I Was A Bit Part Actress

0

Gustave-Dore-02
I had a stab at acting for a bit. If you’re a connoisseur of low budget productions, you might have seen me. My back catalogue includes an ad for a dating site, which my co-star rates 8 out of 10. That’s if 1 is, “mildly embarrassing” and 10 is, “I wish myself dead.” I played the Fantasy Girl, which meant a fair amount of time in a jacuzzi, on a hotel roof in Bermondsey. You can storyboard it yourself. Guy fancies girl, fantasises about her in jacuzzi, uses dating app and – Abracadabra! – Fantasy Girl joins him in jacuzzi, with bonus bikini babe. Cue “champagne” cork popping in symbolic jizz shot.

I dressed as Britney Spears, circa ‘…Baby One More Time’, to lapdance an actor best known as The Annoying Devil on Balls of Steel. He played his own evil twin in a red pleather jacket, the sort you’d wear if Chat magazine gave you a makeover. You can imagine what I wore, but oblivious to my Wonderbra’d breasts bursting through my BHS school shirt, the director spent twenty minutes micro-managing my hair. You’d have thought we were in a production at The Royal Opera House, not shooting for Loaded TV.

I lay on the bar of the Purple Turtle in Camden, with shots lined up on my bum. An actor who’d been beautiful in his Lock Stock heyday knocked them back with the bobby who’d made mums moist on Heartbeat. The film premiered at the Raindance Film Festival, but I was neither invited nor credited. I was literally a piece of ass.

I got the number 12 bus southbound and slow-mo’ed across a gallery as Peckham Pammy, in a Baywatch art installation. I wore a red gymnastics leotard and bellowed through a megaphone for £7 an hour. I worked with an Italia Conti grad, who spent quiet spells in the lifeguard chair, learning Taming of the Shrew. We addressed visitors in the manner of shelf stackers on a supermarket tannoy. I favoured a slightly flawed Bristolian accent.

I did an internet commercial for Flabelos, a bit of weight loss kit (you see what they did there?) that looked like a vibrating Segway. I jiggled in hotpants with a girl who got bendy on BBC’s Tumble and a model who shagged an Apprentice reject on Big Brother. It was soon after ‘Gangnam Style’ so they threw in a Psy-a-like for larks. We were paid 50 quid and a slice of pizza.

Shattered glass hit the back of my legs, filming a scene for Made in Chelsea. The main “character,” who’d thrown his pint out of his pram, stormed out and after a sweep up, we were asked to re-set. “Excuse me? I’ve just had glass hit the back of my legs and you want me to go back in there for another take?” “Yes please.” Times were tough, but I’d heard you could make £20-30 grand flogging a kidney on the black market. I wagered I’d be selling myself short by sacrificing my legs for 10p above the minimum wage. I had a heated vent and later got a call from the upper echelons of the production company. Apparently the guy in question wanted to send me flowers to apologise. I was charmed. Almost a year later, I’m still looking forward to receiving them.

I auditioned for Tinie Tempah’s ‘Five Minutes’ video in Hoxton, channelling School Run Mum despite instructions to look cool. The casting consisted of a cattle pen, marked out with tape on the floor. Ten of us were herded in and told to “go crazy.” Heading home with fractured feet, I was halfway down Old Street before I noticed I was still stickered number 483. This was only the first day of auditions, so when I got the job, I was chuffed to think I’d been chosen out of at least a thousand. When I turned up for the shoot, there were at least a thousand of us there. I got 50 quid and a shower of sweat from manky boys whirling their tops in the air.


Gustave-Dore-01
I was offered a role as a gangster’s wife, in a film that did what it said on the tin. They’d invest in me, they said, but not my name. “Is Corina Copa De Oro too exotic for you?” It was. How about Beverley Burton? Lexi or Loren La Peer? No. Unable to understand what the problem was, “as you have no major credits in your name,” they uploaded my picture onto the website lexi-lapeer.com I politely pulled out, crying “other commitments.”

