The following Career Dispatches essay was written by “The Good Doctor” star Jasika Nicole.
No one could have convinced me when I was a young actor that one day my career in entertainment would feel like a job; that it would both invigorate and exhaust me within the same day of work; that some tasks which once held so much magic in them would eventually feel like a chore; that the glamour and glitz of a production could, at times, feel benign and mundane. No one could have told me because it’s a privilege to discover it for yourself, to be the kind of person who pushes your dreams into reality and then has to contend with all the tedium and staleness said reality can sometimes bring.
Believe me when I say that this is not a bad thing! It’s wired into our nature as humans to get used to the good very quickly, to settle into new circumstances that we have focused on and dreamed about and worked hard for. But “making it” does require us to take extra steps to ensure that our creative blood doesn’t stop flowing, that we keep ourselves challenged and engaged on our own terms, that we allow ourselves to be the producers of our own art.
I learned so much in my first few years in film and stage productions, all the technical aspects of bringing a shot to life, all the devotion and energy it takes to build an imaginary world. But the more I became familiar with my new work environments, the more I wanted to experience a world outside of them, to create something of my own. It started with teaching myself how to knit. I was performing at the Prince Music Theatre in Philly, and I had imagined that all my time would be focused on rehearsing the production and getting comfortable in my role. But I learned the show quickly and confidently, and soon yearned for something…new.
I knitted my first scarf during that show, purling to the time of the music backstage, and a few years later on the set of my first television series, I learned how to knit sweaters. Next, I began making my own comics, an artform I was intrigued by but knew little about. I kept learning, practicing, making. The more secure I felt in my career, the more excited I was to try my hand at other creative endeavors, and eventually I picked up sewing again, a skill I learned in college, and began making all of my own clothes. I taught myself how to build furniture out of wood. I learned how to make shoes. I took a class on reupholstery and started reviving old armchairs picked up from antique shops. I’ve become obsessed with making pottery.
Over the years, my creative life outside of entertainment has become just as fulfilling as the work I do on sets and stages. It has filled up (painfully) lengthy times between gigs, helped me find community and service with other makers, and, perhaps most importantly, reminded me that my value lies not in my appeal to others, but in my ability to create beauty in whatever capacity I feel inspired by.
Now that I’m older, I try not to be too preachy about convincing young actors of how precious their own art can become, what peace they may find by allowing their talent to grow new limbs—it will be a privilege to discover it for themselves.
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