by Joanne Roberts
It was An Affair to Remember. We started out in La La Land and then it was Gone With The Wind. It’s About Time someone compiled a list; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of what it’s like being an actor and dating a fellow actor. Sorry not sorry for the movie references. Happy Valentines Day (which also happens to be a movie)!
1) Having the same career is advantageous.
When you’re dating another actor, you always have a scene partner to run lines with. You have someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to vent to after a long day, someone who understands the ins and outs of your business… Sometimes you have an extra set of eyes to look out for casting notices. In an industry that’s rife with competition, it’s nice to be able to team up with a partner and tackle it together.
2) You’re probably not going to have a lot of money.
You know that stereotype of starving actors? It’s completely true. This is nothing close to a stable job, which means income won’t be regular. I know so many actors working second jobs to make ends meet, myself included, and I count myself as one of the lucky ones who works pretty regularly.
3) You need to have clear expectations while on work-related dates.
Establish when you’re working and when you’re not working. When you go to plays together, is it an outing between partners or a chance for you to network? In my experience, it can get messy when you have different expectations when going out as a couple. If one person is under the impression that you’re on a romantic date, it’s rude when someone steps away for some time to do some career stuff. Make it clear before you go out what the expectations and boundaries are.
4) Your careers will not move at the same pace.
At least, the chances of it are slim to none. Inevitably, someone is going to “jump ahead” with a big contract and opportunity. All hopes are for a celebration, but in truth there’s a good chance that someone is going to be left feeling dejected.
5) One of you is going to have to kiss somebody else first.
It’s part of the job. While most of the time actors handle these situations relatively well, we all have to do it, after all, I always prefer to be the first one to do it. Why? Because I’m a touch petty and it makes me feel marginally better when my partner has to do it. Which leads to…
6) Jealousy is a thing.
We’re emotional. We’re dramatic. We’re vulnerable. I find that during a contract, I’m much more sensitive than usual. I chalk it up to my personal process, but it can leave ugly emotions churning around that have absolutely nothing to do with what I’m working on. Oh, did my partner get a commercial I wasn’t even considered for? Does he have to simulate a romantic relationship with somebody new? It’s difficult to keep these emotions in check sometimes, and to be self-aware enough to know what is a reasonable response to the situation and what is dramatized in my head.
7) Keep your careers separate.
My name is Joanne Roberts. This is me. This is my brand. This is my business. I made the mistake once of bringing in a significant other to my brand. For a while I was Joanne Roberts, and this is my partner - an aspiring actor. At the end, it hurt me. Letting someone have access to your business gives them an opportunity to rip it to shreds. And in this cutthroat business, unfortunately, some people will do just that.
8) Don’t shit where you eat.
I worked with a significant other once. We were cast in a play when we were together and by the time rehearsals started we had broken up. It. Was. Awful. The remnants of a toxic relationship evolved into a toxic work environment that involved mind games, sexual abuse, and my now ex partner hooking up with my married co-star. I’d classify this experience as pretty extreme, but know it can get that. Bad. Afterwards, I made it a point to not work with partners in non-Equity productions.
9) If you break up, you will run into each other again.
It’s a small world, and an even smaller industry. I don’t think I need to elaborate.
10) Support doesn’t mean being in the audience every night.
Support means not holding each other back. It means celebrating wins and helping each other through losses. It means running lines together. Making sure your partner has food to eat at the end of a 12 hour shift. Putting date night on hold for a short period of time while someone goes off to do something that will be beneficial to work in the long run. It means understanding each other and having open communication about feelings. It means taking care of yourself and your needs so you are capable of taking on someone else. It’s not so different from any kind of relationship. But if you want to be in the audience every night to support your partner, by all means. We’ll all think it’s weird, but it’s the thought that counts.
Although my experience dating another actor wasn’t great to say the least, it isn’t to say that two actors can’t be happy in a relationship together. I know a few couples who really make me believe in love. So while I think the points on this list are certainly things to consider, it’s important to note that the rules of dating anyone can’t be compiled into a list. Life isn’t that easy. Oh, but could you imagine if it was?
Joanne Roberts is a multilingual Canadian actress best known for originating the role of Janelle in the Evie nominated co-production of Que faire d'Albert/What To Do With Albert. She is also a producer for Ode Productions, and is a co-founder for the Winnipeg theatre company, Wonderful and Meatballs.