The Business of Show Biz: Nemesis
Friday, April 1, 2016
By Velina Brown
Q: I have a nemesis. We are the same type. We get called in for a lot of the same roles. Sometimes it’s close, but at the end of the day, she gets the part. I’m so frustrated—and worried about how long I’m going to stay stuck behind her. What can I do?
|Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: You could wait until your nemesis moves to a different market, takes time off, goes away to grad school, gains or loses a bunch of weight, etc.—all things that are out of your control. Or you can, with a sense of fun, address what is within your control. Only do things that sound enjoyable or interesting to you. If you just do things out of frustration, they aren’t likely to be effective. As Nancy Hayes of Nancy Hayes Casting says, “The person having the most fun makes the most money.” If you are having fun and enjoying the adventure, others will want to be on the adventure with you, and will invite you to join theirs.
With this in mind, you could move to another market. If you were thinking about relocating anyway, maybe now’s the time. There’s no guarantee that you won’t find yourself competing with even more people in your type in the new market, but it could be an exciting change. However, if you love where you are but are just tired of this one person always managing to be right in front of you on your road to success, I suggest that you change lanes and go around her. Here’s a hypothetical example: If you are both of medium build, in the “early to late 20s” age range, with shoulder-length brown hair, competing for the same roles in Shakespeare and modern classics, here are some things to consider:
Change your look. Maybe go for a Sally Bowles bob. Or if you are “blonde curious,” give it a try.
Clarify your type. This is slightly different from simply changing your look. And perhaps this point should have been listed first, because it’s important regardless. I’ve said many times that actors often fall prey to the idea that they don’t want to be typecast, so they purposely avoid having a clear type in the hope that casting people will see them as versatile. But instead of appearing versatile, their lack of clarity is just confusing. In sales, the adage is, “The confused mind says ‘no.’” A clear type can help casting folks know exactly when they need you. One could waste time complaining that it’s not fair, but the fact is that the visuals are an important part of telling a story. So I suggest doing what you can to clarify your type. Perhaps your nemesis is clearly a “girl next door” type...and while you are almost that type, and could certainly play that type, she is the clear first choice for it and you are second choice. However, you might actually be first choice as the “quirky comic relief” or “brainy best friend.” Have your coaches, colleagues and friends help you zero in on your sweet spot.
Emphasize the contrasts between you and your nemesis. Often we look at the similarities with frustration, thinking, “I do this as well as they do; I do that as well as they do.” This won’t help, because in those areas, they are currently winning. So flip the script. What don’t they do that you do really well? The gold for you is in the differences. What are your special skills? Do you sing, dance, play an instrument or do dialects? Are you more earthy, compared to her elegance? Are you more physical? Do you have physical comedy, circus or sword fighting skills? Can you make balloon animals? If she is more buxom and you are not so much, great! Highlight your daintier figure. I know for myself that if the character is described as “particularly curvy with lots of cleavage,” I’m not the gal—but if the description is “leggy,” that’s me! Highlight what’s unique about you.
Change the focus of your work. Maybe take a little break from the classics and focus on new work. Do tons of readings. Build relationships with up-and-coming playwrights so that there are people thinking of you when they write their scripts. I have found it deeply rewarding to be part of creating new work and originating roles.
Remember: no matter how similar you and your so-called “nemesis” may be, you are still completely different people. You have different backgrounds, perspectives and a different essence. You don’t have to settle for being a second-choice her when you can be a first-choice you. Try changing lanes, shifting gears and moving your career to the open road. You got this.
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.