Not so long ago, I wrote about the loneliness of being an actor in response to a particularly tragic week the industry had. It highlighted how, despite being a wonderful profession, acting does not come without its shares of lows.
This week, I was reminded of the point I raised after interviewing Sophie Rundle, an up and coming star of television, who highlighted in her own ways how the industry has challenged her. And it seemed to me worth pointing out what she said, so that a young performer herself – someone who is comparatively new to the sector – can demonstrate how difficult an industry it can be.
Rundle is not long out of drama school. She is 25, and graduated in 2011. Her most recent job – Talking to the Dead for Sky Living – took her to Cardiff for two months. That, of course, is exciting in many ways. But equally, it’s a daunting prospect. It meant Rundle was away from family and friends for a good period of time. Okay, it’s not a million miles away. But with filming schedules as tight as they are, she would have been required to be there pretty much the entire time. Going home frequently wouldn’t have been an option.
And as she points out in the interview:
It’s lonely. I lived in this strange apartment for two months – on my own. It helped with the role because [the character] is lonely. But it [acting] is not as fun and sparkly as it’s made out to be.
That’s quite a revealing statement from an actor at the beginning of her career. Acting is not as “sparkly” as it’s made out to be. Because, of course, it can be perceived that way.
So, who makes out that it’s sparkly? The media – which only really focuses on the performers at the top of their game, who are living the high life? Actors who, in interviews, paint a picture of how glamorous the life can be, maybe to keep up appearances? I don’t know.
Fair play to Rundle, though, for being honest. Because, of course, acting isn’t always sparkly. We all know about the endless rejections and knock-backs. Drama schools tell you about that. But as I wrote before, actors can feel isolated in their jobs. And nothing prepares you for that.
Worse, there’s bullying too. Rundle, as I mentioned, is new to the industry. That means she’ll be doing jobs on which many of the other performers and crew members will be much more experienced than her. You’d hope they’d make her feel welcome and supported. But there’s no guarantee. Acting can be as bitchy – if not more so – as any other industry.
More and more we are being made aware of bullying within the sector. A poll carried out on this website just last week revealed found that 55% of participants claimed they had been bullied at work in the entertainment industry. This doesn’t just include actors, mind you. It takes into account people who work across all roles in the sector.
And people, of course, are scared to speak out about such experiences, often because they are worried they may not get work again if they do.
This is why I applaud BECTU’s new anti-bullying hotline, which I wrote about last week and which allows anyone from the entertainment industry to report bullying, confidentially.
I’ve said it before, but the industry is a great one to work in, with so many highs. But there are lows too, which should be talked about. Anything that can help make the industry a safer, easier one to work in has to be welcomed.
Sophie Rundle’s interview will appear in full in next week’s edition of The Stage.