Growing up, I’d dipped into classes at my local stage school. I got a badge for Grade 1 Disco, my mum might have bought at a bootfair and I Irish danced at old people in Gillingham care homes. They strained to glimpse Countdown on the telly behind me. At 11, I performed a sketch with my best friend in Junior Show Time at Butlins. We, the kids from Kent, pretended to be menopausal Irish women hanging up washing, blaming everything from running out of toothpaste to forgetting the milk, on Protestants. I competed annually in prose reading, sight reading and verse speaking, at my local drama festival. Yes, that’s right, I recited poetry competitively.

I developed my craft with acting lessons from a guy who’d had a few lines on Australian telly. As such, my acting had the emotional depth of a game of Zip Zap Boing. It’s safe to say I’d been cast for roles on the back of a spell as a Playboy Bunny and a stint presenting Live Roulette on Sky. But I didn’t want to just flit about in swimwear or lapdance comedians. So I studied Meisner, in the Guantanamo Bay of acting classes, where you cry in a basement and shed the facade of civilisation. We acted on impulse and expressed our pain. “Look at YOUR fucking face!” I screamed at a former boss (fellow student). “YOU look like shit!” I was so angry, my skin resembled salami.

The classes were like a cross between psychotherapy and Fight Club. I have a scar like a threadworm from a woman who clawed at me to give her pen back. She’d been drawing a picture of her imaginary dead husband. In another class, a man grabbed my wrist and I punched him in the stomach. I actually punched him. There was a hiatus at that point, while the teacher talked about being safe to work with. It was a subject he was familiar with – as a Meisner student himself, he had punched a woman in the stomach.

I had an emotionally heightened fling with a fellow student. He was an Israeli storyteller in his uncle’s leather jacket. His teeth defied braces. We held hands. We fucked. It was the first time I’d let a man cum inside me without protection. Convinced I was pregnant, I filed my forgotten tax return and qualified as a personal trainer, compelled to get my life in order, before my phantom baby was born. Conscious of its wellbeing, I asked my hairdresser if I was still alright to have highlights.

Acting on impulse and expressing the feelings I now had greater awareness of wasn’t always conducive to life beyond the basement. In a temp job, I spent a morning in the toilets crying, because someone went to the kitchen without asking if I wanted anything. “What does that mean to you?” asked my teacher’s voice. I had his Top 10 phrases on a loop in my head. “It means he doesn’t care about me.” “And what does that mean to you?” “It means I don’t count.” “And what does that mean to you?” “It means I’m nothing.” Cue uncontrollable sobbing.

On the plus side, I was cast in my first decent role, playing a woman dependent on alcohol and drugs, after years in abusive relationships. With a shaky grasp on reality, my character is terrified at the sight of a former boyfriend and stabs him – but in fact, she stabs her own son. As uncomfortable as it sounds, I was thrilled to be cast in a proper, gritty role, instead of flicking my hair about in a bikini.

But it wasn’t a complete turnaround. Aside from a spot of son stabbing, I giggled about saveloys and chipolatas in a TV ident for fast food and had my head strapped to a wall, for my debut as a lip-syncing mouth. I sang, “Yes sir, I can boogie,” entirely immobilised, ironically. It was for a social media app that allowed users to stick my miming mouth on their face, in homage to Keith, of Cadbury’s #FreeTheJoy. Viewing the results, I was prompted to spend my earnings (50 quid, no sweat or pizza) on an urgent trip to the hygienist, to eliminate evidence of my red wine habit.

I did a bit of immersive theatre. That’s when you’re amongst the audience in character. Except when one person drops the act and starts hissing directions. Playing a bridesmaid at a wedding themed club night, I was hissed at to “let someone else catch the bouquet this time.” It’s shit getting told off by other actors but there’s solace to be found in the faux pas they’ve committed by coming out of character. Imagine Othello pausing a jealous tirade, to hiss at Desdemona, “cry quieter, you attention seeking bitch – this is my scene!” It’s like that.

I based my trampy bridesmaid on Mercedes McQueen, the ASBO cock-trap in Hollyoaks. With a self-appointed license to out-bender Lindsay Lohan, I hijacked the band, photobombed the guests and shagged the best man. He was hot. To clarify, this was purely recreational and not part of the entertainment. Immersive theatre is not to be confused with a live sex show.


