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When to Take the Job, When to Walk Away

November 13, 2013

I am a vegetarian. I am an actor who does a lot of commercials. I am a vegetarian actor who does a lot of commercials in the city that is the world headquarters for a restaurant chain that serves lots and lots of chicken. Would I eat meat on camera? Well, sure, for a price. A really, really good price.

I am a woman who believes in using, has used, and is using birth control. I am an actor who does a lot of commercials and industrials in a region where a whole heck of a lot of the work is for medical services and companies. Due to some recent hospital mergers, some of the hospitals, whose marketing campaigns hire a lot of regional actors, have new rules and regulations surrounding when and whether doctors can prescribe birth control to their patients. When the auditions came up for one such hospital system earlier this year, I really agonized over whether to audition. Could I lend my talents to a hospital system that refuses to provide full health services to half the population? The rate was mediocre and I was uncomfortable with the company’s policies, so I passed on that one.

I am an avid pro-access supporter, meaning that I support access to abortion services. So much so, that I am a clinic escort, helping maintain a safe and sane space for women arriving at the Louisville clinic as they walk through the gauntlet of protesters. Last year, I had to decide whether or not to audition for an anti-choice propaganda movie. It was decent pay. It would have been a lead in a feature-length film. But could I bring myself to be a part of that project?

This one I really agonized over. Ultimately, I did audition for it, but the whole process just felt so wrong. Fortunately, I did not even get a callback; after I submitted for it, I knew that it was the wrong decision.

These questions have helped me shape are what I am doing in this business. It would be very easy to just do the effing job, whatever it is. But, as some of these projects have hit close to firmly held convictions I have as a human being, I have more finely tuned what I want out of my career. Yes, I need to pay the mortgage and keep food on the table, but I also want to be part of a larger good in the world. I want my work to have mattered for more than selling more buckets of chicken – though I am happy to sell chicken – or promoting a company that eschews one of my core values – which I am not willing to do.

Sometimes, questions about what we are comfortable with as actors goes beyond swearing or nudity, and crosses into more deeply held convictions. Where do you draw the line? What are situations you have encountered that challenged you as an actor-who-is-a-person-with-convictions? How have those helped shape your vision of your career?


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