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The Working Actor

Back on Track, Mom to the Rescue

Back on Track, Mom to the Rescue
Dear Michael:
I was so happy to see your response to "Fading Dream" (Jan. 14–20). I think he should follow his dream, no matter what age.

Although there were many signs—since birth—that I was going to one day be an actress, I too was discouraged at a young age. Though a camp counselor looked me in the eye and smiled and said, "One day you will be an actress" (I was 6 years old and already in plays, etc.), it didn't quite register that I would actually be one. I went on to star in the high school play (in which I played—an actress!) and go to drama school for the gifted and talented (nominated by my high school teachers). But my parents didn't think it would be the road for me. I guess at the time I agreed.

Fast-forward to many years later. I have already married a few times and had children. I got the safe job of a teacher. Then, I almost die. I wake up, and my life is forever changed. A growing desire to put the repressed dream into action leads me to a photographer, many Back Stage magazines, networking, etc. I give myself six months to get a bite. It only took weeks—timing is everything—before I started working on the first of five feature films, TV shows, some commercials. And it has been less than two years, including one in which I reached my goal of a speaking role!

Now I'm really hooked. I consider myself an actress for life. So thanks for telling people not to worry, and if it's time, to just do it. The road to every acting gig is paved with fun, friendships, and love. And how I adore other actors. Enjoy every second!

—Living a Dream
Lake Grove, N.Y.

Dear Living:
A thousand thanks for your delightful and beautiful response. I wanted all our readers to have the benefit of your encouragement and enthusiasm, so I'm sharing your email here in the column.

Dear Michael:
What should (can) a parent do when an adult actor behaves inappropriately toward—i.e., completely goes off on—a child?

In this case, it was late in the day of filming and close to the end of filming for the season. The adult was apparently frustrated because he had been sick and filming was delayed. My child missed his lines three times, once because someone got in the way and the actor accidentally bumped her. Each time, my child apologized and went forward, with some nervous laughter. The adult actor (early 30s) had a major outburst and chastised my child very loudly, while on film and in front of everyone (crew, other actors). Needless to say, the outburst was very unprofessional and especially inappropriate in that it was directed at a kid. Had the outburst been directed at another adult, I think the actor on the receiving end would have walked off the set or told the diva off.

Neither the director, nor the 1st assistant director, nor any of the producers stepped in to call a time-out. There was no apology on the part of the adult actor. I was absolutely stunned by what happened. The most difficult part is that on any given day, there are many, many additional takes required because of flubbed lines by this adult actor.

Should I have intervened? Is there anything a parent can do in this situation? The studio teacher was not present to witness this. Had the teacher been there, I think he or she could have effectively stepped into the fray. After all, the studio teachers are supposed to watch out for the child's welfare. Would it have been appropriate for the teacher to step in? By the way, the next day the actor did apologize—apparently after being coerced to do so by one of the producers.

I look forward to hearing your opinion.

—Stunned Parent
via email

Dear Stunned:
I  too am stunned. It's hard to believe a professional would behave so unprofessionally. But I suppose it happens. As journalistic luck would have it, I work on a Disney Channel series with a bunch of kids, so I was on the perfect set for researching this particular question. I spoke with the 1st A.D., the teacher, some parents, and several crew members. And—you guessed it—I got a variety of answers, some of them conflicting.

But the consensus seems to be that, officially, the 1st A.D. is the person to go to—the "hub," who'll know whether to approach the actor, the producer, the director, or the actor's manager or agent, or let the whole thing go. You mentioned that no one did anything; I'm not sure why that was. But it would not have been inappropriate for you to take the initiative, speak to the 1st, and ask him or her to intervene.

If the situation is bad enough and the A.D. doesn't handle things to your satisfaction, take it to the producer. It's also a good idea to explain to your child that it was wrong for the other actor to yell at him and that your child wasn't at fault, so he doesn't carry it with him. But that conversation is best left for later, after the scene has been shot.

I will also tell you that, while it may not be the proper protocol, most people I asked said that if it were their kid who was getting yelled at, they'd step in. Not that they'd make a scene, just that they'd swiftly and diplomatically find a way to make it stop, either by gently taking the child off the set until things calmed down and someone apologized, or by saying something to the yelling actor such as: "I wonder if you could find a better way of expressing your frustration. He's just a kid, and he's trying his best."

One very even-tempered parent generously allowed that anyone can have a bad day, and if it's a one-time event, she might choose to let it go but make sure her child was okay. But, she said, if the behavior persisted, it would have to be stopped. Another said that parents are sometimes dismissed as nuisances and that going to the teacher might be more effective.

I can only say that if I were the kid, I'd want my mom to stand up for me.

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