Monday, June 17, 2013

Why I Don't Say I'm an Actress

It took a number of years, but sometime between 2006 and 2008 (after my first paying gig or two) I stopped calling myself "an actress."  I call myself "an actor," even though some people try to correct me (usually older gentlemen, sometimes foreign).  Friend and fellow actor Anna quoted her own mentor as saying that in the original French "actress" is not simply the feminine version of "actor"; it's the diminutive form, meaning smaller, less important, even a little cutesy and condescending.

I trace it back to quote I once heard from Whoopi Goldberg:

"An actress can only play a woman.  I'm an actor, I can play anything."

I think she nailed it.  The word "actress" for me conjures up images of working as a waitress while not necessarily accomplishing anything.  In fact, some people automatically assume "actress" means "starving, out of work actor," like our dear Penny here:

The only thing worse than "actress," in my opinion, is "starlet."  A "starlet" may be working, but she conjures up images of casting couches, looking pretty but being dumb, and not being taken seriously.

So like Whoopi said, I'm actor; I can play anything.  To date I have played:

  • 5 men
  • 3 nuns
  • 3 nurses
  • 2 fast-talking Hollywood producers
  • 2 Mormons
  • 2 Upper East Side WASPs
  • 2 fairy tale characters
  • 1 Hollywood B-movie star
  • 1 teacher
  • 1 drag queen
  • 1 homeless woman
  • 1 bored Egyptian housewife
  • a slew of chorus girls, dancers, and maids
  • and 1 multidimensional hermaphroditic angel


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