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Just Say No

July 29, 2013

George Clooney was once asked why he agreed to appear in the 1988 film “Return of the Killer Tomatoes!” He replied, “Because I got offered the part!”

Clooney is one of the smartest, best-looking, most talented actors of his generation, and he had a big family connection to the acting industry via Aunt Rosemary. So it’s easy to forget that he slogged through the lower echelons of acting for more than a decade before his first critically acclaimed film roles in “Out of Sight” and “Three Kings.” (Fun bit o’ trivia: George actually appeared on TWO television series called “ER,” the first being a short-lived Elliot Gould sitcom.)

After their first bits of success — which in this case means getting the part — a lot of actors find themselves where Clooney did in 1988, happy to be getting anything, and taking any role that seems like a step up. As I move from community theater roles to semi-professional Fringe Festival roles to my first professional appearances, I am finding that accepting everything that’s offered is not always possible, let alone a good idea.

I recently did a role I was not right for, solely because it was offered to me. I did not feel I was the best choice for it, and even told the casting director — someone I had worked with before — that I was unsure about it. He admitted he had his doubts as well, but knew me to be reliable and a good team player. I slogged through the part and did a passable job with it, but it was one of my weakest performances.

It is hard to walk away from an offer. There will always be those niggling questions — those “what if”s. And there is always some risk of burning bridges. (I once had the experience of deeply offending someone I had worked with only once before, because she assumed I would participate in her next project even though I had never signaled as much. It was nothing personal; I was simply already booked.) But I am learning that as I grow as an actor, and as my reputation grows, I simply cannot do everything I am invited to do, and may even have to pass on things I would like to do.

Sometimes the hardest line to learn is “No.”

Peter Sig

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