Now, this is a very simple question with a neatly pre-packaged answer for most people. It is often the first thing that we are asked by strangers, as if the job that we ended up doing to pay our bills and purchase the occasional half shandy is what reveals the most about ourselves. For as soon as somebody knows this piece of trivia about you, they have seen into your soul. Once they know this, they can guess what you eat for breakfast; surely the most revealing of all truths.

However, I find this question a little more complicated to answer. I find answering this question akin to tiptoeing through a minefield whilst togged up as a one man band. By way of example, here is how this conversation usually goes for me:

Stranger: I love your shoes!

(I have a plethora of zany and characterful shoes by way of distracting people from asking me the ‘what do you do?’ question)

Me: Thank you! Look, they match my handbag!

Stranger: How wonderful! You are clearly very interesting! What do you do for a living?

Me inside my head:Ah, crap.

Me out loud: See, the heels contain a pretend goldfish. Let’s talk about that some more.

Stranger: Yes I can see that. But what job do you have that enables you to buy such marvellous shoes?

Me: Um, well…I don’t…I haven’t…I didn’t…because….They…Are…Stolen.

See! I would rather admit to a theft that I did not commit than reveal the perilous truth and the truth is, of course, that I am an actor.

I do the acting! I am a professional pretender! So, there! Now, go ahead and ask me all the ‘What will I have seen you in?’ questions and I can get on with digging myself a head shaped hole in the sand.

Don’t get me wrong, during those magical, longèd longed for periods of actual employment in my chosen profession I am the first, loudest and most zany shoe donning lunatic to announce what I do. But to call myself an actor during the tricky, uncomfortable and inevitable periods of silence, I find that particular boldness leaves me with a prickly, fraudulent feeling.

I can only assume this feeling took root in me because I think acting is the best, most exiting, profession in the whole wide world and the people I know that get to do this crazy, mad as a box of frogs profession for a living are the best, most fantastical people in the whole wide world and to include myself within that bunch of mavericks whilst I am not actually acting myself feels like I’m living the life of a big fat fibber. It’s like including yourself in the groovy gang at school when in reality the groovy gang knocked your chips on the floor and gave you the curious nickname of ‘Glacier Girl’ but then never actually explained what they meant by it. That’s sort of how it feels.

So, to avoid suffocating in my head shaped sand hole, I have prepared a carefully crafted answer to the dreaded, ‘What do you do?’ question. This way I do not inculpate myself of any crimes and I spend much less time spluttering and pointing at my feet like some kind of mad foot fetishist. For example:

Stranger: What do you do in order to increase the numbers in your online banking account?

Me: Well, I am so pleased you asked! I have had a wide variety of jobs in my time! These include but are not limited to pint pulling, teaching small children how to moo like a cow and checking people’s tickets for a selection of theatrical events! This has given me a wealth of experience and made me a well rounded individual!

Stranger: That sounds exciting! Perhaps you could show me how to moo like a cow!

And bish, bash, bosh crisis averted. A stranger and I spend a delightful evening mooing, forming an inside joke and a firm friendship to boot. I am a conversational wizard!

Although, and this is my real reason for my waffling on about how awkward I am, the worrisome thought recently occurred to me that perhaps this constant self-denial, this persistent self-deprecation thing is not good for me, in like, you know, a spiritual sense and it certainly doesn’t do a thing for that law of attraction vibe we’re all supposed to be doing.

And then as if out of nowhere, ‘Independent Women’ by Destiny’s Child comes on in my brain and another thought smacks me oops upside the head…

I have worked hard for my super cool job title.

I’ve got the blisters both real and metaphorical, I spend an inordinate amount of time sat on trains talking to myself. Heck, the very reason I attempt to juggle such a high number of jobs in the first place is all to aid the progression of the super cool job title! Everything I do, I do it for…my super cool job title, (sorry all family members, friends and boyfriend. *I’m joking. I don’t have a boyfriend. I’m married to all my jobs.*)

I’m living this strange sort of life in limbo, constantly waiting for luck to come stumbling into my gin joint, sacrificing normal life things that other normal life grownups are doing at my age. But, I guess playing Monopoly is pretty much the same thing as actually putting your foot on the property ladder, right? My metaphorical foot just happens to be wearing a tiny silver boot, that’s all.

The long and short of it is that, I’m just trying to get by and I’m trying not to give up. And if we’re honest, isn’t that all part and parcel of owning that super cool job title nowadays? Don’t the zero hours contracts go hand in hand with the acting now? And aren’t they worth it? For those most sought after days when we get to brandish fresh scripts and new highlighters? And aren’t most of us just doing the best we can until those days arrive, unable and totally unwilling to stop wanting that super cool job title? Surely, that strength of spirit alone gives us the right to announce ourselves ‘actor’? Surely this relentless faith that I have in ‘one day’ means I can announce myself ‘actor’ without wanting to burn my hair off with the crème brulee torch?

So, I will jump through the hoops, I will tick all the boxes with an adorable little swish and flick to show off my bright and effervescent personality through the power of handwriting, I will wipe down the tables, I will hold my head high and speak with pride about all the children who can ‘moo’ properly because of me and I will be patient. I will be so determinedly patient.

We are tenacious, we are dogged, we are indefatigable. We shall not be denied. We are actor.

‘Throw your hands up at me.’

Series 3 of the podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Acast. Episodes already released feature full-length interviews with Adrian Lester, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Riley, Kate Fleetwood, Sarah Ball and Jonjo O’Neill. Click here to listen!

Series 1 & 2 are also available free, along with a special live episode for Equity recorded in November 2018, and follow-up inteaviews with all seven of the emerging actors, conducted in October. Go have a listen

Rebecca Newman

Actor and writer. I can usually be found causing nonsense in some lovely children’s theatre. Or…sometimes I moonlight as a teaching assistant and grown up. Oo, fancy. My favourite compliment I ever received was ‘You dress like a wizard that’s pretending its a muggle.’