A Facebook friend posted today about Scott Baio getting airtime on Fox and his acting wasn’t the purpose of his interview. It was a political conversation apparently, although I did not actually see the interview. The post itself reminded me of all the times I have heard people, including family members, suggest actors shouldn’t be allowed to add to political or social conversations. Even before I became an actor, I thought that opinion seemed ridiculous and now it seems just plain stupid.
Within minutes I had crafted a post of my own.
After seeing yet another post suggesting actors should not be given airtime to discuss politics, I feel compelled to share an opinion as an actor. If you think our job is to simply entertain you, you’re mistaken. If you think we’re not in touch with what’s happening locally, nationally, and globally, you’re mistaken. Many of us choose carefully the subject matter we want to work on and we’re often drawn to projects that mean something to us personally. We’re not in it just to be seen, just to be paid, just to get a credit. There is a greater purpose for many of us. If we’re using our faces, voices, and talents to serve a production that addresses sexism, racism, homophobia, slavery, homelessness, war, or any of a multitude of other human-made disasters of our time, why should be STFU when the shoot is over and sit in silence. We, too, have something to say and the label of actor should not be your justification to reduce us to puppet performers.
I found myself inspired to look at my resume and see how many times I have worked on purposeful projects and what kind of issues my characters were facing or inflicting on others. Just last year I worked on a 25-minute short film that deals with race relations and racism, and there’s been many other times I’ve worked on projects with a specific message.
My other short film work includes subject matter ranging from foster care to infidelity. One of my favorite commercial roles came in a shoot to raise sex education awareness among teens. Also, I have appeared in corporate videos for Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association as well as acting in projects dealing with child development, immigration, and the challenge to provide clean water.
There is no great divide between us and the rest of the world, actors. We are them. They are us. The issues we deal with on screen come from issues in real life. Whether you’re actually experiencing them in the same way as your character does is irrelevant. You’re devoting time to processing the issues for your character to give your performance a much-needed authenticity.
Now there is a very important BUT to add for newer actors. Stepping into a social or political conversation that takes place in public or in a public forum, such as Facebook, can lead to negative consequences. It’s important to remember every statement or comment you make is part of your brand as an actor. There is always a possibility one comment could cost you a job or end a professional relationship.
My advice to any actor is post only what you truly believe and always be able to stand behind your words. You won’t win over everyone. No one can. You will connect with like-minded people and building relationships is how careers can grow.