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The Green Room: What’s the stereotyped version of your job, and is it accurate?

The stereotypical actor pose. Photo: Shutterstock The stereotypical actor pose. Photo: Shutterstock

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

Ros Clifford is 30. Currently a deputy stage manager, she has worked extensively in London and regional theatre for nine years

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

Adam Lovett, 45, has appeared in Oscar-winning films, on TV and in theatre at the RSC, National Theatre, and the West End

Eoghan Barry is 30. After university he did a master’s at drama school. He has worked as an actor and more recently as a writer

Vivian Lee is 38 and has played leading roles at the National, the RSC and the Royal Court, alongside regular TV appearances

 

AdamThat it’s glamorous, easy and involves swanning around at parties and premieres. It can be hard work.

John I suppose stereotypes are all based on a certain amount of truth but exaggerated.

Eoghan The “Have you been in anything I would have seen?” question feels like a stereotype in some ways – and if the answer is no, the inquisitor doesn’t really care much any more. That feeds into the other stereotype – that ‘proper’ actors are on TV, in films and in the West End.

Adam But there isn’t a film star in the world who gets to swan in at 11am. They all work long, hard days. On my current job, the stars are getting up at 5am to do training for the fights, working all day and then being given new pages to learn in the evening.

Vivian I agree about the stereotype that it’s glamorous. And that it’s trivial.

Ros I was once told I was “glamorous for a stage manager” – which I guess means there is a stereotype…

Jon“Glamorous for a…” is never a clause that’s going to end well.

Ros I’m not going to lie, several years later that comment still really bothers me.

Vivian Of course it does. Glamour has so many associations. It’s also gendered. So by calling you “glamorous” it’s defining your femininity. In the same way that I often get: “An actress?” Then they look me up and down and ask: “Are you really an actress?”. My lack of perceived ‘glamour’ is a way of demeaning and defining my femininity, my worth and my importance within the job.

Eoghan I once had a taxi driver in Dublin berate me for “throwing away my education and my parents’ money” because he thought I was being a waster and messing about “doing my acting”.

JonI temped at a charity once and, when my line manager found out I was an actor and writer, she asked me if I had ever considered doing something worthwhile.

Ros A lot of my non-theatre friends assume I get paid a lot and have lovely dressing rooms and I get whatever time off I want…

Eoghan Yes, a lot of people would be surprised how unglamorous backstage in theatres often is.

Ros But that’s their perception of theatre more than our jobs. No one actually understands what I do.

JonI’m trying to work out whether there’s a behavioural stereotype for stage management – the way actors are supposed to be vain, flaky, bitchy, overemotional etc…

Ros The stereotype is that we’re not fun, we’re bossy.

JonAh, of course – the fun police.

Ros I got called ‘PC Panto’ once. I’ve had so many things like that thrown in my direction over the years.

JonThat’s fitting in with another stereotype, isn’t it? That actors are concerned about status and take the crew for granted.

Ros We just have a standard to maintain. We’re not being bossy or fun sponges.

Another actor stereotype is that we are temperamental, demanding divas when actors are some of the most supportive, empathetic people I know

Adam Another actor stereotype is that we are temperamental, demanding divas, when actually actors are some of the most supportive, empathetic people I know.

JonYes, and I’m not sure that the stereotype that actors are back-stabby and disloyal to each other is true either. In my experience, actors are incredibly loyal and nurturing of one other, or mainly so. But perhaps we don’t always treat other people as well as we treat each other.

Eoghan That’s true. There are people like that in every industry. Off the top of my head, I’ve not worked with any actor who has jumped in another’s grave or anything, and if someone gets a job that I was up for I do my best to park disappointment and share their joy. But yes, sometimes I’ve worked with people who can throw the odd harsh word at a member of crew, which feels careless and status-driven. In the show I’m doing at the moment, we go out of our way to name-check the crew at the end, as the hardest-working people in the show, so the audience gives them their dues.

JonIt’s becoming more common to gesture to the box at a curtain call, the same way you would gesture to the band in a musical. I like that.

Eoghan It feels really nice. It keeps the feeling of the show being an ecosystem rather than just us and them.

Adam That’s a stereotype too, that actors do it for the applause. Working all night for a minute or so of applause at the end seems to be a very inefficient way of satisfying that need. Besides, most actors I know wince internally at curtain calls.

Vivian Competition is a great stereotype. And like all of them, it’s based on reality. There are fewer jobs than actors, so there is an undignified scurry around for scraps at the ‘bottom’ of the industry. But that has to do with the nature of competition and scarcity of jobs, not actors in particular. Anyone would behave in that manner. Also for younger actors the parts written for them are less defined. When I was younger, every actress I knew in my age bracket was up for the same gig. All of us. Different shapes and sizes.

JonI hear that a lot about Hollywood actors. The way all of them have a “oh, she’s here” person at every audition.

John I think actors enjoy playing up to the ‘luvvie’ stereotype. I certainly do. Along with the drinking too much, penniless layabout. That said, the bourgeoisie stereotype is tiring. We’re mostly working our socks off and skint.

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