To beard or not to beard?

Self tape for a commercial was due in today. I had a lovely big Badger beard. I wasn’t gonna shave it just for a shot at a commercial playing “husband” no matter how much they pay. Thankfully I hadn’t submitted it when my agent sent me another for a first name last name in something you’ve heard of. But it changed the shape of my day.

This character definitely has no beard. He thinks that people with beards are dangerous and not to be trusted. He carefully shaves with his grandfather’s razor and a brush every morning and every evening at precisely six o’clock whilst listening to sport.

The beardy shots we worked towards yesterday for the “husband” commercial were suddenly irrelevant with only a few hours before submission time. I can’t submit “husband” with a beard and then shave it. What if mister America shouts “I WANT THE GUY WITH A BEARD!”?

I wasn’t at home with my useful shaving things. I was on my way out of London to Brighton to have a nice relaxing day with Lou. But thankfully I was near Tristan in Richmond. One of my self tape tribe.

Quick trip to the barber, quick reshoot with Tristan. Honestly, I’m happier with the bearded version. The clean shaven one was rushed. But it’s just a commercial and who knows how many thousands of people are recording for it. Better to maximise my chances for the actual acting role. It feels extremely auspicious too, the acting role. I just helped my friend put down a brilliant self tape for my character’s wife. She nailed it. Mine is due on Monday. If we both get it then we have electric prefab trust on set. Fingers fucking crossed. I’m definitely getting her to read with me on it, as her character speaks more than mine in the sides I’ve been sent.

So … I look young again. Goodbye Badger beard. Hello mister sharpface. I remember you.

I made it to Brighton eventually. I’m here now. No beard but a friendly cat that I could hold against my face as a fake beard if I needed.

It’s a tough one, knowing how to play the beard in this business. It grows in just a few weeks. It’s very useful. It takes very little time to shave but much longer to grow. The problem is I know that people can’t see past it if it’s attached. It completely changes the shape of my face. It takes me from sharp to wide. It softens and ages me. It’s an endless discussion. It’s why when I went in for The Crown I shaved it (with permission) despite Tom preferring I had it for Scrooge. I know for certain I wouldn’t have got Michael Howard if they couldn’t see my shaved chin. Tom understood completely. I’m probably more castable sharp.

There are fucktons of actors out there, like it or not. The nuance of relative ability and relevant experience is often deprioritised over the look you have. Not by everyone, of course. But frequently by the crucial decision makers. And it only takes one exec producer to nix you and you are well and truly nixed. Why put yourself at that disadvantage just because you wish that people could have more imagination? People generally don’t, even in this line of work. “The character doesn’t have a beard. This guy has a beard. That other guy – the guy you didn’t like – he doesn’t have a beard. He’s my guy. He’s the guy I want. Period. Who funded this? Get me the guy without a beard.” A gross characterisation, you might say. But I’ve met him and cast for him.

I guess this is why I’m gonna have to get more well known. Once you’ve got enough extant work, they’re going off that instead. You can show up with a beard and offer it, because they already know what you look like, from Murpy Flurpy. But it carries stuff too, being the guy off Murpy Flurpy. There’s the risk of being typecast. “The character Herbie off Murpy Flurpy was a perky turkey! We don’t need perky turkeys in our production of Hamlet”… Or you get forced to be just that role forever – “I dunno what you’re trying to do here, but we hired you to be Herbie the perky turkey from Murpy Flurpy. Do the turkey thing! Gobbley gurkey!”

Plus you can’t get on the tube and talk to your friends about personal stuff anymore. HERBIE THE PERKY TURKEY’S HEART IS HURTY! There’s always someone listening. And if you don’t like the lack of privacy some shitbag tells you “you CHOSE this” because THEY would have chosen it for the recognition element. As if there’s no other reason… As if you can choose to hit that role that captures something… As if that’s been your intention. Because, with no ability, they only see the results of the work. And with no perspective they think that they would only want to be an actor to be famous. So many short sighted venal idiots in the printed media. And elsewhere.

Go to recognition if it’s offered, for sure. It opens doors. That’s a true reason. It allows us to do the thing we do … more. And it helps cut back on the downtime where we need to express an art that cannot be expressed without being witnessed. Recognition helps us be our truth.

But yeah. I’m ranting again. Hello friend. You got this far. Bless you. I’ve shorn myself again. Maybe I’ll get a job in a thing. HERE’S MY FACE.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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