People like to categorize, it makes them feel safe.

Wait, not “them” – I mean ‘us’. We ALL do it to help us feel safe. Categorizing in this sort of way is the first thing we do in order to find common ground when meeting new people:

– “What do you do?”

– “Where are you from?”

– “Can you fit more than sixteen Maltesers in your gob?”

Categories help us identify who does what, who is what and, therefore, how we relate to them. Actually these days it’s how I work out whether I even want to relate to them. I know, I know, but life is busy enough trying to fit in the people I WANT to spend time with, let alone those who I don’t want to!

What it all boils down to, what we really want to know is:
– Are they in our tribe?

It can sometimes be difficult enough to persuade people (both inside and outside the industry) that we lead happy* lives in our chosen career as Actors. We’re asked constantly whether we’re ‘busy’ – people like to know that we’re ‘busy’ – and if we’re not ‘sooo busy’, then perhaps we’ve all, at times, been a little guilty of desperately trying to fill that gap in conversation with ‘that’ Director/Casting Director/Producer/Other-Actor-Who-ALWAYS-Seems-To-Be-Frickin’-Working with something… Anything. Hopefully not to the point of exaggerating which Storm Trooper we played in Episode VII.

You will always get found out.

I’ve been an Actor since graduating from drama school (RWCMD) in 2002.

I’ve been a Writer ever since I started tapping out ideas during an incredibly quiet temping assignment in 2003-4 although, with no formal qualification in Writing, it’s been harder to officially call myself a ‘Writer’ until 2015. I think. I’m not sure.

I don’t write in order to have something else to tell people when they ask ‘Are you busy?’

I mean, it does tend to fill ‘that’ gap nicely because there’s always some project to be working on, whether one of your own ‘on spec’ projects, or a deadline you’re working towards.

The brand new difficulty I’ve faced is that certain people then seem to believe that you’ve ‘switched’… That once you become a Writer, you’re no longer an Actor. And that’s weird.

Imagine, if you will, a Plumber. Let’s call her Lisa. Lisa is the Plumber who comes to fix your washing machine. During smalltalk about her busy week of turning down offers of fixing leaky pipes because it would be ‘fantastic experience’ and ‘good on the CV’, Lisa notices that your light switch needs repairing, and mentions that… Drum roll… She’s also a qualified Electrician.

Is your mind blown yet?

NO! You say: “Heavens above, that’s brilliant! That must open up your employability, meaning that there’s double the chance of finding work and paying the bills.”

So it often surprises me when the words, “Oh, you’re a Writer now…” are uttered with the tone which suggests ‘This is the path you have now taken, and you may only choose one…’

It’s that little word: ‘also’. I think people forget that word.

“Oh, you’re ALSO a Writer now.”

Am I reading too far into people’s minds and statements? Perhaps. Perhaps we’re all a little paranoid about what people ‘think’ of us in this industry. It’s why we sometimes work that little too hard to prove that we’re busy, thus proving that we’re good at what we do, meaning that more people will ‘want’ us.

Before I actually had plenty to share about how busy I really am with writing, I’d started to be that little more honest with people about things being quiet when they actually were… And I think that’s a positive thing. If we’re not ‘busy’ pretending, pretending to be ‘busy’, then we’re more honest with others as well as with ourselves. It leads to a happier state of mind.

One day I may decide that I won’t pay that Spotlight subscription any more… My ears may not prick up in the same way when I hear that a company I know are developing something new… But then again, writing might (might!) be the way I really find my niche as an Actor. If the opportunities aren’t there, then how’s about creating them for yourself?

Then you can take over the world.

Series 3 of the podcast is coming soon, including interviews with Adrian Lester, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Riley, Kate Fleetwood and Jonjo O’Neill. Series 1 & 2 are available free on iTunes, along with a special live episode for Equity recorded in November 2018, and follow-up interviews with all seven of the emerging actors, conducted in October. Go have a listen

Like it? Please share it with your friends and followers on social media. Have something to say? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. Have an idea for an article of your own? Find out more about writing for The Honest Actors’ Blog here.

Alun Saunders

Sometimes Actor, sometimes Writer; always Husband, always Dad.
Thanks to his parents’ encouragement towards the Welsh language and musical instruments, Alun has managed to work as an Actor in between MCing Welsh Banquets for visiting tourists. He now knows how to say ‘Cheers’ in over 24 languages. Iechyd da!