Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No politics please, we're actors!

Years ago when I put together my first clip reel, I ran it by a friend and former instructor who said he liked it but that he wouldn't have included one comedy clip that showed news footage of a former president. Well I thought long and hard before putting it in and even queried an on-line LA acting group about it. The consensus was that casting directors would see the clip for what it was – art. The clip stayed put.

Eventually it was rotated out of my reel and was no longer an issue, but I understood my friend's concern. We live in politically polarized times where a political viewpoint may be so wedded to a director's or casting person’s sense of self that someone who appears to take a different view must logically be seen as a “bad” person and therefore not worthy of being hired. There's also the possibility that a known political stance alienates half your audience.

Views differ on this, but I try to avoid mixing acting and politics in open discussions among those in the biz, not only because of the issues above but also because the rhetoric has become so casually over the top that genuine discussion seems no longer possible anyway. Politicians of all stripes are routinely described as “crazy, extremist, dangerous” and worse, and the only response that doesn’t risk a shouting match is “amen,” so what would be the point?

As a writer and producer, I worked among politicians and political appointees before getting into acting, and I can’t say as I’ve ever seen one who was certifiably crazy or dangerous, but I saw plenty who were arrogant, incompetent, corrupt, adulterous, alcoholic, self-serving and ignorant, especially those in districts gerrymandered as “safe” seats (a deplorable practice.) I vote religiously. I often have to hold my nose while doing so.

Getting into an argument with another acting professional over politics risks losing sight of the goal, which is to be a truly fine actor and to get as much opportunity as possible to learn and practice that craft. Any deviation breaks my concentration and makes that goal harder to attain. Since I no longer work in the political arena, I guess I could also say that arguing issues on which my information is limited and my influence nil is an exercise in futility.

Asked to comment on current political goings on, I usually just say "I've watched the sausage being made and it ain't pretty" or fall back on Rick's great line from Casablanca, "Gentlemen, you're business is politics, mine is running a saloon."


  1. So true. I sing with a woman and together our voices and personalities make for a lot of entertainment, but politically we are 180 degrees from each other. We NEVER talk about politics.

  2. Exactly! And a director would be very unprofessional - downright nuts! - to keep an actor who is right for a role out of a film simply because of his or her politics. That's true whether the actor is Bruce Willis or Tom Selleck or Jane Fonda or whomever. Those are talented people and talent is what you're paying for on a picture.

    Good hearing from you,