Actors on reality TV shows

Sid Owen in Strictly Come Dancing. Photo: BBC/Ray Burmiston
Stuart Piper
Stuart Piper is managing director of Cole Kitchenn Personal Management Ltd
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I read Matthew Hemley's column 'I'm a Celebrity - but should I appear on a reality show?' with interest, as an agent of legitimate actors, who are often faced with a decision to be made when offered a reality show.

I largely agree with much of what he wrote, but can provide some additional insight into the decision making process which agents and actors often have to face.

This year, we as an agency have turned down several six figure offers on behalf of clients from the main reality shows and talent show competitions. Equally, we have two clients in this year's Strictly Come Dancing line up.

The answer to his question (should a performer consider them at all) it's impossible to treat it anything other than a case by case basis as it depends on the individual situation.

It's so easy for us to sit and judge, 'Why on earth did they decided to do x show' - but I wonder how many of us would have the strength to turn down an offer of £100,000 or more to do anything. It's quite rare to get that kind of money for any TV drama in the UK.

The trouble is (and this is what I explain to clients) you have to weigh that fee against how it could affect your earnings in the future, from your core craft, which is acting.

We represent an actress who turned down a Saturday night ‘shiny floor’ reality competition for such a sum, was then largely out of work for a year, but then got a lead regular role on one of the biggest dramas on television – that she wouldn’t have got otherwise.

On the flip side we’ve recently had no problem getting ex-Dancing on Ice contestant back Roxanne Pallett back on screen (Casualty, Waterloo Road, features It's a Lot and Devil's Tower all since the show) and fellow contestant Jennifer Ellison back on stage (Legally Blonde). Audiences are more likely to buy a ticket to see either of those performers as a result of that television exposure.


I agree that shows where you learn a skill are better than a show where you just sit on a sofa. Of our two clients in this year's Strictly, Sid Owen has already had two offers of acting roles that he is considering, and Dani Harmer is meeting with more commissioners and production companies about vehicles for her, than she was before the competition. Now granted, she also has her own shows continuing on television at the same time as the competition (regular repeats of Tracey Beaker and Dani's House and her new show Dani's Castle just around the corner) but there's no question that more people know (and love) her now than before, which is only a good thing for commissioners judging whether or not people will tune in to see programmes starring her.


The exception to that rule is comedians – who I think get more chance to display their entertaining wit on a show that has as little format as possible. Jack Dee made his Celebrity Big Brother one to watch for instance.

But although for many types of performers I'm A Celebrity may not be the right move - I would argue it has one of the best formats available to change the public's opinion of you in a short period of time. If you simply eat the bugs and display yourself to be selfless, the public will respond, whereas it is harder to show a different side to your personality when you're busy skating on the ice. But if you don’t eat the bugs…. Then they won’t. However this rule only really applies to someone who needs a public rehabilitation.

I imagine most of you reading this are actors, or those that most enjoy watching actors act. And I count myself as one of those people. However, as an agent, I will always consider any opportunity for them that may further their acting ambitions – and weigh up the potential risks and rewards to their unique situation – which is why there is no straightforward answer to Matthew Hemley's question.