I may be entering my 60th year in The Profession– for some reason the acting trade has always been referred to as ‘The Profession’ implying it is above all other professions (including the oldest one). Why actors regard their professional calling superior to all others, I have no idea.
Unlike doctors, solicitors, teachers, concert pianists, accountants, almost all professions that involve training and a formal qualification, any Tom, Dick or Harry claim to be a member of ‘The Profession’. No qualifications are needed though talent helps.
Anyone can say that they are an actor.
Some Toms, Dicks and Harrys do choose to go to drama school but it is not a requirement. Many of them enjoy hugely successful careers without any formal training whatsoever. So successful that some have gone on to become Sir Toms, Sir Dicks and Sir Harrys.
Apologies. Once again, with my grasshopper mind, I am digressing.
I may be entering my 60th year of being an actor but I still get that frisson of excitement when I get a telephone call from my agent, sadly something of a rare occurrence during these past 12 months.
I frissoned when he called a few weeks ago. Having not spoken in weeks due to the pandemic – correction – in months, we exchanged a few ‘how are you coping during the lockdown’ pleasantries before we got to the crux of the call.
‘A film?’ I replied, the increasing frisson causing my voice to go up an octave. ‘Great!’
‘Yes, it’s a lovely part, George.’
‘Is this an offer?’
‘As good as…’
I knew what was coming.
‘They just want you to self-tape a couple of scenes. It’s a formality…’
The excitement instantly de-frissoned.
In the current lack of work climate, my fellow members of ‘The Profession’, indeed the world and his wife, would be already charging their I-phones, Samsungs and the like in readiness for their ‘It’s a formality’ self-taping sessions.
My views on self-taping were well documented when I was writing for the Telegraph Online (Layton on Lockdown May 12th 2020).
To recap: self-taping is videoing yourself performing a scene or two emailed by some distant, disconnected casting director. In the hope that he/she will be considered for the part, the actor then emails the footage back. A challenge for a technophobe like myself.
What a wonderful innovation for locked down old luvvies like myself to be able to audition without leaving the house, I hear you say.
Don’t believe it!
Whilst it has admittedly been a useful tool during this wretched pandemic, self-taping has been around for years. It’s an audition to get an audition! I loathe it. But it’s like the Lottery – you have to be in it, to win it!
‘All the filming is in London,’ my agent cajoled. ‘You’ll be home every night…’
Note the bold typeface in the sentence above. This is where you are going to hear a phrase rarely heard from an actor. So rare I shall use capitals and bold type:
I FEEL SORRY FOR MY AGENT.
The poor man has to try and find me gainful employment within the various restrictive constraints set out by me. The main constraint being that I like to sleep in my own bed every night.
It is no an easy job for an agent trying to get work for an actor who doesn’t like being away from home. Hence the ‘All the filming is in London, you’ll be home every night’ dangling carrot.
Forget the year of the lock downs; jobs like this are rare at any time.
I do work away from home, of course. But if the job involves being away for any length of time, it has to be something I really want to do.
Even then I discuss the pros & cons with Moya until after much discussion (aka persuasion) I will consider the job only if she gives me her ‘Georgie, if you really want to do it, do it’ blessing.
That said, if Steven Spielberg called I would be on the next ‘plane to wherever without so much as a backward glance!!
Touring and working away from home goes with the job and in my time (in ‘The Profession’) the Good Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of it.
Actually, it is not just the ‘Good Lord’ who knows. So does my long-suffering wife. Weeks after getting married, off I went to work in Australia for 6 months!
Perhaps then, you can appreciate why at this stage in my life I like to be in my own bed every night. Not by myself of course. If that were to be the case, I might as well go off and earn some dosh.
Which brings me to what has been a very strange week.
For the past 4 nights I have been at home in my own bed – totally alone.
No, the CEO of Laytonia has not left me, although the above-mentioned Good Lord wouldn’t blame her after 47 years of living with an obsessive neurotic. My dear brave wife is in hospital having that long overdue – thanks/no thanks to Covid – shoulder operation.
Under normal circumstances, your loved one being away and having the place to yourself for a day or two can be quite a novelty.
It can be rather pleasant binge-watching Curb Your Enthusiasm whilst snacking on unhealthy garbage that is not normally allowed anywhere near the house. But it’s a novelty that wears thin very rapidly. Usually around 24 hours, I find.
Okay – breach of data protection here – Moya had gone in for a shoulder replacement. (Sharp intake of breath.) Yes, I too am cringing. It doesn’t bear thinking about and being alone in Laytonia, my imagination went into catastrophic overdrive.
I spent the time, especially the nights, acting out some weird “What if this was my life, permanently living on my own?” scenario.
All went well. Phew…!
The surgeon was very pleased. Moya is now home. The painful rehabilitation began immediately and I am in full Nurse Ratched mode. Literally!
I thought it might brighten Moya’s day and bring a smile to her face if I donned a nurse’s outfit. Courtesy of my friend Larry up the road (a former member of ‘The Profession’) who has a penchant for dressing up, I borrowed a fetching little nurse’s ensemble from his bottomless chest of fancy dress costumes.
‘Never fear, Nurse George is here,’ I quipped as I tottered into the bedroom, carrying a tea tray.
My entrance coincided with the patient’s pain-killers wearing off. I wasn’t certain that Moya had even noticed until I heard:
‘A bit bloody pervy, George’ …
I proceeded to redeem myself with my culinary skills, no doubt helped by Moya’s lack of appetite. Regrettably, I lost a few brownie points as a result of some well intentioned words of encouragement.
More accurately, it wasn’t so much my words of encouragement that pointed me in the direction of the doghouse, it was more the action that went with it.
To help Moya’s rehabilitation and get her back on to the tennis courts, she has to regularly ice her shoulder. Holding the ice-pack in place for the prescribed 30 minutes, playing my Nurse Ratched role to the full – sans outfit – I then helped Moya with the simple exercises that she has been instructed to do at this early stage of rehab.
Considering it was only a couple of days after the operation, she was doing brilliantly.
‘Darling, you are doing so well!’ I enthused, punctuating my words of encouragement with a congratulatory slap on the shoulder.
You got it – wrong shoulder!
Moya is improving day by day. Which is more than can be said for my bedside manner…
My mobile rings. Ooh, it’s my agent! Frisson of excitement…
‘Sorry, George, it didn’t work out with that film. The director’s gone for somebody quite different.’
How many times have I heard that over the years?
‘No reflection on your work. They’ve rewritten the part to be played by a woman.’
For one brief mad ‘Tootsie’ moment, I think about suggesting that I do another self-taping wearing my natty nurse’s outfit.
‘Ah well, some you win, some you lose,’ I lamely riposte.
‘That’s the spirit. Onwards and upwards. Keep safe.’,
I console myself with the thought that I wouldn’t have done it anyway – it would have clashed with my Nurse Ratched role…