by Joanne Roberts
I always related the most to Rachel. Rich girl suddenly poor girl, trying to find her place in the world, and possessing a keen eye for fashion (okay, so this last trait has nothing to do with this article but I just want it to be known). I wanted my Rachel moment. The one where she finds a job that she’s not only good at, but one that she genuinely cares about. They say if you find a job you love, you never have to work a day in your life. Isn’t that the dream?
When I was 27 years old, I felt like I was finally having that moment. I had given acting a real try and suddenly I found myself welcome to a career I had only previously dreamed about. But unfortunately, along with my Rachel moment came something I didn’t expect. I found myself facing an ultimatum; giving up either my marriage or my new and budding career as an actress.
I’m sure you can guess which one I picked.
There were many reasons my partner was unsupportive of my sudden career shift. First and foremost was the schedule which, at its best, can be described as “inconvenient”. When I get called to a film set, I can get called any time of the day. 3am, 11pm… and I stay for as long as they need me. During a theatre run, rehearsals can go up to twelve hours for actors. Our plays are presented at night. We have talkbacks, receptions, cast parties… The second reason, which was the final nail in the coffin, is pretty simple. I was being offered romantic roles. I was okay with it - he was not.
I have to mention that there were many problems in our relationship, most of which had nothing to do with my choice of career. Yet I found it interesting that it was exactly that which was the catalyst of our separation. My mind begged the question, is dating an actor difficult?
Yes. The hours suck. I hate when my days run really long. Sometimes, I hate needing to travel. And when I do finally make it home after a long day, I have more work I still need to accomplish on my own. In truth, I'm never really off the clock. In terms of fostering any kind of relationship, the situation is not ideal. I could draw similarities to other jobs, ones where long hours, homework and travel are a staple - pilots, executives, office work… But there is one important difference when you’re an actor.
Every contract that comes my way is a choice I need to make. Do I guest star on a television series or do I take a small vacation after working in theatre for seven weeks? Do I schedule a short film on the weekend of someone’s birthday, or celebrate with them? I’m a workaholic, and I know I need to get better about my work/life balance. It’s difficult for me to turn down a job that comes my way. The pay is alluring. I’m used to overworking myself, so I often tell myself I can push off a rest day by one more day. And when you love what you do, and work doesn’t seem like work anyway, what’s the harm?
People’s feelings get hurt. You can only cancel on someone so many times before they get frustrated with you. Most of my friends that are artists understand when I disappear into the void while I’m working, but in truth, it’s a lot to ask from anyone. It’s why I can’t be surprised when someone decides that my career is something they don’t want to deal with, even though it’s a shitty and conflicting feeling to contend with. I absolutely want a relationship, but I don’t want to give up what I’ve worked so hard on. Am I going to have to choose one or the other at some point in my life? I’m hopeful that I can have both one day, but in all honesty, the answer to that is still unknown.
I know I just spent a few paragraphs iterating how significant scheduling is, but for now let’s put that aside and imagine that everything is all peachy keen in that department. You go to work and come home, and when you do your significant other is there to greet you and ask you what you did at work that day.
Oh, you know. Pretended I was in a romantic relationship with a stranger…
If you read my last article, I say very strongly that this is a job. I can separate with ease a romantic kiss with a partner and a simulated romantic kiss with a colleague. It certainly takes an open mind and a hell of a lot of trust, especially if you’re in a relationship at the time of taking on these intimate roles. It’s completely understandable that insecurities come to light. Brangelina, anyone? This is why, when I’m in the throes of dating, I try to be as transparent as possible with any potential partners. I tell them straight away that I’m an actress. I try to normalize a job that has been glorified by the media, romantic scenes included. Some people can handle it. Some people can’t. Which ties back to my original question: Is dating an actor difficult?
In my experience, my career alone demands a lot of understanding and support from my partner, but I wouldn’t classify a relationship with an actor as “difficult”. It simply has different challenges to work through and overcome. With any relationship however, I believe that when two people respect each other as individuals and try to make things work, wonderful things can happen.
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.