I remember the first time I kissed someone in my acting class and went home and told him. He was annoyed. He sighed and said something like, "Maaaaaaaaaaaaan!" I didn't see what the big deal was. Sure, I'm kissing someone that I'm not dating. Sure, at times I have to appear to be doing certain intimate things with someone that I'm not involved with and that sometimes I don't always know. But it's my job. It's not like I enjoyed the thought of having to kiss a stranger--or a coworker if you will. AND there are several that feel the same about me. Besides, in all jobs, you have to take the good with the bad. It can actually be kind of awkward and uncomfortable. So what was my partner getting so upset about?
Maybe it's because in Hollywood, you often see celebrities switching partners like one would switch clothing on a daily basis. It isn't that common for average every day people to get involved with their coworkers, but in Hollywood, it's very prevalent to see costars hooking up. Even couples that have been together for years and years have been torn apart by one leaving the other for a costar (examples: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, Anne Heche and her Men in Trees costar James Tupper).
I always said to him and myself, that'll never happen to me. I made a commitment to him and I chose this line of work. It's just like any other job that I've had, only I love it. I've spent lots of time around very attractive people in other jobs and there was never a concern. So why should this be any different?
Now I think I'm starting to understand...as an actor, one of my jobs is to create some sort of a connection with my partners (or coworkers) so that the audience gets it. If I'm not convinced, how can the audience be? So when I put all my heart and energy and passion into my character and transfer that to a coworker those feelings can begin to feel real.
This occurred to me one day after coming home from an acting gig. I realized out of the blue that it took me several hours to come down from my character. There's something very draining about putting all my focus into my character for a number of hours, in addition to giving that character all my energy (and then some) and all my heart.
I don't know about other actors, but at times it makes me forget myself. I'd heard about this before. When Academy Award winner, Forest Whitaker played Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, he said in an interview that each day when he came home, he'd have to take long showers to wash that character out of his system.
I must confess that on that particular drive home I found myself ruminating about my coworker and I thought to myself, what's wrong with me? At times after rehearsals or performances I felt very detached from my partner. I was so confused. That's when I had my "Ah Ha!" moment. I said to myself, "Oooooooooooh...now I understand how actors can leave their longtime loves for their coworkers (costars).
It occurred to me that working with someone on a daily basis and putting that much of yourself into a character could definitely be confusing. I'm basically living my life as someone else with different people and different intentions, etc. I could very easily be swept away by those feelings.
But did I want to be swept away??? No way! I don't want to be with an actor! I don't understand how my partner can stand it. Don't get me wrong, I love actors. I myself am an actor. Several of my friends are actors. But at times I personally feel bipolar or multiple personalities (whatever). At times, I have the hardest time coming down from characters that I portray. So if my show, scene or whatever ends on a happy note for my character, I come home happy. If it ends on a bad note or emotionally charged, well I come home with that and he has to deal with whatever I come home as. For that he gets even more of my respect and love.
So how can I prevent myself from being swept away? Well, I journal A LOT about what I'm feeling and that helps me work my way through what's real and what's not real. I also work overtime to focus on myself and everything and everyone in my reality. That's very important. Also, after much journaling I realize that it isn't the other actor I'm having feelings for, but the character that they portray. On that note, I'm pretty damn blessed. My partner is the perfect person for me. I feel very committed to him and just don't see myself leaving him period. So...there's no way in hell I'd walk out on him for a character. What am I supposed to do with a character?
Before I end I want to be very clear. I do believe that relationships that start like this can and do last forever. And I'm all for people following their heart. I'm just personally making a choice not to go down that road...I don't expect that having this realization will make that part of acting any easier, but I do feel fortunate to have figured out what's real and what isn't (for me). I'm glad that now at least I get it...
Patricia A. Robinson