Ten Questions You Should Never Ask An Actor

Good News: I finally have time to write a post! Not-So-Good-news: It’s because I’m sitting at a reception desk, so I’m not acting. I’m also eating a lot of chocolate. I’m yet to decide whether that’s good or bad news. So although this is not my dream situation, sitting at a desk does give me loads of time to write both this blog and other little bits of dialogue. I’ve also basically been using every penny not spent on food or train tickets on acting. Classes, Seminars and general Coaching, and it’s all going great…more on that later…

In the meantime, I thought I’d provide a little humour (sarcasm counts as humour, right?) on the acting front. More specifically, annoying questions that actors get asked. Now, I’m all for questions, but I think there’s a line of tact getting crossed far too frequently. So, I’m drawing my opinion of where it is. This post has been majorly aided by a reach out I did on Facebook so I want to say thank you so much to all actor friends that contributed their suggestions. There were so many hilariously tragic inputs and although I couldn’t use all of them – I do have to come across at least a bit original – it must be reassuringly to know that we’re not alone!

So here they are, in ascending order of horrendous-ness:

10. Can you get free tickets for me, my mum, my second cousin-in-law’s tennis coach, and my dog’s lawyer? [and other such liberties]

In the first instance, it’s lovely that you want to come and watch whatever it is we’re in. Well done. But what some people don’t understand is that your ticket price actually goes towards our salary. If we do have any free tickets, they will 1. Be of a very limited amount, and 2. Already have been given to someone who wouldn’t have to ask for them. Also, being in a show does not mean that we own it, i.e. ‘Shout-outs’ are for pantos, and we cannot give your extended family a tour of the star’s dressing room. There are some exceptions to this though. Like if someone is in a major production, they will usually have a great amount of discounted tickets. So that is worth a shot. My advice here would be to inconspicuously weasel your way into said actor’s lives at least a couple of weeks before you ask. ‘Like’ a Facebook status or two…simples.

9. What are you in now / next?

Here’s the deal. At any given time, only FIVE per cent of actors are in an acting job. That means that for every 10 people you ask this question to, 1/2 of one of those people will be working. “Half a person? But, that makes no sense!” I hear you say. Tell me about it. The solution to this one is simple: re-word the question to “Are you working on anything at the moment?” This leaves the floor open to the actor who is not necessarily in employment but is still developing professionally. Ah, it’s looking so easy, just you wait…

8. Have you worked with {or Do you know} anyone famous?

The speed bumps begin… I beg, please please please take the celebrity culture out of our profession, or at least make an effort to try. Ask us if we’ve ever worked with anyone talented. Because, and it’s harsh, the two are not interchangeable. And my fellow actors: Do not feel you have to justify your credibility by dropping a Costco trolley-load of names, or churning out something like, “No, but one of my best friends from Drama School is in Downtown Abbey.” When really, that person is not your best friend. That person is not even a friend. The truth is that person is a guy two years above who asked you to be his friend with benefits; an offer you now more than partially regret turning down as it could have helped snag the only invitation you may ever get to the BAFTAs. Damn.

7. Isn’t acting really unreliable?

Ah, the land of rhetorical. This one genuinely perplexes me. What do people actually want us to say? This question is a direct attack at either our ignorance or our stupidity. If we wanted reliable, we’d take your job. But we do it for something else. Yes, it is unreliable. But we live on the edge. It may be the edge of poverty, but it’s our edge goddammit!

6. Why don’t you go on one of those soaps? I could really see you in [insert soap here].

Oh my gosh. That thought had never even crossed my mind. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m going to get out of these pyjamas, have my first shower in three days, and go to Albert Square and be in EastEnders. Just, no. We have to audition for these soaps. No, scrap that. We have to be chosen to audition for those soaps. Even before we’ve had a chance to workshop 56 different ways of saying “Git outta ma pub” with a £95 p/h acting coach, someone has to decide that we look good/sexy/urban enough to send a script to. This is not Big Brother (which I’ve actually heard, has its own rigorous audition process. First world problems). You cannot just go on a TV program. At least one that doesn’t end with a trip to the Isle of Fernando with a man who plucks his eyebrows more than should be legal.

