Hello Dear Readers!
Before we get on with this month’s question, I have to take a moment to thank all of you who wrote in letters of support for last month’s advice-seeker, James. If you recall, he wrote in asking about staying sober in the Hollywood scene.
At the end of this month’s column, you’ll be able to read some of the nicest responses I’ve seen in quite a while!
That’s what makes this column so darn much fun to write! It’s the sense of community among actors and I am constantly reminded about how much we all need each other to get through this crazy business.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Dear Donna Marie –
I have a question about jealousy and how to get over it.
I went to an audition and so did my best friend. We were up for the same part. I guess you know what happened. My friend got the part and I didn’t. I got so jealous and upset and we got into a fight about it.
I haven’t talked to my friend for a couple of weeks now, since I am still so mad that she is working on this show that I really wanted to work on!
I want to get over this and I am wondering if you can help.
Thank you for anything you can do!
Dear Vanessa –
So you have been bitten by the green monster!
It happens in everyone’s lives (even outside of the industry) all the time. Someone gets a role, a car, a house, anything that we covet and then we’re off – thinking bad thoughts, making curses, and wishing bad luck on them.
Needless to say, this gets us nowhere.
What you have to do is learn to re-focus your energies.
But first, a cautionary tale from the life of yours truly…
When I was still a youngster, trying my hand at the Broadway stage, I lived in New York, and had a great little place near 42nd and Broadway, right in the heart of it all! I was fairly well-known around town and my apartment was a sort of “meeting place” for our little family of struggling actors.
People would come over after their shows finished Off-Off-Off Broadway, and we’d play bongo drums and have a few cocktails, and generally blow off a bit of steam. Of course, we would gossip about the business and our fellow actors. We’d even talk about upcoming auditions.
I had a terrific friend by the name of Chloe Testarossa. Chloe and I were joined at the hip! We would spend our days traipsing around the city, checking out all the modern art in Soho, walking through Central Park, and eating at the automat (which was cheap! We were so poor!).
We also spent a lot of time visiting agents’ offices, producers’ offices, and casting offices, always on the lookout for the perfect audition roles.
It didn’t really occur to me that Chloe and I were almost identical types in terms of casting. I guess that’s maybe why we got along so well.
But all that changed when we were both asked to audition for the new Broadway-bound musical extravaganza “Pattycake!”, which told the story of Patty Carlyle, who shuns her rich lifestyle and potential engagement to a prominent mayor’s son in order to follow her dream to become a pastry chef.
Chloe and I were going to be up for the role of Lulu-Belle, Patty’s assistant in the bakery. We had a scene to read, and we were asked to sing a song, of course.
During the days leading up to the audition, Chloe and I would read our scene together, practice our songs, and give each other notes on our performances. As the day got closer, though, the reality of what was happening started to sink in.
There could only be one Lulu-Belle. Of course, they could choose one of us, but they couldn’t choose both of us. But, we didn’t let it bother us too much, because we knew there would be lot of folks trying out for the role as well.
We told each other every day, “A victory for one of us is a victory for both of us!”
Audition day was upon us, and as we got close to the theater, I turned to Chloe and said, “No matter what happens, you will always be my friend! I’ll just be happy for you if you get it and I don’t!”
Chloe burst into tears and simply said, “Right back at ya, kid!”
Well, we auditioned, and like your question, Vanessa, I bet you can guess what happened. That’s right – Chloe got the role.
I’ll never forget it. We were all gathered at my place. It was Friday night. Late. Chet Yablonsky was diggin’ on the bongos and Elsie Plantain was whipping up another round of Sazarac Slings when Chloe burst into the room.
In a second, before she even opened her mouth, I knew. I knew what that little no-good-for-nothing two-timing witch was going to say.
“I GOT IT!” she screamed. “I GOT THE ROLE OF LULU-BELLE!”
Everyone burst into applause and ran to her, hugging her and congratulating her.
But she could only look to me. She crossed the room, arms outstretched.
“Oh, Donna,” she said. “Isn’t it marvelous? We’ve done it!”
“Yes, YOU have.” I retorted sharply.
“Remember what we said? A victory for one of us is a victory of both of us?”
“Did we? I don’t recall.”
Suddenly, I “acquired” a massive headache and I ended the party early, shooing everyone out the door as quickly as possible. And by everyone, I also mean Chloe, who seemed bewildered by my reaction.
Well, what did she expect? This was her big break, and she stood in my way. Both of our auditions were stellar. I heard hers, and she was no better than I! Why did she get lucky and have a steady paycheck for months, while I would have to continue to pound the pavement day after day, searching for work?
Needless to say, I let my jealousy take over and I cut off all contact with Chloe during her rehearsal period. She would call and I would hang up if I heard her voice. If I saw her walking down the street, I would either turn around or cross to the other side in order to avoid her.
My Friday night soirees did not include her, and she was missed.
I missed her, too! Desperately. She was my best friend, my confidante. Without her, my life seemed empty. She and I were a terrific support system and now I felt very alone.
So you see, Vanessa, I know where you’re coming from, and because of this terrible time in my life, I’m able to give you some advice.
The first, most basic thing I’m going to tell you is this: Get. Over. It.
It’s really that simple.
I know you weren’t expecting me to be so blunt, but there’s really no other way to say it.
You must realize that, in this business, we have no control over who is cast in a project or why. Your audition might have been perfectly great, but the producers were looking for maybe one small thing that your best friend displayed that you didn’t. It could have been something as simple as her hair color!
What it was doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you didn’t get the role. Your best friend did and you’re having a hard time dealing with it.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion and can be very destructive. However, it can be a useful tool as well.
