The life of the actor brings with it a unique set of challenges. We have to contend with ridiculous highs and lows, as well as the uncertainty of work and the pressures of keeping our heads above water, both financially and emotionally. I believe that keeping a firm perspective on the love of what we do and the sharing of our own ups and downs can really help.
How we perceive success is key to improving our mental health. ‘Success’ is not whether you have won any awards, whether you are famous, or whether you are rich. Success is learning to love and enjoy what you do, while finding a way to sustain yourself and keep doing it. If you make that your only goal, so much unnecessary mental pressure that you put on yourself will evaporate.
When you’re working, train yourself to make time to glory in it. Take a moment to be alone ‘on set’, turn up early for rehearsals, sit in the empty theatre before the show – enjoy the feeling. Create solid, happy, positive memories. It’s very important, firstly because you’ve earned it, but also because it makes you appreciate your achievement. Trust me, this will lead to good work and a sense of peace.
Think about your favourite actor, the one you most admire, who you want to emulate. They will have failed a thousand times, in ways you cannot imagine
As Mickey Rooney once said: “You’ll always pass failure on the way to success.” How we perceive failure is also key. So, take a deep breath, because I have to tell you something that is both shocking and deeply reassuring.
You are going to fail, and fail, and fail again and again and again.
Whether it’s failing to get into drama school, failing to get auditions, failing to get a job, failing to earn the money you need at the moment, failing to please critics, failing to impress your family, failing to work regularly, failing to make that ‘moment’ work in a show, failing to remember your lines…
You will fail. Everybody does. Think about your favourite actor, the one you most admire, who you want to emulate. They will have failed a thousand times, in ways you cannot imagine.
There is no way around it: by putting yourself ‘out there’ as an actor, you will get hurt, you will get injured. Knowing that, it becomes essential that you reframe how you deal with your journey. Failing is not failing. You have to accept it as part of the journey. It’s the deal you make when you become an actor. These ‘failure scars’ become part of who you are. You will learn to love sharing them and hearing other actors’ stories.
There will be times when things feel really hard, a bit overwhelming and difficult to deal with. Remember that actually you have only three responsibilities:
1. Keep doing good work.
2. Conduct yourself with kindness and grace.
3. Have a life that makes you happy.
You decide what order they go in.
Andy Nyman is an actor, writer and director. His new book More Golden Rules of Acting is out on October 3 published by Nick Hern Books. He is currently starring in Fiddler on the Roof, which runs at London’s Playhouse Theatre until November 2