones that  everybody -especially women- find oddly intriguing.

Every good guy has to have a bad guy. Every superhero has to have a super villain. Not only does it make for good TV and film, but it also appeals to our thirst for conflict and adventure as well as telling the age-old story of good versus evil. We as human beings love to see relatable people overcome great odds and save the day. We strive for justice and are attracted to the scenario of good triumphing over evil. But that does not necessarily stop the little voice in the back of our head asking ‘Why can’t the bad guy win for once?’

There has been at least one movie that we have all watched where the villain makes more of an impression on the viewer then the actual hero. Anyone can be the good guy, save the day and get the girl. It takes real guts to be the guy that wants to destroy the world in spectacularly inventive ways.

Take the Joker for example. A vicious, calculating, psychopathic killer with a clown like appearance, who finds amusement in mass murdeThe Jokerr and terrorism. Although we might not love him as a person, he makes much more of an impression in the movies then Batman himself ever has. We find ourselves drawn to him  more than the masked vigilante millionaire who, in my opinion,  at times can come across as a spoilt brat. Another thing about The Joker (again in my opinion) is that he is the Prince of Villainy. Other villains may pale in comparison to him and there is no motive for his actions except pure amusement as in his uncontrollable madness, he causes untold suffering.

As villains have evolved, they have become darker, more intelligent and a lot more appealing and relatable. Take Bane for example. Played by British actor Tom Hardy, He is another Batman villain who sees himself as a hero in his own story. Unlike the Joker, Bane has reasons for his actions and motives for his warped sense of the world.  His intelligence draws the audience in, his back-story causes the audience to feel sympathy, making the viewer question the good guys, and perhaps even come to an understanding of why Bane did the things he did.

Last of the male villains (out of the many I could have mentioned) is of course Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, another British actor that makes you love the character you are supposed to hate. Tom brings a certain finesse and intelligence to the fictional Nordic villain. His distinct gravelly voice lets you know that he is in change.

They say that the British make the best villains. I whole heartedly agree.

But where would this article be without a mention of the villains that have brought our male heroes to their knees since the beginning of the silent era, the villains that instead of doing their own duty work,  use their wit and their sexual advantages to make the hero do it for them? I am of course talking about the femme fatale.

Considering this ancient archetype dates back long before film was invented, I shall be sharing with you three characters ‘I’ think fit the description perfectly.  Starting with the original ‘New woman’ Marlene Dietrich as Concha Perez in “The Devil is a Woman. The character of Concha might not be a murderous  psychopath hell-bent in destroying the human race and everything it stands for, but villains do not always have to be killers to take the title of the ‘baddie’  especially when it comes down to the femme fatale.

Probably the most dangerous female played in Dietrich’s long filmography, the emotionless character of Concha effortlessly causes two men to fall madly in love with her, than continually leads both of them on, causing people to get hurt and hearts to break.  Her pure, detached state towards the whole situation during the movie causes the audience to have a love- hate relationship with the character. They hate her because she is, for lack of a better word, a total bitch and they love her for the exact same reason. The cool way she handles situations and the way she has both men wrapped around her finger gives her a certain power, and if there is one thing audiences love, it’s a powerful woman.Elle Driver - Kill Bill

The second female villain worth mentioning carries a sword,  wears an eye patch and appears to have no conscience whatsoever. You may have guessed who it is-  it’s Ellie Driver, from ‘Kill Bill.’ She is dangerous and sexy, and all boxed up into a psychotic little package. Ellie Driver is the type of villain that draws you in for no other reason than being a fun loving lunatic with a thirst for revenge. A woman who does her own thing whenever she wants and a woman that can hold her own in a fight.

I know most of the villains I have mentioned so far (excluding the last two) have been from comic books, but where would the wonders of female villainy be without the sexy and surprisingly relatable Mystique, the acrobatic, shape shifting blue mutant hell-bent on protecting herself and her kind. Cast out because of who she is, I think we can all connect to this baddie in one way or another.  Think of her as the genetically mutated femme fatale. She is sexy, dangerous and believes she is the hero in her own story.

