I’ve been working with Tristan Beint, who has surprised and challenged me in a ridiculous job. When I first met Tristan I really wasn’t sure about him. He was the boyfriend of my very dear friend Jo, and it wasn’t going well. He’s about my age and about as obsessed as I am about making a living as an actor. We were both young (youngER) and he was in a disfunctional relationship with my best mate. Also he appeared to be aspiring to be “posh” where I am “posh” and aspire not to be. Both things are true and false. Depending on who we are and what you think of us.
This craft we have developed can feel unforgiving sometimes. I have spoken to actors I admire who have said “I feel that I’ve been blacklisted.” They say it because they aren’t getting meetings. It’s no fun telling them “You haven’t been blacklisted. It’s just that there’s a vast crashing indifference in the industry.” But there is. Of course there is. It’s really not personal and we have to remember that. I’ve heard people – far from the industry – say “God I’m fed up of the same actors cropping up again and again.” But proven box office is necessary for a pitch. There’s a lot of money involved. Enough people are going to be happy that Eddie Redmayne is playing that part that you can see a few unknowns but you might also want to try for more proven box office in the supporting cast. So you don’t work unless you’ve worked. It is totally understandable. The eternal question is, how do you get the first one?
I went for a meeting with a good agent last month. She’s brilliant, dedicated, connected and full forward. I found myself thinking “finally, someone who is as driven as I am, has the connections and gets me.” She was why I shaved my beard and took new shots. She then, unexpectedly with no explanation, changed her mind. In the meeting she spoke of the work it would take to “launch me.” She also worried about the fact that I started my career with a “legitimate” job and then had a long period of things that are not saleable. My mum died. I shunted out. I also, perhaps erroneously, believed that a dead mother was not a good excuse for being broken, so I didn’t tell my agent. “Leave it outside the room.” Business should be separate from life – that’s what I had been taught at drama school so I stood by that.
Too many years later I have processed all that and made sense of my various griefs. I’ve settled into an understanding of how I can tick over. I want more, but it’s a start. There are people who love to work with me and I can tick over doing lovely things with them forever. It’s harder to get meetings for “interesting” jobs. Perhaps one day I can get that chance again when I’m not recently bereaved and trying to negate myself. Meantime it’s glorious to play and hone my craft.
We have been on a mirrored journey, Tristan and I. And our mutual desire to work has pushed us on. I’ve always felt that my emotional depth is at odds with my accent. It’s not an accent that speaks of depth. Tristan is a paradox. He picked up the accent from his grandad, and moved towards it as I was moving away. In the end it’s arbitrary and we shouldn’t lose so much time worrying how we come across. I did a little video about voting recently though and three people picked me up for flattening my vowels. I wasn’t even aware of it. But i definitely did it.
I love TristanHis new agent was in my year at drama school. Tristan is with me right now trying to help sort out emotional tangles. I love my fellowship of actors, those of us that are eaten by it, and I wish I wasn’t utterly exhausted as I write, and very very drunk because otherwise I’d conclude this better.