‘Severance’ Star Tramell Tillman Asks: Is a Work-Life Balance Ever Possible for Actors?

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Photo Source: Peter Hurley

The following Career Dispatch was written by Tramell Tillman, who plays Milchick on the Apple TV+ series “Severance.” 

In 2022, Apple TV+ unveiled a new series called “Severance.” In this psychological sci-fi thriller, brave workers undergo a procedure that literally separates their personal life from their work life. For eight hours a day, five days a week, neither side knows about the other. Since I started working on this show, I’ve been grappling with the question: Is it possible to achieve a work-life balance? 

To be able to accomplish this feels like a feat out of a science-fiction novel, especially today. These days, our professional and personal lives intersect more than ever, to the extent that finding balance is almost laughable. 

For artists like myself, it’s especially far-fetched. Whether I am doing laundry or cooking a decent meal, my mind wanders back to my work: Would my character use fabric softener? Would they take salt or sugar in their grits? What about toilet paper—do they prefer two-ply? And should the toilet paper roll to the front or the back? It’s obsessive, I know. 

The problem is that I love what I do. Many people aren’t fortunate enough to have the chance to follow their dreams, and I know that to do what I love is a gift. For me to even be considered an artist is high praise—and a tall order. That’s because there’s a calling for artists to inspire and even provoke change.

“My work-life balance needs, well, work. But I am OK with that.”

It’s challenging for me to set my work down, because it doesn’t feel like work. Acting is my passion and my ministry. Gone are my days of watching television, film, or theater without a critical eye. I notice the language, costumes, facial expressions, lighting, hair, and vocal intonations—even the level of the liquid inside the wine glass of the gentleman sitting behind the lead. (Continuity is important! Much respect to those who work diligently to maintain it.)  

My work-life balance needs, well, work. But I am OK with that. I embrace my neuroses and consider them to be a formidable asset. Attention to detail makes for powerful work. Passion lends itself to opportunity, too. Now, don’t misunderstand me: I know how to have a good time. I also know that this art form—especially within this industry—requires dedication, commitment, and sacrifice. But I wouldn’t walk away from it. 

Frankly, I cannot walk away from it. Acting is so ingrained in who I am. Creating art is how I appear in the world. It’s my activism, self-expression, and way of being. So for now, I am comfortable knowing this simple truth when it comes to finding balance: I am a work in progress.

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