An Excerpt From “Pleasure Thresholds”…..
A word about conventions.
The actors who are on the shows that get promoted at cons are a very lucky bunch. You could be on a hit series like ER , but those shows don’t have fans dressing up in scrubs and getting in line to meet them. These days we are seeing more mainstream shows have their stars go to cons thanks to the success of the mega cons like San Diego Comicon. But nothing beats sci fi and horror fans.
We are the lucky few who have the opportunity to meet the folks who have bothered to find our show on syndicated TV or buy a ticket to our little horror movie. On the B5 set, we worked in a vacuum, playing in our Tin Can In Space. No one says “good job”, or “great work” other than your scene partner. The Powers That Be tend not to want their actors to think too much of themselves. So for us to have the chance to get out and meet you, is a very fine thing. You say nice things to us and buy our autographs, share stories about your lives, and introduce us to your kids. It’s a marvelous thing. It helps me to remember why I do this! Cause it’s not only Not Easy, it’s fucking brutal.
This business is set up to keep the power out of the actor’s hands. We have absolutely no control. Unless it’s the actor’s project to begin with, or they are the star the studio needs to sell it, actors are the bottom link of the chain of power. From the first conception of a script, and the producers start to search for a cast, actors are kept out of the circle of creativity. The breakdown of roles goes out to agents, it’s actually illegal for actors to have access to it. In what other business is it illegal for a person not to have access to job classifieds? Actors are discouraged from contacting casting people, directors, production companies, just about anyone who can help them, directly. Many actors find creative ways around the barriers set up against us. And we are constantly dealing with more and more barriers. My business ‘Talent To Go’ is all about helping actors navigate all this. We tend to feel helpless, alone, and in a constant position of neediness. My point to you is it’s really FUCKING HARD to be a working actor. Unless you are trying to do it, you have no idea. So when we have a chance to meet you and hear nice things, it can be so lovely. We all always networking and auditioning, or trying to. Just getting an audition these days is like winning the lottery. When you say, ‘Why don’t you get on Star Trek or Lost or Torchwood’, it hurts. ‘Why haven’t you been working?’ kills me. That can make me go into my room and not come out sober for a long time.
Breaking News: Actors are people. We all have to have other jobs to bring in the monthly nut. We have spouses, partners, kids, pets, houses , gardens, parents to care for , responsibilities to all kinds of things we care about. Unless you are a very famous actor on big shows, you don’t make more money than any one else in the USA on a yearly basis. Actors are middle class, if they are LUCKY. So please understand, I cannot fly to another city for the weekend without a lot of arrangements to cover these afore mentioned responsibilities, and that COSTS me money. I pay for a house, child and pet sitter. There is now a charge for your bags, so we pay for that. Transportation to and from the airport here in LA, plus food and water at the con, there are all kinds of costs you don’t think about. Actors have to invest in inventory such as pictures, DVDs, etc. I am always exhausted after a con weekend, so I need a day at least without too much going on when I return, so I am hiring an assistant to cover me then too.
If I am selling autographs and other products, please know I am only charging what is fair, but I will charge money. You only need my autograph once, or twice on things. Once you have it, you never need it again. It’s not like selling soap, clothes or food!
On Facebook or Twitter I am asked all the time why don’t I go to this con or that.
Once again, actors have no power. We can only go to a con when we have been invited. I am not showing up, and paying my own airfare or hotel. I need the con to promote me so the fans will come who want to see me, and get my autograph. I know some of the footloose and fancy free actors will pop into a con. But they are usually single and childless! That is certainly not going to be me. I cannot come for free. The best way fans can help their favorite actors to come to a con, is to contact the con promoters and request them. That way the promoter knows they can sell some tickets based on that actor’s attendance. Thank you for your understanding.
Sometimes a con promoter will lie to the fans about an actor who doesn’t make it to the con. This just happened to me. We (my manger and I) were in negotiations for a midwestern convention. It was only a few weeks away. While I said yes I was interested, we didn’t have a full agreement. When we looked into the airline tickets, the only seats available would have me changing planes 2 and 3 times, and only on the ground at the con for about 36 hours. That wasn’t going to work for me so we asked to book me for next year, and we’d have plenty of time to get better tickets so I could be at the con for the whole 3 days. Done. So I thought. I found out through a friend that I was being promoted at the con. They were selling tickets based on my appearance and lying to the fans. While my manager went after them to take that down, they then put up a table at the con with a poster as if I were coming in any minute. They kept telling the fans I missed my plane, then my plane was delayed etc. They never copped to the fact I wasn’t coming. I still have fans asking why I didn’t show! Now I can’t ever do that show. Many con promoters are people without a moral compass. You may never know what happens behind the scenes, but actors get screwed all the time by these people. We make deals to get paid at the con instead of paid in advance, because we know times are hard and the con needs the gate to pay the actors, and then we never see the money. Happens all the time.
