It’s definitely a common response to telling people I’m an actor or that I’m pursuing a career in the film industry. When I tell them that I’m an actor in L.A., more often than not they say, “So, you’re a waitress?”
Now obviously it doesn’t help that I actually AM a waitress in L.A., but I’m doing what I can to get by. My biggest pet peeve, though, is when people assume that because I’m an actor and a server, I must be stupid.
It happened the other day at a slow lunch shift at a table of three older couples. They were all very sweet and we got along just fine. Over dessert, one of the gentlemen produced these sheets of paper with various questions on them. I overheard them discussing everything from crude oil to how many ounces are in a jigger. A lady at the end of the table jokingly asked me if I wanted to sit down and play and then explained it was a brain teaser game. She asked me a test question to see how I would do and when I got it right she said,
“Wow! What are you doing waiting tables?”
Seriously?? I understand it was supposed to be some kind of compliment…I guess. But it made me realize that a lot of people assume if you’re waiting tables either you’re putting yourself through school or you’re too dumb to get a “real job.” Those people need to spend a few Saturday nights working a dinner shift over holiday season and THEN they can tell me how easy it is. I’m not saying you need to be a rocket scientist to figure this stuff out, but it does take a degree of skill and a certain way of thinking. We multi-task like the dickens and have to work with and rely on dozens of other people at once just to get the job done.
Then there’s the actor side. I was at an acting workshop one evening when the casting director mentioned there would be homework. One of the other actresses in class said something like, “Uh, I thought we were all here because we were never good at homework!”
I say again… Seriously?? So, what you’re saying is I didn’t choose to be an actor because I love my craft or I’m passionate about spreading good work to the masses. No, you’re saying that I chose to be an actor because somehow this is taking the easy road and it’s the best I could do with my limited intelligence.
I could go on and on with plenty of other stories just like those two, but instead I’ll just get along to the point.
People, servers are not stupid. Actors are not stupid. Actors who are keeping afloat in LaLaLand by waiting tables are definitely not stupid. To be honest, it’s one of the best jobs we can get that’s not in the biz because the hours are super flexible and there’s usually someone to take your shift if you need to get out of it.
So, actors – don’t sell yourselves short or make excuses for not knowing something. Don’t be embarrassed to get the answer wrong. Most of our job is about making bold choices even if we don’t make the right ones, remember? Let’s hold ourselves accountable and break the stereotype! And keep in mind, doing script analysis on King Lear would boggle the minds of even the most adept scholars…So, we’ve still got that on them.