(Barely) Surviving Actor

Sobriety in The City

A Sober take on Love and Life in London

By Janna Fox




The hardest thing about being an actor is that you can rarely afford to be an actor all the time. No matter how talented you are we all have patches of little to no work. This means that we must find a day job to supplement our careers while waiting for The National Theatre and The RSC to call.

Any day now…

I have recently found myself in the unfortunate position of needing to find a new one. Oh. Fuck. For years I have supplemented my career with the old trusty Hospitality industry. It’s been my life for eighteen years this year (buy me cake-some people have murdered and got less) however the winds of change are definitely afoot.

As I’m sure you can guess hospitality and sobriety do not go hand in hand and when the old ‘if you can’t beat them join them’ shoe no longer fits it’s definitely time to start looking around. There’s also the fact that now that I’ve not been drunk for ten months I have  little to no patience with people who are and obviously being around it forces me to question my sobriety on a daily basis as alcohol is in my environment. However it’s also starting to look like most restaurants, cafes and bars are heavily suspicious of an ex-manager not wanting to manage. Well actually they either avoid you like a barge pole because you’re honest about being an actor or love it and take you on immediately with a long term goal of cornering you into running their business. If I wanted to be a bar manager I would be one. Move on.

So that’s what I am attempting to do. Move on. So far it’s got me here. Writing this. And although the long term plan is for writing to become my new day job I have successfully selected yet another career that is about as financially viable as an ice cream van in a desert.

Slow clap for Janna.


This leaves me in the precarious position of looking for a job I don’t want. My motivation is low, my bank balance lower; what is a girl to do? Well generally other options for actors are;



Lots of actors teach. Either proper teaching in actual schools (for which you need a degree that I don’t have and a PGCE that also I don’t have) or in the various stage schools for children that have sprung up all over the country thanks to hideous programmes such as The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice and the Dancing one. You know, the ones where the public vote on who they like best and these people are handed careers. Sense any resentment? No me neither. These ‘schools’ are full of actors making a buck on little ones dreams to become the next {insert most recent x-factor winner here} funded by over stretched middle class parents who would rather have professionally trained CRB checked actors look after little Phoenix than an actual baby sitter. No. Thanks.

I’ve always been a bit afraid of teaching as it seems to me to be something that requires commitment. For example if I’m working in a pub and I get an acting job I’m not worried about how Old Jim is going to get his pint of Pride in my absence, nor am I responsible for filling my own shoes until my return. I just leave and come back when I’m ready. There’s also the possibility with teaching that I might like it and get sucked in to caring about how my little darlings are doing, planning things like lessons and having to spend extra head space on them instead of me. See. Commitment.

I am also haunted by the age old cliché of ‘failed actor becomes drama teacher’ and frankly would rather starve than have this happen. Unfortunately this week starving is a real option.


The Call Centre.

This is a bit like a puppy farm but instead of being filled with puppy’s it’s full of loud, frustrated out of work actors putting their gift of the gab to good use selling things to people that, let’s face it, they don’t need. I worked in some of these back in Brighton the last time I gave up bar work where they’re filled with ex-bar managers with little to nothing except bar work on their C.V’s adapting bar talk into a sales pitch. I quit the first one because it was immoral and the second one because I couldn’t sit down for eight hours a day and I put on a stone in a month. A MONTH. Although I am considering this option as the moneys good I have a feeling it could go that way again also I’m not excellent at being around my own kind all of the time. Actors bore me. They live to talk about acting and agents and theatre and go to the pub. Meh.


And that’s me. Out of options. Obviously there’s always porn, prostitution and selling my soul although without drugs and alcohol none of these are really suitable. Possible, yes. Suitable, NO!

Over the last year the thought of retraining in something has crossed my mind. I started training as an aerialist last year which is so much fun, obviously keeps you fit and is incredibly well paid once you get to a high enough standard to perform. (Pun intended). I’ve considered becoming a florist; you’re on your feet all day, I love plants and flowers, it’s still creative too and there’s something very romantic about being a florist, in my twisted mind anyway, very My Fair Lady. Becoming a therapist also interests me a great deal; I come from a family of nurses and like to think I’m pretty good at listening and understanding other people’s problems. I also, like most actors, am fascinated by the way our minds work, behaviour patterns, all of that. Plus it would make me feel good, like I was doing something for others besides serving them food or adding to their alcoholism.

All of these are valid second careers or at least would enhance my current career and are starting to look more realistic for an actress approaching her mid to late thirties rather than working as a waitress or a bar tender with the added bonus that they will allow me to work in a more sober environment. However they all have the same problems: retraining takes time, commitment (THAT word again) and money. They would all require me to put a halt on things acting wise in order to get qualified in them in the first place and they all cost. Over the years I have honed my financial skills so that I just about scrape by food wise, rent wise and can still pay for things like my spotlight membership, printing scripts and travelling to auditions, I’m not sure if I can handle budgeting time, money and energy out of my already jam-packed schedule in order to re-train in something that I hope I won’t end up ever doing.

Also, as most actors will tell you, as soon as you book something, ANYTHING, you will normally get a job. This is actually good motivation for me to do it.

Now which one should I go for? Florist, therapist or porn star…?

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