it is still rearing its head in productions that span the gauntlet from black box theaters to summer blockbusters often enough to keep multiple magazines in business and gossip hounds fed for generations.
Here’s the thing, we actors have a bad rep as signiﬁcant others, and it’s not statistically undeserved.
Acting attracts a large number of broken people hoping to fill the void inside with the group love of fans. I’m not saying we’re all broken (though even the best of us have crazy schedules, unstable jobs and varying degrees of neurosis). Oh no no no, some real catches are thespians (*hair flip*), and as a general rule, broken people can be found in all professions. Loving them, be they actors, plumbers, or CEOs, is more often than not asking for heartbreak.
However, actors are faced with an unusual amount of temptation. We are surrounded by hot, charming people, who we are sometimes paid to make out with. This environment is the perfect petri dish for strong friendships, budding love, and/or trouble, depending on your circumstance.
This article is not a romanticized endorsement for showmances, nor a dire warning against them (full disclosure: I married a showmance of mine. Like the old saying goes; “It’s hard to resist someone plotting your death in a horror film.” That’s a saying, right? No? Well then ™ Paula Rhodes 2015.) Rather, this is an attempt to raise awareness so that you can know what’s coming and choose your own adventure as an informed participant.
Something I didn’t fully comprehend until I played a character in love on a shoot out of town, is that sets basically operate as a summer camp-esque fishbowl where your whole world becomes the group of people involved for a brief period of time. Intense trust, chemistry and camaraderie are fostered.
In fact, most any time you share the stage or screen with someone there is an intimacy and connection that develops (or should!), especially if you’re playing their love interest.
This feeling of having intense new favorites is what I call “The Spark.” There will almost always be a spark of some kind on set and you will find yourself feeling its heat from time to time. Knowing it will be there, you can prep for the outcome you rationally decide upon ahead of time rather than getting caught up in the heat and potentially burned (or burning others).
Don’t fool yourself, we are adults here and should admit that you choose to either fan the flames and give into them or keep it contained as nice little glowing friendship fires (I can see I’m going to get carried away with this fire analogy, but bear with me.).
In a relationship?
If you are in a relationship you are not happy in as you start a production, I strongly encourage you to either fix it or have the guts to end it first and not put yourself in tempting waters that will lead to the ship-to-ship jumping technique. It will be less hurtful to all, and will make you a better person in the eyes of the entire Universe. Is it easier to break it off when you know you have a new spark to turn to? Of course, but it’s the coward’s way and you’ll be adding jealousy to someone’s heartache stew as you serve yourself a daily guilt sandwich (I think I’m hungry).
Unless you’re a horrible person, then this is just your M.O. and you should watch your karmic back as you go about enforcing the bad-to-date-actors stereotype.
If you are about to start a new production and are in a relationship you’d like to keep, then include your love in this new little world from the start. Bring them around to set and post-rehearsal hang outs, talk about them, introduce them to your new gang and make sure you define yourself as half a couple. Never complain about them to this new peer group. Doing all this will help keep the other sparks from growing out of control and instead shape them into lovely little friend fires that still warm your heart and can even last longer than the typical romantic relationship.
Perhaps you are single and the thought of finding love while doing WHAT you love sounds like a dream come true. It can be! BUT, do the world a favor and be sure you follow the very important rule I like to call DBH, or “Don’t Be A Homewrecker.” If the person your inner magnet is pulling you toward is in a relationship with someone else: STOP.
I’m gonna stop you there. I can see you want to argue with me and give me some “it’s not black and white” scenario, but I’m telling you, it is black and white. The gray you think you see is actually lots of tiny black and white dots close to each other.
It doesn’t matter if they claim to be unhappy in it and you think they’re sooooo cute/famous/could- be-the-one, give them space and don’t encourage any particular outcome. Do not hang out with them when not in front of a camera or audience. I mean it.
I know, on some powerful cellular level you will ache to be near them, will think about them every night and fantasize about them in a million different scenarios, but DO NOT FAN THAT FLAME. It will be hard, but with time and space (often not even that much time) this yearning WILL die down. I promise.
Have enough respect for them, for the other person in the relationship, and mainly for yourself to make them decide to leave or stay in their current situation on their own. Don’t be a factor/reason/ excuse for them.
They may break it off and find you down the road, or they may realize (as we often do with showmances) that once the curtain goes down on the production, the spark will fade and they will have avoided a big mistake, or they may even move on to another spark and find someone else who WILL let them continue the cycle of cheating.
Though it doesn’t seem like it when you’re in the throws sparking, any of these scenarios is much much better than helping them cheat and the road that most often follows. A clear conscious is worth the sleepless nights of pining. DBH!
If, however, you are both single and find yourselves perfectly cast together, then A – thank your casting director, and B – take it slow. Not too slow, I love me a good whirlwind romance, but realize that what seems perfect on set in Toronto may be less storybook once you get back to the grind. Enjoy the exquisite longing and draw out that arms-length passion (or at least protect the deepest alcoves of your heart) long enough to see if it translates back in the real world. Ha! I just giggled out loud when I realized I wrote “real world” in reference to LA.
Your Happily Ever After
In this biz, you really can’t have too many friends and to a large extent, it IS who you know, so use that spark to cultivate those friendly relationships. Go into a production realizing you will connect with your new team, you will feel something new and exciting, maybe even lotsa something, but CHOOSE what to do with those feelings according to what’s best for you.
Remember, like real fire, the spark in your heart ALWAYS dies down a bit with time unless you constantly feed it. You can protect it and keep that special fire going or you can endure the bursts of heat knowing they grow into glowing embers no matter how raging they seem at first. We can’t control our chemistry or who we feel the spark for usually, but we can control our actions and those will be all you’re really held accountable for.
Use your head to guide your actions, and your heart (along with the hearts of others) will thank you in the long run.