My life as an actor, part one
By Simon Barget
Those who know me in real life will know I’m an actor. It’s just how I make my living. I’ve pretty much always been one, well at least as far as I can remember. All my family are actors, and most of my friends. If it sounds like some big fancy love-fest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Actors are some of the most down-to-earth people I know, they bring a meticulousness to each role, however small, we dedicate ourselves for the sake of the craft. We go so fully into it, you don’t even know it’s an actor. I mean how many times have you watched any old film and doubted for one second that the character is real. Just think about it, hardly ever happens. And that’s because we’re fucking great at what we do.
The thing about acting though is, yes, it’s true, we all want the big parts. Don’t let anyone fool you. We want the limelight, our names in lights, we want the Hollywood blockbusters, we want to be known, written about in broadsheets and tabloids, our photos daubed across billboards, we want interviews on Leno and Letterman, to be invited back in perpetuity onto those hallowed sofas, we want people to see us in the street and look shocked that it could really be us, these otherworldly celebrities traversing the same dour bit of concrete, yes we want plaudits but we want the adulation, the fear and respect, we want to be recognised for what we do and all the hard work we put in. Frankly we deserve it.
And yes, it’s just as true. Hardly any of us ever ever EVER get known. Almost none. So many of us fly under the radar, irrelevants, quietly plying our craft, so involved in our roles, our characters, exploring their every cranny and nuance, and so many of us are just another sad actor, one audition to the next, prostituting ourselves, acting our fucking guts out just to get one paltry part, one completely irrelevant walk-on thing so that the stars get all the attention and we just flicker around like non-entities, making them look even more seductive and electric and magnetic and holy. There are literally millions and millions of us crawling around this planet yet most of you only know about a hundred.
Yes, and acting is not just the silver screen, acting is your voice-overs your ad work, your vocal coaching, your faking and stunt doubles, acting’s those desperate corporate films where they want you to put on your own suit at your own cost and pretend to be in marketing. And we give our all to each role to everything we do. And for me, how I wish still after all these years, how I wish I could get a good part. Every time it seems that my stock’s on the rising, I’m knocked down. Every time I feel close, well, you know like now, it just doesn’t happen.
I’ve actually got an agent, and he’s called John, and I was pretty lucky to find him and it was only because I happened to show up at a friend’s wedding and we got talking, and I don’t think he’d have taken me on unsolicited if I’d sent him my reel, and it’s so true that so many of these things happen through networking. Anyway, John is a bit of a turning point for me, we talk, he phones me each Monday morning, he tells me what’s out there, he makes no promises but he gets the big roles, and just when I sense that this is my moment, the gig falls through, and that makes doing all the other humdrum work I have on all the more hard. After the kick in the guts and the disappointment, I have to put my all into some burgeoning theatre company production in Streatham, and I feel sick to have to be on that stage, don’t they know who I am, I mean who I could be, and it doesn’t console me one little bit that all my friends, well they’re all in the same boat, not one of us is famous, not one has a Wikipedia page, and that makes it even worse really, because I feel that if I kept famous company, I’d be more likely to get there myself.
Just a little detail on my last role though I might tell you more about it in due course. I’m playing this guy and though he’s certainly not a main part -- he’s kind of on the fringes -- I mean, he’s got more than just a few lines and just a few scenes so it’s nice to have something to work with. The script is ok, nothing ground-breaking. It’s not a Kaufman for instance. But, and this is a big but, the fact that he’s close to being a major part makes it all the more tantalising for me, I mean he is so unqualifiedly not a big part of the film that the fact that he’s almost there makes it more of a disappointment that he’s not– it’s a film, did I forget to say this – and the film’s supposedly going to be on TV at some point although the production company need to pull their fingers out and get a deal with one of the channels or streamers. I can’t tell you what it’s called not so much because of confidentiality, but because I haven’t got a fucking clue what they’re calling it. It’s some sort of disaster movie in any case but this time it doesn’t pan out nicely, I mean no one comes to save us/him and that’s pretty much it. Having said that, I quite like playing him, he seems like a genuinely nice chap. More when I have more.
And what about the people who don’t act. Well they’re just boring and I can’t begin to imagine their lives. I mean they don’t ever get to play anyone different, they don’t know how transporting it can be, how you literally feel you’re the role you are playing, and don’t get me wrong you have to have some talent, but most actors I know are well beyond that and you’d never doubt for a minute that they are who they’re playing, an amazing verisimilitude, well as for the others, the bankers, the salesman, and the accountants and the bakers, and the manufacturers, the builders, the engineers, the farmers and the fisherman, the insurance salesman, the traders and disk-jockeys, the actuaries, the newsagents and shop owners, the go-go dancers, the wanderers and nomads, the writers, the antiques dealers, as for them, they just are who they are every single second of the day, and how insanely dull that must be, to be thing you are, to truly embody it, I can’t think of anything more reviling, and what for all the ups and downs – the mainly downs -- of this acting game, what for all the financial insecurity, I’ll take acting over anything else any day, but I just wish, I can’t stop hoping that some day, I will not beg but I just pray that some day it’s going to happen.