Didn’t train? Get that chip off your shoulder…

As we all know, knockbacks are hard to take and as much as we don’t like to admit it, they do take a toll. So sometimes, after the initial ecstasy and immense satisfaction of getting a job, the panic sets in. What if I’m not good enough? I probably wasn’t their first choice…what if my name was really similar to the person that they actually wanted…but now they’ve got me!? I can’t speak for anyone else but I spend almost every day leading up to the job in a mild (major) state of panic and self doubt worrying that it was all a mistake and that I am in fact not what they wanted at all.

I start having nightmares about my complete lack of drama school training and wondering if anyone will even take me seriously?! I’ve put up with enough years of “You’re still young, you’ve got time to decide on a proper career path and apply to university.” from almost everyone under the sun, along with an ignorant assumption that I’m just another kid that wants to be famous. Both wholly unfair but sadly common comments that I listen to until I want to bash my head against the wall, put cocktail sticks in my eyeballs and never ever admit to being an actor ever again.

On the flip side of the coin I have lovely parents and friends who spend a ridiculous amount of time reminding me of the things I came soooo close to in the hope that it will boost my confidence. It doesn’t. It actually just makes me remember the bitter disappointment I’ve spent the last six months suppressing and I have to start panic reading all of my “liked” inspirational Instagram quotes for moral support. However, “Don’t compare yourself to others” isn’t great advice when I have many hours to fill in a day. Inevitably I spend those hours poring over actors CV’s, then several more worrying that I haven’t had enough guest appearances in continuing BBC dramas and no, I can’t do flamenco, ride a unicycle or speak conversational Japanese.

I have had enough of torturing myself. I have had enough of feeling under qualified, inferior and thoroughly panicked every time I find out I’ve actually been offered a job doing something I love.

So in 2016, this is my advice to myself and to you if the above description sounds even remotely applicable to your own daily existence.

  1. Don’t be intimidated so easily. Just because your co-star has 45+ credits on imdb dating back to 1987 doesn’t mean they are going to refuse to work with an untrained teenager. They were acting professionally 9 years before you were born and aren’t expecting you to be able to perform Shakespeare’s sonnets off by heart.
  2. In addition, just because they trained at *insert well known drama school here* they aren’t going to think of you as amateur scum. Get that massive chip off of your shoulder.
  3. The director is not going to eat you for breakfast. They cast you for a reason, be polite, act like a normal human being and for goodness sake try and remember your lines.
  4. No one is going to die if you make a mistake. You are playing make believe, not performing brain surgery. Move on quickly and professionally, don’t spend an entire evening in your hotel room rocking backwards and forth and thinking you’re going to be sacked. You’re not. (At least you haven’t been yet!)
  5. You are allowed to relax, nobody wants to work with a gibbering wreck and no one is going to believe your performance if you look like a frightened hamster that’s had too many espressos.
  6. No one here is going to tell you that acting isn’t a real job, so stop feeling like you have to justify yourself to everybody.
  7. Try and actually enjoy the job while you’re there, the job is a privilege and the experience is the reward. You’re there because somebody thought you were worth it. Breathe deep, be kind to everybody and have a little faith in yourself (just this once).

PS: A friend told me at a informal dinner party last week that her friend on an acting degree course had spent a whole day of “lessons” ‘embodying olive oil’ – should I be doing this in my bedroom, or am I better off worrying how much flamenco lessons may or may not cost?

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

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Grace Hogg-Robinson

Actress hailing from a very small hamlet, known by friends for being clumsy and overly enthusiastic, known by strangers (that watch daytime TV) for being a sassy goth. Sometimes found selling sweets, sometimes found talking to herself…ah well, we’re all mad here.