All of the villains who I have have mentioned (and many more) have one thing in common. POWER. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a women, deep down we are still just animalistic and primal beings, attracted to power. To me, that is what villains are all about.

In conclusion, I’d like to say I think that everybody loves a villain, even if they won’t admit it. There is something about the rebellious nature of the bad guy or girl that we all admire, that we all secretly strive to achieve.  We may not have the urge to go on a murderous rampage and destroy large cities with shiny expensive weapons and our army of henchmen (and if you do have that urge, please seek help immediately or call me for a chat) but all of us have the little feeling of rebellion, that voice that tells us just do something because you want to do it. The urge to rebel against a conforming society and truly be free is a powerful emotion.  And because the bad guys normally lose one way or another in the films, that doesn’t necessarily mean they lose in real life…. right?

Now I am in no way trying to convince you to become a super villain, but we as human beings have a fascination with the side of things that we do not experience often, the side of things that are free of tiresome rules and regulations.

But, again, that’s just my thoughts on the subject. Who are your favourite villains and what makes them so likable?





Why Do We Get So Attached To Fictional Characters?

It happens to the best of us. When we watch TV, read a book or watch a film, we always find ourselves getting close to certain characters, coming to care about their feelings and actually becoming upset when something bad happens to them.  It seems that no matter what you are watching, there is always a character who you will somehow relate to.

So why do we get so attached to fictional characters? In reality, they are just words in a script, brought to life by the actors that play them, but it is not the actors that we become attached to, it is the person they are portraying.

In the words of the great Howard Sklar, “The way we respond to fictional characters has a lot to do with our ability to connect with others and to feel for a person’s situation.” He also states “As anyone who has watched an engaging film or read an engaging novel knows, we invest ourselves deeply in the experience of living with those characters; we tend to respond to them as though they were real individuals.”

As we watch a movie, a TV series or read a book, we find ourselves subconsciously filling in the gaps of the character’s lives and making up fictional stories about them to make them seem more human. The narration of the novel or storyline of the film or episode allows us to stare through the window and into the personal lives of the characters, somehow making us feel closer to them.

Then when something bad happens to our beloved character, they either get hurt, they die or are written out the series you have loyally watched for years, it is like losing someone close to you. It literally hurts.

When we see our ordinary characters go through extraordinary challenge sometimes coming out on top, we look up to the character as a role model and an example of how we should be ourselves.  When reading a book, we get to see the inner thoughts of our beloved characters. Even watching our favourite TV series or a movie, we learn so much more about that character than we would know of the real people that surround us every day.

Because we get to know them on such a personal level, we gain a connection with them where their success, becomes our success.

An example of this would be my own attachment and borderline obsession with a certain character in the US television show called ‘NCIS’. Ever since the first episode of season three, I found myself becoming more and more drawn to a certain female character called Ziva. She is an Israeli Mossad agent, with very bad temper and a love for all things deadly.  Not only did I find myself becoming attached to this character, I also found myself feeling upset and hurt when the actress decided to leave the show.

I am not saying that I can relate to this character on any level – I did not grow up in Israel, I did not work for the Navy and I am not a kick ass assassin (and even if I was, I wouldn’t tell you ) but there was always a sense of familiarity between myself and the character. A sense of comfort.

Another example would be the countless fandom’s floating around the internet, or the innumerable armature fiction dedicated to characters from books, TV shows and Movies, or the privately funded conventions where fans dress up as their favourite characters to go meet more likeminded individuals such as themselves.

In a nut shell, we are all human, we crave companionship when we are sitting alone in front of the TV, and we create that companionship with the fictional characters on screen.

If you are sitting there reading this article with a strange disbelieving expression on your face, just think about it… when was the last time you got so engrossed in a film, or a TV series or a book, that you actually cared about the characters?

Next time you sit down to watch your favourite film or TV show, or read your favourite book, keep this article in mind.

Which character are you attached to?