Every actress I know has had a nudity nightmare. Whether it be a conversation with a director or filming the scene itself. And for the purpose of this particular blog, I’m referring to women being asked to be nude. However, I am sure this is a universal issue.

I understand that the reality of being an actor these days is that how you look, is as important as how well you can act. But when your face and body are under constant scrutiny, harmful or damaging feedback can wear really thin.

“You did the most intelligent audition but they were looking for a more conventionally beautiful actress”.

This sort of feedback is commonplace. Just ask Denise Gough, who quotes exactly that phrase in her interview for the Honest Actors’ Podcast. In the past I’ve received feedback such as ‘They’re going very thin on this one’, ‘They think you’re too old now’ (I was 26) and my personal favourite, ‘They’re going for drop-dead-gorgeous beautiful I’m afraid’. Excellent. Double thumbs up. We’ve had to become pretty adept at being able to translate feedback such as this into useful terms for ourselves. Or alternatively, we drink cocktails out of teapots until we feel better about it.

Imagine waking up mid-morning – slight sore head and a stolen teapot on the bedside cabinet – to a voicemail from your agent.

“You’ve been offered a part in a great TV series (YAY!) But there’s a nudity clause… (Ah.)”

At this point, you only have the sides and not the full scripts so before you accept, you ask your agent to find out what the nudity entails.

Cue vague and murky emails back and forth about ‘scripts not being available but I’m sure it’s nothing gratuitous’, etc. This is my first issue. If you are expecting someone to get their baps out or indeed their entire lady garden, you need to be completely honest about what will be shown, why you think it is necessary and whether you are willing to negotiate on it. This does not have to be difficult. If it becomes protocol, the director or casting office will have the answers with the offer. Job done. And none of this ‘the director wants creative freedom on the day to shoot what they want’ rubbish. If that’s the case, they can direct it naked and the DOP can shoot it naked. Now that’s fair. I’m not saying all this stuff is universal, some directors and casting offices are really hot on stuff like this and are brilliant at it, but I know it happens enough for me to be writing about it.

Next step – It could be full frontal. Okay. Wow. Better warn the parents not to watch this one. Cue the manic thoughts – I better get down the gym…There isn’t time…Maybe just a fake tan will do?…But what if its streaky?…Shit…Will I have a merkin?…If not should I wax?…Shave?… Ingrowing hairs are the worst though…Will it be a closed set?…What constitutes as a closed set?… What if my boobs are smaller than they thought?… I was wearing a push up bra…Maybe they can get a boob double…na too much money….Shit…What if they think I’m toned under this aran-knit jumper?? I knew I should have started that free two-week trial at YogaBunny last month!…Maybe I should get that spray tan, etc etc. You see once you appear naked on television or film, that image will be on the Internet – FOREVER. There’s no going back. So forgive me if I’d like a little reassurance as to how it will happen on the day.

On the day, It would be nice to have had a brief conversation with the director and my co star beforehand and to block it clothed. I would love the director to share their shot list with us and to talk about exactly what will be covered on each shot and in what order it will be shot (you do the maths…) Then when the moment came, so to speak, for the set to be closed to everyone except the people necessary. And I mean a closed set. Because unless you specifically request it, or you’re a mega star, it often isn’t. And that’s that really. No tantrums. No fireworks. No strops. No confusion. No advantage being taken. It should be that simple but rarely is.

The truth is, we are all scared of being branded difficult, annoying, awkward, uptight, prudish, unfriendly, cold, a diva, a drama queen, etc and so a lot of the time, we go along with things we aren’t comfortable with. And that applies to all aspects of the job – our costume, our hair and make up, our acting choices. Our male counterparts don’t seem to get branded in the same way. A lot of the put downs are feminine – ‘drama queen’, ‘diva’. It’s annoying and frustrating. We are also made acutely aware that if you don’t do it, someone else will. As Denise very brilliantly put it – that’s a load of shit.

I’ve merely skimmed the surface here. I could go on and on. But Hopefully the more we talk about this, the easier it will be to deal with and discuss in an open, honest, professional and respectful way. In the immortal words of Jermaine Stewart – “We don’t have to take our clothes off to have a good time”…

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.

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

Amy Morgan
Optimistic actor from South Wales who can always find you a bar open after 1am but who cannot ride a bike (Long story). Also a dab hand in serving overpriced cocktails, flyering for comedy clubs and working in niche museums.