NEILSON’S COLUMN (November 26, 2015): Three times the surprise as jobs line up perfectly

It’s either feast or famine.

Welcome to the life of an actor, where jobs are like buses – none for ages then three come along at once.

This usually means that having waited for weeks for something to turn up, the actor finds that he can only do one of the jobs because they clash. It’s a horrible situation to be in, but it’s all too familiar.

It happened to me last month.

I’d been to castings for three or four television commercials and a series on BBC One. I had dismissed them from my mind as I felt I hadn’t given the commercial casting directors exactly what they wanted and I know how difficult it is to get cast in a TV series, even in one episode. It’s best to keep your expectations low in this business.

So I was surprised when my agent called and told me that not only had I got two of the commercials, but also the TV job! Great, I thought, but did they clash? It turned out that one commercial filmed on Monday, the other filmed on Tuesday and the TV job filmed the following Wednesday; I could do all three.

I have previously written about the need for luck in our business and that was a prime example.

Filming is very different to theatre. In a theatrical production, the cast, director, stage management, wardrobe department et al, meet on the first day and spend at least two weeks rehearsing and, in the process, getting to know each other.

When it comes to TV work, the actor may turn up on set without having met anyone apart from the director. The camera operator, the sound technicians, assistants of all kinds, maybe thirty or so people on set, may be total strangers, which gives the job a totally different feel.

You’re on your own and when you hear ‘action’, you have to be ready to go – lines learnt, plot and character studied and everyone watching you.

No pressure then!

Both disciplines require the same toolset, but used in very different ways.

Next week I start rehearsals for panto in Chatham, so this year I’ll be at home for Christmas. I’m playing the Dame again, Dorothy Derrière in Beauty and the Beast.

Hopefully I’ll get time to see The Capitol theatre production in Horsham, which is coincidentally, Beauty and the Beast.

Good luck to everyone involved!

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