Right now, you’re using it as a tool of destruction. You are about to destroy a friendship that obviously means a lot to you. You need to ask yourself if it’s worth it to lose a best friend over something so trivial. I know it’s a major issue right now, but your best friend’s gig has an end date. Your friendship doesn’t.
I want to give you some tools to help you heal your friendship AND to deal with this situation in the future.
First of all, it’s okay to feel badly about not getting the part. You wanted it, and someone else got it. So give yourself some time to wallow in it. Go to your room, pound the pillows, cry out, do whatever you need to do to get it out. Set a time limit. Seriously! Give yourself five minutes to just WAIL!!! Just become a Bitter Betty!!! Privately, of course…
Once you’ve let your irrational side take over, it’s time to come back to the rational side. Be truly honest with yourself and think about what your friend did differently. Did she work any harder than you did? Really analyze her process. Maybe you think you deserved it, but honestly, didn’t SHE deserve it, too? She does, right?
Now (and here’s where the useful part of jealousy comes in), take what you’ve learned about her approach and think about how you can apply it to your career. You see, jealousy in and of itself is not productive, but learning from your friend’s success is. In some ways, she blazed the trail for you to follow.
When Chloe and I vowed that “a victory for one of us is a victory for both of us,” we weren’t kidding. It’s actually true!
So now, you’ve got to make up with your friend. I’m not sure how bad your fight was, but I’m pretty sure you’re both wishing you were back in each other’s lives. And it’s going to be your responsibility to make things right.
Give her a call, send an email, do something to say you’re sorry. And in that communication, make sure you tell her how proud you are that she got the role, that you think she’s just going to be fantastic in it, and then tell her how much you miss her.
Apologize for your jealous reaction and own up to your bad behavior. It’s going to be tough, I know, but it will go a long way to patching up things between you. You’ll both be so much happier – you’ll have your best friend back, and you’ll both be able to enjoy her success!
I was able to patch things up with Chloe, too!
After a particularly boozy Friday night, I called Chloe, who had just gotten in from rehearsal. I poured out my apologies to her, and told her how excited I was for her, and how I missed her!
We both sobbed and sobbed!
On opening night of “Pattycake!” there I was, in the orchestra section, cheering her on! She was marvelous!
We’ve been friends ever since! We even had the chance to work together when “Pattycake!” went on tour. This time Chloe played the lead, and I played Lulu-Belle. Secretly, I thought I played the role much better, but you see, I kept that thought to myself.
As I said at the beginning of this month’s column, I would like to share some of the lovely responses I got for James’ question about staying sober.
Here are a few:
Hello Donna Marie, earnestly
My name is Maz and I'm an alcoholic.
First off, let me say how much I enjoy the letters and, more importantly, your responses to them. I look forward to them every month when I get the on-line newsletter.
Now that we've gotten the niceties out of the way, let's get down to the real reason for this. As I said, my name is Maz and I'm an alcoholic. I've been sober for three years and 12 days. I've been taking acting classes for the past nine years at a wonderful studio in Studio City. I'm also 52 years old, but tell everyone I'm 49 (image is everything, isn't it?). I didn't start to build a resume as an actor, other than a student film and an unreleased feature, until I got sober. I have maybe 25 projects under my belt: student films, shorts, features and a few plays. I tell you this as a background to the sobriety part of it. Your suggestion to attend AA meetings is an excellent one. If he's attending meetings, has a sponsor (someone who guides him through the aforementioned twelve steps) and reads the Big Book, that will help him in the situations he may find himself. The Big Book deals specifically with the situation he describes. It basically says that we can go anywhere we want, even if alcohol is served, as long as we have a reason to be there. It's when we go in and try to live vicariously through those around us who still drink that we have a problem. If we're there for a business reason or to be of service to someone or for a premier or even to network, we should be fine. That doesn't mean it's easy, which is why your other suggestion to have a sober friend with you is a good one. If that's undo-able, then have your phone and some phone numbers of people to call. When I was about six months sober, I went to a Christmas party and I was very uncomfortable around the alcohol. Now, I can go into a bar or restaurant and hang out with people who are drinking and I'm usually fine. In other words, it does get easier. If I’m having trouble, I pick up the phone and call one of my sober buddies. Actually, there are a fair amount of sober actors.
I know there's a lot here, but I'm here to be of service if I can.
Thanks a lot,
Maz, that was a wonderful letter! Lots of useful information, too!
As an actor who is 5 1/2 years clean and sober, I highly recommend Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. There are over 1200 meetings a week in the L.A. area at all times of the day and night. If you go to meetings, close your mouth and LISTEN, then find a sponsor and do what you are told. It will work for you! I can't tell you how many celebrities I've seen in meetings (actually, I really can't tell you, since it's not allowed!). James' problem is not unique. Thousands of us have been through it. And I have to say one more thing here: bars are for getting drunk and getting laid, not for networking.
I appreciate your blunt insight! Tell it like it is!
And one final response:
Dear James, I agree with all of the advice that Donna Marie gave you. My husband has been sober for ten years. I recommend that you obtain a sponsor by attending AA meetings. This sponsor will give you advice and help you get back on the right track in terms of your career aspirations and your life. You can try attending meetings at places where people from the entertainment industry might attend if you wish to network with them afterwards. There is a 12 step meeting held at the Screen Actors Guild on Wilshire Blvd., and you can look around for meetings in Beverly Hills or the Studio City area. I network by attending as many industry events as I can that don’t take place in bars because I also prefer not to drink.
Donna Marie, that was inspiring advice you gave to James. I often wonder if I am missing out on "networking" by avoiding the club scene. I, too, wasted a few years partying and you just confirmed that I have better things to do as an actor.
James, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re doing well!
If you’ve got suggestions for Vanessa and her jealousy, or simply questions of your own, please write me at email@example.com
I can’t wait to hear from you!
Until next month –
Donna Marie Watkins