Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bitter Bloggings of an Optimistic Actress: Depression and the Actor

Ups and downs.  Happiness and sadness.  All these emotions are part of life and actors in the ages past have tapped into all of them.  We are a slave to our emotions and will continue to be until the day we die.  For some actors this comes sooner than others in the form of suicide or drug overdose.  Robin Williams, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marilyn Monroe.  All taken too soon.  All with so much more to give.  Robin Williams had been dealing with illnesses along with the difficult life of acting.  Marilyn Monroe was popping pills to keep her spirits up.  Sadness and Anger just come with the territory.  And that is when you have made it.

There are plenty of other actors who "made it" and committed suicide as their careers were waning and the debt came in to swallow them.  I can think of a writer and painter who did the same thing, ahem! It breaks my heart that would ever happen to anyone.  The world is a beautiful place.  But the world of acting, when you aren't "on", can be cold and desolate and very isolating.

When I went into college for acting my professor told me, "artists can easily become addicted to their own melancholy."  She was right.  I have never seen a group of people who are so happily miserable in my life.  And when that gaping maw of depression opens it's laws yo swallow you up the sadness can feel like a great warm blanket.  The high tide of emotions can have a profound effect on your work.  I have seriously done some of my best performances when I was going through a break up.  But this is decidedly not healthy.  We can't stay in this place forever.  We have to find the way back to the light and be happy again.  We can't stay in that dark place all the time can we?

I read an article where Meryl Streep was talking about her daughter and her acting career.  Meryl is a proud mama.  We can see that.  She loves her children dearly, but even she says it is hard to watch her girls go through the rejection.  "It is personal,"  She said.  And she is right.

Now imagine going through that with no one around you who understands.  No one who understands being rejected day in and day out.  No one who feels that weight pressing down on you.  It is maddening to go to a day job where you are forced to do something you very honestly hate.  It's not that waiting tables or data entry is beneath you.  It's not that being the nanny or teacher isn't a good job with great perks.  It's not that your aren't a great teacher.  It's just not a job you want to do the rest of your life.  And that sucks.

Imagine wanting to be a surgeon.  You are good at it.  You graduated the top of your class.  Now imagine you had to do your first hundred surgeries for free.  Imagine you had to go in and schmooze with any client in order to get a job.  You wanna do that really well paying heart transplant that could really give your career a boost?  You have to go and hang out with the recipient of the heart and their family.  Sometimes they are great, but sometimes they make you wonder if they even deserve that heart.  Maybe you could just heal the person with the heart?  But you swallow your pride.  Sometimes while you are talking to a perspective client people will muscle in and start talking about all their accomplishments.  "I won best surgeon at the 2015 Rx Festival in New Mexico.  I have two surgeries already on the books and you would make my third."  In order to get the job you have to send a tape of your next surgery and you don't necessarily have one on the books so you go in and do a practice surgery of the same type.  Or you are fortunate and a heart transplant comes up and you can invite the family to come watch.  The operation goes off without a hitch.  And now you wait.  You receive a letter from the family and they decided to go with another surgeon.  Likely Best Surgeon Rx 2015.  "You're fine and the best surgeon we have ever seen but your pinky is too short and we want to make sure little Becca is in the best hands possible."

This is a hard business and we are told over and over again to keep busy.  Always be filming.  Keep trying.  Keep working.  You're blessed to work in this business.  But really when does all this madness end?  It doesn't.  Even at the top they are fighting for and losing parts.  You wanna work, go hang around people and get popular.  You want an Oscar? Be prepared to spend ten million dollars.  One in every hundred people is an "actor."  So, no you are not a special snowflake and you are not the only person who could have done the part.  That part you wanted more than anything, the director already has it cast, he is just looking at other options in the event he needs an understudy.  This is a cruel unfair business.  No wonder so many actors kill themselves.  

How can we fix it?  You really can't.  Work more.  Be better.  Be so good they can't overlook you.  Get a better agent.  All you can do is swim through the depression to the other side and hope you don't drown on the way.  That's what I do anyways.