I'm a person first and an actor second

By a couple anonymous actors

Prepare yourself for a (relatively) eloquent rant…

There seems to be a worrying trend of late (on Twitter at least) of bad mouthing actors for cancelling a casting the day of. Now, this isn’t just someone not showing up because they can’t be bothered and not warning anyone…this is a person, (most probably an agent), calling the casting director to let them know they will no longer be able to attend for whatever reason. Seems legit. Right? 

Well, recently there have been a few Casting Directors taking this complaint to Twitter. Publicly shaming these actors as ‘unprofessional’ ‘uncommitted’ and ‘rude’, with suggestions of ‘blacklisting’ them. 

To me this is disrespectful, lacking in any kind of empathy and brimmed full of that tasty delicious hypocrisy. It would be rude to not call, it would be disrespectful to not show up and it would be unfair on other actors for someone to agree to an audition knowing they do not intend to go. But it is also unprofessional to publicly humiliate actors and joke about adding them into a weird ‘Burn Book’ purgatory never to be cast again – is the power balance not out of an actors favour enough? Just another thing to worry about. I know of instances where actors have had their audition cancelled by the casting office the same day, actors who go into auditions and find out the role has actually already been cast and not to mention the plenty of times auditions are running so behind actors have to miss work and put their livelihood at risk, which is inconvenient too! Yet you never see tweets from actors on such matters, with hordes of people wanting to bring down those mentioned. And this is what makes the matter worse, not only the clear power imbalance but fellow actors jumping on the bandwagon in some sycophantic commenting cult, as if somehow slagging off others on social media makes you seem like the next best casting option. 

Aren’t we all in this together? 

There is NOTHING wrong with cancelling the day of a casting. I’m not talking about no shows…actors confirming auditions and then just not turning up without forewarning is definitely rude, disappointing and frankly confusing but as long as you have the common courtesy to let them know in as much time as possible and apologise surely we, as humans, can understand that inconvenient life issues that crop up?

I happen to have a medical condition called Hemiplegic Migraine – basically it is a condition that mimics the symptoms of a stroke and is completely debilitating. Every time I have one of these I have to go to A&E to make sure I am actually not having a stroke because they can’t bloody tell and I have a higher risk of having a stroke because of it. Now, very unfortunately they can be triggered by stress (lucky me) and I have to take daily medication to ward them off. For whatever reason, sometimes I can find the whole auditioning process quite stressful – can I afford the day off work, can I afford the travel, can I learn the lines in time, why has that fuck off massive spot appeared and so on…you get the gist. 

So, what happens if I have a migraine the day of a casting? Should I drag my half-paralysed body out of bed to attend the audition in fear of being blacklisted or scrolling through endless tweets from fellow actors slagging me off, or should I go and get checked out at the hospital? This seems like a ludicrous question. But it does feel like, when you see these posts on Twitter from Casting Directors you want to work with and other actors who are in the trenches beside you, that you are not afforded the understanding or empathy you would get in any other situation. ‘You are an actor and this is your job so you should have been there unless your head was hanging off next to your arsehole.’

It is such an unrealistic expectation that all actors are going to be able to make every casting every single time. One of the most perturbing comments on this matter is ‘how selfish of that actor, that spot could have gone to someone else, they are so lucky to get an audition in the first place how dare they waste that!’ as if actors don’t already know that auditions are like gold dust! We KNOW how important they are, we KNOW it’s like winning the lottery to even get one, we DO feel privileged when we get the chance to audition…I don’t know any actors who don’t feel all those things 100%…do you? So why suddenly the assumption that it’s the opposite? I once went to a commercial casting so ill with the flu that when I left the room someone had to catch me on my way down to the floor as I almost passed out. I hadn’t left the house in 10 days but refused to miss the casting. In hindsight I should have stayed at home, so should I have been blacklisted?

Here are some reasons I have heard people have had to cancel auditions, or ones I imagine could easily occur:
- A sudden death of a loved one
- Mental health difficulties
- Illness
- Childcare issues
- Work suddenly changing their mind and insisting you can’t leave
- Travel problems (especially if coming from across the country!)
- A pipe bursting in your flat and your kitchen flooding with sewage water (yes that happened to me, luckily not on the day of a casting but a plausible occurrence!)

Reasons I don’t think actors cancel castings:
- They wake up the morning of (after already booking the time off work, sorting out their outfit and doing their prep) and decide they actually can’t be assed and would rather watch Loose Women.

Another thing I think casting directors forget about is how information is passed to (lots of) actors…via their agent. Especially commercial castings that are so last minute. You know how it goes…you get an email at 6pm with a casting for the next day. It’s not a request asking for confirmation - it’s a solid date, time and location. Sometimes even during a time you’ve put into tagmin that you aren’t available. But you’re at work and so don’t get the email until you next check your phone and you realise you can’t go (for whatever reason) and you WANT to give the casting office as much notice as you can but by this point your agent has left for the evening. So you send an overly apologetic email explaining that you can’t go which of course the agent doesn’t get it until the next morning, the day of the audition, and so has to cancel. And then other actors are on twitter saying their name should be put in a book of blacklisted actors? 

Even if there are a couple actors who are a bit of a knobhead (come on, we’ve all encountered them!) and who do cancel for no reason with no thought of how another keen actor could have taken that slot…someone who’s dad died on the day of a casting (true story) shouldn’t be lumped in with them in some sort of burn book that all these comments on twitter are suggesting!

We are all just people at the end of the day. We all have commitments, emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, illness, child-care issues, other job offers, mental health issues, the list is endless. Just like if the casting director encountered any of these problems and would have to cancel on 50+ actors would it be annoying? Heck yes. Would you refuse to ever audition for them again? Hell no! Rather than bad mouthing each other on social media, show a bit of empathy for your fellow tribe. Stop and consider for a minute that you don’t know their story or circumstances. Just because they had the opportunity to be in the room does not mean it was taken away from you. 

There is enough pressure on us to be perfect already and we’re all doing all we can to navigate this lifestyle. Every actor I know works a job they don’t like that much almost always on zero hours contracts JUST so that can have the flexibility to make auditions. They don’t then cancel them just because! We are in this together. Be kind and try to remember we are always people first and actors second.