At an audition a couple of days ago, a fellow actor asked if I came to the UK for drama school and/or to pursue my acting career. My reply: ‘Erm…not exactly’.
Then, I was asked if there were differences being an actor in the US vs the UK. This got me thinking. My answer: ‘Well…yes, and no’.
It depends who you ask. Maybe a better way of saying that is – it depends on what you focus on.
Here’s a bit of why I say ‘Yes’.
Of course, there are differences in the business. Any one of these topics probably should be a conversation on its own. For example:
Unions. SAG-AFTRA & EQUITY (USA) vs EQUITY (UK). The American unions seem to be a lot more strict about what projects their members can work in. It’s a massive topic. Can of worms.
Managers. It’s a much more prevalent thing in America to have a Manager and an Agent. Whereas in the UK it’s not necessarily the done thing. Personally, I like them. In fact, that is one of the things I really like about Suzanna (my current agent). Due to her experience in America she provides that style of Management here in the UK – which is awesome!
Opportunities (this is a hot topic). I could be wrong, but it seems to be the case that there is more work being done in America. However, if there is more work, I would say there are probably more actors trying to get cast as well. So an individual’s chances are about the same.
When I was working there I was just another American guy. Whereas here…I’m an ‘American guy’. Perhaps there are fewer roles here for me, but also, less dudes in the waiting room at the audition. It all balances out in my opinion.
And now for why I say ‘No’ about differences.
The differences we face on either side of the Atlantic really pale in comparison to the things we have in common. The really important stuff. You know…what this life as an actor is really like.
I can tell you that after spending 15 years working as a “normal” person, getting back into the game has shown me in sharp relief what wonderful, crazy and inexplicable people actors really are. The life they choose is glorious and maddening at the same time. How do you explain that to civilians? I dunno.
To help illustrate I’ll say that most people would likely call me an optimist. The glass is definitely half full for me.
However, there are times pursuing this life when that optimism is challenged. We’ve all been there – just got out of an audition for a project that you REALLY want. You thought it went great…then the crush of doubt creeps into you. You said this wrong, or did that wrong. You should’ve done that or this…etc. The phone doesn’t ring. Then a few days later, if you’re really lucky, you find out you didn’t get it (and hopefully, why). Then you’re left wondering what’s next. Do you keep going…or not? It’s the same across the pond.
Everything surrounding this kind of life is the same as well.
The issues and struggles are ones we all share. The sacrifices (money, time with loved ones, other paths and missed opportunities in life, etc.) are as well.
After all that, what keeps bringing me back to this? What brings any of us back to this? It’s a good question.
Well, I took 15 years out to raise my daughter. It’s the choice Life gave me. I made the right one for her and me.
But, when the time was right, what brought me back was the process. I love the process of the work. Because within the moment, it all makes sense and comes together. It’s like lighting in that moment when it all comes to life. It feels incredible to let that come through me and to be a part of it, even in some small way.
With that though, this can still be a difficult path to walk as you’re fighting the crush of humanity at Euston Station or trying to get on the eastbound Santa Monica Freeway.
No matter where you are – you need take care of yourself. To say this is obvious, but it’s so important to keep a positive mindset. Choosing to look at the positive side of things goes a long way in helping to do that. So does laughing at yourself.
Having a great support network is even better. I mean other actors who understand what the trials and tribulations are. People you trust and can talk to (and listen to when it’s your turn). I’m so lucky to have a network that extends from Old Blighty to California.
Honestly, I’m very fortunate and grateful to have people like that in my life. They are a Godsend. We talk pretty much every day and keep each other sane. We also do a lot of laughing at ourselves.
So, in either America or the UK, where does all this leave me? Honestly, I’m loving every moment of it. Even if I don’t get to where I want to go – doing this is so much more fun than any one of the countless (and endless) soul destroying meetings I sat through. Sipping cold coffee and staring at stale, greasy pizza for 7 hours at a time. Seriously…even my worst day doing this is bliss compared to that.