An actor's life of uncertainty

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After a drama degree, theatre school in Ireland, and RADA, Stephen Darcy “was 26 basically before I hit the adult world.” Working for yourself generally includes quite a lot of uncertainty, but life as an actor seems to stretch that to the max.

In a year he typically works six or seven months. “The last two years I’ve been extremely lucky with commercials. A commercial that you might do in a day or three days can earn you your year’s salary.”

“I just directed two plays, and earned no money for four months, but I had budgeted for that. I’m back to work next week – money work. I have a distinction between money work and proper work, money work is what pays the bills and proper work is working in theatre.”

Between jobs, “it’s very different depending on what the job is that you’ve just finished. If you finish a job that’s been a great success, in London, lots of people come and see you so there is a lot of dialogue, a lot of incidental meetings coming from that, then the possibility of more work.”

“But if you’ve done a great successful play in Bognor Regis or the north of Scotland or somewhere, full of personal satisfaction, you sort of know that nothing comes of it. Things do possibly come out of it in the future because you might get invited back there or something. But the aim is to be working in London in stuff people see.”

“If you’ve got a job coming up and you have four or five weeks – happy days. The difficulty is that you’re not in anyway empowered by what you do. You know acting is great fun but even then, you know you act, you get a pay cheque, it’s great fun and people clap but it’s not sort of empowering in that you can’t grow anything from it.”

“You can’t say I’m doing this and then next year I’m going to build by 1% or 10%, it doesn’t work that way. Every time an acting job finishes you’re back to square one, even really successful people, people who you know from your TV every day. If the job finishes you’re back to square one.”

“Where you walk around in a cloud and you feel you’ll never work again. People who I know well who are successful actors, who you might meet in the street and they’ll be walking in a cloud – I will never work again, I’m so miserable. But then you meet them three days later and they’ve just landed a job and they’re in a pub drinking and telling everyone about life.”

“So there is a big swing you know. It’s completely uncertain, it couldn’t be more uncertain I think because you literally might go a year without working at all. Now when I say without working I mean acting working. You have to do your money work.”

Stephen was sixteen when he decided to become an actor. “I loved the theatre and I loved working on stage, and it is wonderful. People say to you, it’s a hard life, but that doesn’t make sense to you when you’re a teenager. It certainly didn’t to me. I was like, whatever, I’ll get to Hollywood and be rich and famous.”

Acting can change on sixpence

“Sporting analogy is a great way of looking at it because there is a great divisional status in acting. For some reason we view film as Premier League, telly as Championship and theatre as sort of Championship One and then regional theatre as Championship Two and then crummy community theatre far away is Conference.”

“I don’t agree with that analysis, I view theatre anywhere as the pinnacle because I’m a lover of theatre, but the system is the way it is, you just exist within it. Now in sport the better players tend to be in the Premier League, it’s not necessarily so with acting.”

“I’m getting to the point where I’m going, I’m 36, I kind of need to start growing up and pulling up my socks. Paying my bills on time and just managing my life a bit better. At the moment is I’m thinking of jacking it all in and running away to Australia.”

“But the thing is that acting can change on sixpence. Going back to the sports analogy, it’s like you can be discovered as a young footballer and get in with some team but that stops when you get to seventeen or eighteen. If you’re not in then you’re not in, but in theatre you kind of live with the idea you might just do a job that goes well.”

Business: 

Stephen Darcy is an actor and director, www.stephendarcy.com

Business size: 

One person

Business location: 

London
United Kingdom

Duration: 

He’s worked for himself for ten years

Image: Stephen Darcy

About the author

Jessica Kennedy
Wednesday, 16 May, 2012 - 15:45
London
United Kingdom

Jessica is an acupuncturist, www.jessicakennedy.com, and the founder of www.smallbiztribe.com.