5. Have you heard anything / Did you get it?

Family and friends are the usual culprits, as well as nosy actor friends (shame on you!). But those of us that know the odds know that this question is a SET-UP. If we’ve been keeping hush hush, it’s for a reason. You will hear when we get the job. I should really say if we get the job but I promised myself that this article would have an air of positivity {haha, how am I doing??} The reality is that winning a role is literally like winning the Hunger Games, but with more people. Just be thankful we come out alive.

4. Why don’t you try out for [insert “talent” show here]?

I won’t go into my honest opinion on these shows, but I will say this. Hundreds of talented singers audition for these shows in rounds before anything we see on TV. And they specifically aren’t put through so that we can watch more people that sound like cats on LSD. So please, just don’t go there.

3. Do you make a lot of money / How much do you make?

I wouldn’t ask anyone this, regardless of their profession. But I’ve been asked on so many occasions that I feel I should curb some curiosity and set the record straight. Assume that if you didn’t see a picture of us doing the Macarena with Michael Fassbender at the Globes, we do not make ‘a lot’ of money. Unless you just saw us in a major commercial…then we are BALLIN’. And as for how much we make, let me say this: If we had a pound for every time we were asked that…we’d have more than we’ve earnt from acting work. That give you an idea?

2. Are you still trying to be an actor?

Unfortunately, yes. I am indeed. But maybe one day I’ll be half as good at it as you are at trying to get punched in the face. In fact, seeing as I have so much free time not being an actor let me help you…

…and the winner is…

1. So what’s your actual job?

Now, I would by no means say that this is most frequently asked question. But it is hands down the most irritating. And here is why. Just to warn you, it’s revelatory news, so prepare yourself…ready? Ok, here it is:

Acting is a profession.

It’s unconventional, but it is professional work. I think that part of the problem is that actors spend more time auditioning for jobs than acting. So when approached, if we’re not in an acting job, we appear idle. That’s down to us to keep busy even in our slow periods. But that aside, when we are acting, we are WORKING. On a bad day, we’re sitting, waiting for a phone call for any job at all. But on a good day, we get to entertain you, make you laugh, make you cry, make you poo your pants, even make you call your little sister and tell her that you did steal her tamagotchi when you were kids. And the best of us make it look as easy as walking. And that is hard work.

And there we have it. So, hold off on these questions, at least the worst of them, and give us a break. And the latter also goes for my fellow actors. Yes the facts are harsh and the odds are ridiculous, but we have to be easy on ourselves. Because at the end of the day, once the curtains are drawn and someone yells “cut” and all other glorious clichés are realized, it is all just a game. It’s a tough, relentless, brutal, and unforgiving game.

But surely only the best ones are…?


8 thoughts on “Ten Questions You Should Never Ask An Actor

  1. C J

    Number 11: how over inflated does an “actors” ego have to be to consider themselves above answering someones question?

  2. HH

    as an actor I agree with this sentiment. People are curious. Just like soldiers are asked “have you ever shot anyone” or a surgeon “how do you cope with all the blood and gore” its interesting to lots of people. I think actors take themselves FAR to seriously. Example number 3,000,000 ^

  3. Corrinne

    I think I’ve pretty much been asked all of those at some point! I’d add to the last one that even when we’re not acting we’re still working – acting is the end result of A LOT of hard work. Hours of admin, applications, telephone calls, castings, workshops, classes, networking events, research…. this list goes on and on. Actors (well, most of them), are always working in some capacity. I think that we shouldn’t say that we’re only working when we’re physically on stage or have a camera in our faces as that demeans the hard work that we put in the other 90%* of the time. As you very rightly say, it’s a profession and that takes a lot of hard graft and dedication.

    *I feel obliged to say that this is a made up statistic and I have no idea of the real figures!

  4. wilsonblades

    My head of acting at drama school once said ‘Never ask an actor what they are doing, because if they are in something they will tell you straight away and if they aren’t, they don’t want to talk about it.’ Good advice!

  5. Abiola

    AMEN Corrinne,

    Whether we’re in or out of work, there is work going on, or at least there should be. Haha, and 90% is probably close. I think the official statistic is only 8% of actors are in work at any time…but screw statistics! Let’s just stay grinding! Thank you for your comment 🙂 x

  6. Pingback: 8 Things Every Actor Needs. | Abiola Is My Name

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