Actors and fame
One beautiful spring day last week I was sat outside a cafe and had noticed some attention from the table of two middle-aged couples sat next to us. The enquiry soon followed: “Excuse me, didn’t you used to be an actor?” In truth, it’s been a quiet month, work wise.
There have been a couple of voice jobs but I’ve not spent more than seven or eight days in actual gainful employment, but this chap was under the impression that I’d given up completely, since he’d “not seen me on telly for years”.
This kind of thing happens quite frequently and, as a younger man, I’d have probably bristled at the suggestion of some kind of failure and put him straight. Now I just smile and nod and try to resist the temptation to justify my position or to explain that I love the theatre, actually, and no, I don’t think that going into the jungle with Ant and Dec would sort my career out…
A little fame, such as mine, is a very odd thing – just last year I was asked, very politely, by a woman, “Excuse me, didn’t you used to be Joe McGann?” I still am, and am still stuck for an appropriately witty answer, for any answer other than the one I gave, which was a simpering, resigned, “Yes, that was me”.
I can tell you this much, when I hear people say that they want to be famous above all else, I invariably raise a single eyebrow, bite down gently to still my tongue and compose the best non-committal expression I can muster.
It’s a foolish thing to chase, fame, being as it is equally bestowed on the glorious and the ghastly – the Kanye West and the Fred West – and is both a boon and a curse, whoever and wherever it touches. I think it was Robert Downey Jr – who has achieved both fame and infamy – who said that he does the job of acting for free, but charges the big bucks to deal with the rest of the shit that goes with it. But I’m not Iron Man, and I need to eat, so I wait for the phone to ring.
This morning I’ve received from my agent the lines and character breakdown for a screen test next week. It’s for a major TV series and the contract would be for a year, so it’s an amazing opportunity and one which I will try my utmost to bag. I welcome the opportunity to work, but I’m wary of the distorting prism of the PR and gossip machines that go with it, and that is my admittedly first-world problem.
If I do get the job, however, I shall be tempted to sit at that same cafe for as long as it takes till I see that man again, show him the press release and prove to him, and to myself, that I’m still an actor, and it’s true because I’m on his telly. That wouldn’t be odd at all.
Till next month, then, I shall mostly be channeling Micawber, Dickens’ garrulous optimist, ever sure that “something will turn up”, and remaining vaguely recognisable, but anonymous enough not to have to go behind the VIP rope with the Freds and Kanyes. Hi Diddley Dee.