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The Struggles of a Working Class Actor


Ever noticed that most of the Actors dominating Hollywood are the citizens of a wealthier background? Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jake Gyllenhaal, Angelina Jole, Jennifer Aniston; the list goes on! Many of these guys were already born into the industry or never had to worry about a penny in their life.

Well, since graduating from the International School of Screen Acting (Notice I didn't say RADA) a year ago I have learnt why it is so much harder for the working class and those from a poorer background. People such as myself who was raised and not ashamed to admit in a council house.

Only over the past month I have turned down several theatrical roles and a short film being produced by a very credible director. Why you ask? Because committing to it meant paying the rent was no guarantee! Many of these shows were little pay or profit-share, which of course depends on the success and turnout of the production. The last thing I want to do is be involved in a show that makes very little money and then end up having to move back to my hometown Portsmouth due to lack of money. This would be a big step backwards!

Another recent example involved a very credible director who was interested in me for his short film. However, the opportunity came with no pay. Now, I understand as an actor you often need to give up your time for free in which I have done many times before. Often, it is an opportunity to gain some really good footage for your showreel or gain a respected credit. However, at the same time, you still need to make sure you are able to support yourself. I asked an assistant of the director whether they would be shooting mainly daytime or evening? So I could still earn money waitering at the restaurant before or after shooting. The response I received is that we would be doing a lot of shooting day and night over the few weeks filming. Once again, I had to turn down another opportunity!

I once remember reading an article the ex- casting director of Eastenders wrote which was very hypocritical. She claimed drama schools need to get out into the community to source a wider range of students and added: “I go into drama schools every year, and it’s getting less diverse. It’s the same old people. My worst job is trying to get a white, working-class actor, male, aged 25 to 35 for EastEnders. That is the most difficult area to get.” Perhaps Julia, this is because you are only attending the small handful of notably wealthy schools in which rarely your 'working class' actor will be found playing. I'm not saying this because I studied there, but I can't think of anywhere more relevant to search than somewhere such as the International School of Screen Acting. The only full time 'Screen' Acting school in the UK. A School which gives an opportunity to every actor, no matter how they pronounce their words in native tongue. I did actually email Julia, but surprisingly I wasn't given a reply!

As an actor you are always learning all the way through your career. The training doesn't stop once you've finished university or drama school. I always make sure I attend workshops with casting directors at least once a month which once again costs money and time off work. Although Screen Acting is now my prime focus, it would have been nice to keep up Singing and dance lessons to keep up my skill. However, without the supply of money, I need to prioritise where my small budget should go! An actor from a wealthier background will not need to make prioritising decisions, since they can afford to keep all their training up.