So I have a very specific contract to get me to conventions safely, and without losing money. I simply can’t afford to travel without it. I know it seems to many folks like hey, you’re getting food, and we are paying for your pictures, you get to have fun and tell stories…how hard can it be? I hope I have shared enough here so you understand what it takes for us to leave our homes to come meet you.
Preparing for a con weekend has gotten harder for me for some reason. There is more anxiety around traveling since 9/11. I need to make sure I have what I need but that it doesn’t weigh too much. I have to print enough pictures, have the right pens, and any other materials for my table. I need to look nice for you so I plan outfits for every event. At home I am a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal. On the road, I wear much nicer stuff. Hey you are paying to see me, I had better look good! Or as good as I can anyway. There is communication to have in place with my office, house, pet and child sitters. Then there’s the Energy Factor. While I do love people, it takes a lot of energy to constantly be ‘up’ and ‘on’. It’s hard to hear in those big rooms with all the noise so I’m straining to hear folks and trying to keep up with the conversation. Some cons require the actors to sit at a table all day. That makes me feel like a monkey in a zoo. I get agitated if I am not busy. And kind of mortified, just sitting there like an old relic. So I end up running around the place talking to people and looking at the cool stuff in the Dealer’s Room I wish I could buy. Makes my handlers crazy. After a con weekend, just the energy drain can flatten me for days.
I realize that watching a favorite TV show every week can become a rather intimate experience. We are in your living rooms, sometimes bedrooms, with you on a regular basis. You think about the show and the characters and they become a part of your personal life. We share family time, meals, and lives. I get it! I do it too! I was devastated when Buffy went off the air. But the is a reality line that gets crossed. I am often treated like someone who is well known to the fan. They tell me “Gee you look fatter than the last time I saw you.” People also seem to forget that actors are mortal, and we age just like everyone else. Please don’t be mean to us about it. We can’t help it! I know you just saw us on TV looking the same after 20 years but I promise you we will look different in person. I should think you’d find it comforting, but some seem to think it’s a failing on our part. I know actors who will not go to cons or even out much because they find it so hurtful. Often I am chastised for some event that happened on the show, disappointing the fan. “You are so mean to Zack. Why don’t you give him a chance?”
“You should have used your powers to save Byron. That was really stupid.”
I cannot TELL you how many times I hear “Oh you already know that. You can read my mind.” Or “Oh I hope you can’t read my mind now, you’d slap my face.” Just fair warning to anyone out there who likes to tread those fine lines; I am a real redhead and I have a famous temper. I will not be held responsible. You have been informed.
Doing conventions can be awesome. I love to travel. And even though most of the time there isn’t enough hours in the day to fulfill my obligation to the con and see the sights, I enjoy going to new places. I really love people, as many of you know who have met me. Meeting you is a highlight for me. I really appreciate you buying my products. I try to make things special for you. Like this book; something different and personal from me that you cannot get anywhere else. When you go to a con, don’t you almost always come back with great stories? I have tremendous memories of the places I have gone and people I have met or the antics of my fellow actors (OMG, right?) . Some of them are in this book! See photo of Rick Biggs in the Klingon jail! Being able to go with my friends from other shows and get silly is so fun! See the photos of me with the Lone Gunmen! Babylon 5 and X-Files had expos going on Navy Pier in my hometown at the same time. I had worked with Mitch Pileggi on a film called “Shocker” and decided to crash their show at the end of the day, and we all went out for food. There was a whole storyline thought up that sodden evening in a Chicago pub , we had decided Lyta’s next boyfriend should be one of them. Not a good storyline of course, but we thought it was brilliant at the time. This is what I mean. Little mini adventures happen at cons!
So while most actors are happy to come to your local convention, we need certain things in place to help us make it happen. That’s up to the organizers of the con. Let them know you’d like us to come and maybe all our dreams will come true!
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never, ever have enough.— Oprah
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