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The Green Room: Do you want to be famous?

Not all actors are keen to embrace a celebrity lifestyle. Photo: Shutterstock
Not all actors are keen to embrace a celebrity lifestyle. Photo: Shutterstock

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details...​​

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Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA award winning sitcoms, theatre and TV

Beryl Phoenix is in her 40s. She has played leading roles at the RSC, worked on numerous new plays, and toured both national and internationally

John Pepper is 31, and for the past 10 years has worked as an actor in regional theatres, the National Theatre and in radio, television and film

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and London’s Royal Court, as well as regular TV appearances

Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television

John Fame can open up the opportunity to do better work, so in that respect, yes.

Beryl No – I just want to be able to pay the mortgage, bills and do good work. I’m happy to be known within the industry rather than having trouble buying milk in the local shop.

Vivian I’ve no interest in the trappings of fame, but I don’t want to worry about money. And I want my work to be valued and recognised. I’d also like to be respected.

Jon That sounds like a joke on a radio show I listened to as a kid: “Coming up next on BBC1, the British remake of Fame: Quite Well Respected Within the Profession.”

Peter I’m working in a small town. People tell you in the street they’ve enjoyed the show. It’s lovely, but I wouldn’t want the lack of privacy of being famous.

Beryl What about the same people playing all the parts? You can’t suspend your imagination forever that Tom Hardy is everyone, can you?

Vivian If being famous gave you more freedom to try stuff out, I’d be interested. But it doesn’t – you’re as good as your last role. Often you have to fit people’s existing perception of you.

Albert Lots of young actors now do want to be famous. Celebrity culture has coloured people’s ambitions. I just wanted to work.

Peter It must be difficult knowing whether people really like you.

Albert I prefer to be seen as successful rather than famous.

Peter I’m neither.

Albert Then why do you still do it? For love?

Jon In other professions, saying, ‘I haven’t worked in five months and have only had three interviews’ would be cause to change career.

Albert In many cases, they should.

Beryl Being paid to do what you love is a success.

Peter Well, I work fairly constantly. Maybe that’s being successful?

Albert Lots of actors would love to be constantly in work, Peter.

Peter But I earn far less than I would in other professions.

Beryl No one is an actor for the money, surely?

Peter If you’re famous, you’re putting bums on seats so you can demand more money.

Albert Making your business pay – surely that is what you have to do.

Beryl I’d have changed jobs years ago if I was only in it for the dosh.

Albert Acting is my job and it has to pay. But success isn’t necessarily what you think it is when you start out.

Jon A couple of my closest friends are on telly quite a lot and I haven’t had an uninterrupted pub trip with either of them for about 10 years. Sometimes people even sit down at the table.

Beryl People are brazen – if you’re famous, people feel they own you. I’ve been with famous people who have been approached quite aggressively.

Albert Most people are very nice and thrilled to meet you, but sometimes it’s intrusive. The exclamation “You’re on TV, aren’t you?” is normally followed by a request to reel off your CV so they can work out what they have seen you in.

Beryl I was recognised on a train the day after being on The Bill!

Albert At least it wasn’t Crimewatch, Beryl.

Beryl The woman looked as though she was going to kill me. Then she asked if I’d been on telly the night before. I said “yes”, embarrassed, and she kissed her teeth at me.

Peter I was in a pub with a star and a few other actors. Someone came up and asked: “I’m told one of you is famous. Which is it?”

Jon The thing about being the non-celeb at the table is that you’re totally invisible. Until they want someone to take a photo.

John I suppose being famous is like the other end of the scale of being unsuccessful and poor – even though bits of it are crap, you still do it for the love.

Jon How do we define success in this business? Regular work? Awards? Being recognised in Tesco? A massive house?

Albert I see lots of young actors really working hard to keep body and soul together, but having very little acting in their lives. Their dignity is slowly going down the drain.

Jon Agreed. It’s much tougher than when I started 20 years ago.

John Baseline success for me has always been being able to pay for my life without having to do anything other than acting.

Jon As the late Tom Petty said: “Do something you really like, and hopefully it pays the rent. As far as I’m concerned, that’s success.”

Peter I’ve managed that for the last period of my life.

Jon We’ve missed out an important trapping of fame: which of the ‘celeb’ shows would you do? Strictly, Masterchef, Big Brother?

John Bake Off.

Beryl Strictly – I never get to wear sparkly dresses. I’m always playing scrotes.

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