Gustave-Dore-03
I played a nutritionist at the Mumford & Sons gig at the Olympic Park. I based my character on faeces fan Gillian McKeith, following gig-goers to the toilet with a cardboard box. I’d thrust it at them with the offer of free stool testing, sniffing a coffee stirrer I’d prodded about in it. I moved in the manner of a dancehall bogle, encouraging Mumford fans to move their bodies to move their bowels. I didn’t shag anyone.

I had an audition to play Polly in a Fawlty Towers dinner show, lining up with Sybils and Manuels in an actors’ club in Covent Garden. I was chuffed when, post-audition, the MD invited me to see them in action, at a theatre in Southend. We had drinks after the show and the MD took a call from his wife. When he came off the phone he asked me: should he drive home or would he be staying over? There was only one part he wanted to give me. I legged it with the other actress who might as well have been invisible. I realised now, it was because her boyfriend was waiting outside in the car.

I was dropped from a film because I wouldn’t get my tits out. I’d been cast as the female lead in the sequel to a film about failed actors who spend their weekends at Star Wars conventions. It was low budget, but the bleak humour and vulnerability of the characters was very Mike Leigh. I wanted to be a part of it. We established from the outset there’d be no nudity, but two months in, I was told to let “the audience see your breasts,” or they’d, “find someone else who’s willing.” I was pressed for an answer at almost midnight. When I woke up in the morning, my name had been removed from the cast list on IMDb. Bare boobs on screen were more important than what I could bring to the role. I wondered if I’d been naïve to imagine I could have an acting career that didn’t involve getting my kit off.

I turned to voiceover, working on spoofs, mockumentaries and a comedy animation with a sound engineer who’d pioneered dubstep. The animation contained a spoof charity ad about a mistreated donkey. The punchline was that he hadn’t been worked to death in a quarry, he’d been bummed. This was very funny because, “ha ha ha – who’d bum a donkey?” Then I saw an image on Twitter of a bummed-to-death dog and realised people do this. I emailed the writer to ALERT HIM. He wrote back, “haha, how have you only just heard about bestiality? It is literally blowing my mind.” I’ll be tapping him for a charity donation, if the animation is successful.

My surname, which is 3 letters long, was misspelt in several credits. Some production teams handled it well, swiftly re-writing the credits. Others made excuses but no attempt to correct the mistake. If you’re familiar with the acting industry, you’ll be aware that many roles are unpaid. When faced with the double whammy of my work being neither paid nor credited, my heart paired up with my head to scream in the manner of RuPaul, “SASHAY AWAY!”

Working as a temp, girls in offices would ask what else I did. Several PAs told me they’d moved to London after drama school. They’d temped at first, then booking couriers and making coffee became what they actually did. In the past, I’d wanted to shake them. How could they settle? Now I understood.

I was fed up of going to castings that turned out to be a waste of time. At best, there was a chance you’d get it. At worst, there wasn’t even a role. One production company got me in for a presenter casting. A girl who was later revealed as a stooge, told me she’d forgotten her headshots. She asked if I thought her glamour shots would do, before her name was called and she rushed off, leaving her portfolio on the table. I was secretly filmed to see if I looked at it. There was no presenter job. Afraid of burning my bridges with the production company, I laughed it off and signed the release form.

I was fed up of being skint, feeling exploited, lugging a wheely case across town in my unofficial role as my own wardrobe mistress and panic-tanning the night before a jacuzzi shoot. I wanted an easy life and a regular wage with Christmas parties and drinks after work. I wanted An Office Job.

I accepted a two month booking with a company that’s given me an iPhone 6 and the chance to wear a 3D Christmas jumper. I’ve got techy boys on tap (one resuscitated my hairdryer) and a scratchcard from Secret Santa. There’s handcream in the toilets and we get a free side dish at Wagamama’s. I love my team and I think they love me too, despite blowing my nose like a builder and eating mackerel at my desk. I’m making friends. I’m hoping they’ll adopt me.

But shhhhhhhh! Don’t tell my agent.

Share.

About Author

Samantha Rea is a Meisner survivor who once came 5th in a Feis. Self-absorbed, with a jazz hands habit, she fears she was Geri Halliwell in a former life. Samantha turned to writing after blowing her psychotherapy allowance on a boob job.

Leave A Reply

one × five =