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ANSWERED! The Question Every Actor Dreads : "What Have I Seen You In?"


We actors are sensitive creators by design as it’s our job to empathize with the nuances in humanity.   We put ourselves in the shoes of different people for acting roles, but that sensitive nature bleeds over into real life.   I, for one, am easily affected by the thoughts and comments of other people. When someone asks me the dreaded question, “What have I seen you in?” I used to freak out inside, but now I have some answers.

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To get SAG-AFTRA union insurance, an actor must make $17,340 per year, and less than 15% of union actors qualify for the insurance, yikes!  Very few actors work consistently. There is a lot of “downtime” when actors are attempting to book shows by attending numerous auditions for which they are not paid.  In my experience, there is some shame and sadness associated with these struggling attempts to perform.

 


Well-meaning people in other professions love to ask me, “What have I seen you in?”  I used to have a hard time with this question because many times I felt the answer was “nothing. 😢” Sometimes, I forgot the wonderful plays, films, and commercials I did, if I hadn’t booked anything in a while.  My mind was running in circles of negativity, and my focus wrong. But staying in an emotional state of regret, shame and disappointment is never productive.   So, I decided to come up with some answers to the question, “What have I seen you in?”

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ANSWER ONE: “You know….my favorite role I ever played was…..”

This is a wonderful option if you have ever (and I do mean ever) booked a fulfilling role, even if it was many years ago.  With this answer you can focus on a specific project, and paint a picture of that experience. You can convey what that acting role meant to you, and have a deeper more specific dialogue about your experience. So, I would say something like, “ You know….my favorite role I ever played was a Rwandaan genocide survivor in “The Power of the Heart.” I researched many hours for that role, and I was floored by the great atrocities that happened in Africa.  The woman I played was hiding in a bathroom for 7 months with 8 other women, while people she knew were hunting her. I was moved to tears by the power of forgiveness and the strength this woman.”  Cool huh? Way better than just saying, “Not much.”


ANSWER TWO: “I’ve done different things in the past, but what I’m most looking forward to is……”

This answer is great when you want to focus on the future and not the past.  It’s a great idea to let people know your hopes and aspirations, because you never know if that person can connect you with someone you will work with.  The beauty of this answer is that you can say anything, whatever your true dreams and desires are, regardless of what you did in the past. I would say something like, “I’ve done different things in the past, but what I’m most looking forward to is playing a action hero.  I was so inspired by Brad Pitt's fighting in the film Troy, the footwork and swordplay were breathtaking,  and I practice martial arts! So, my dream would be to have a high-stakes, intense fighting scene. That reminds me, I should workout today!”

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ANSWER THREE: “Great question! I don’t know what you seen me in, but I can tell you what I’m working on….!”

This is a great answer if you haven’t really booked anything your really care to talk about.  If you call yourself an actor you should be constantly developing your craft, so just talk about that.  “Great question! I don’t know you what you seen me in, but I can tell you what I’m working on in class, I’m really exploring the monologue. It’s amazing how easy the actors on TV make it look, taking pages of text and make it sound real, emotional, and grounded.  I actually taped myself the other day doing a monologue from “Raisin in the Sun”, it was a lot to memorize, but it really forced me to dig deep into the character”


Remember, you are in control of how you perceive and convey your acting career.  It doesn’t matter what stage of the game you’re in, be proud of the life you have chosen, and share it happily with others.

 

Jamie Ann Burke
Actress
Founder, Thespian Heart Clothing
www.thespianheart.com
www.thespianheart@gmail.com

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6 comments


  • Noël Ramos

    “To get SAG-AFTRA union insurance, an actor must make $17,340 per year, and less than 15% of union actors qualify for the insurance, yikes!”

    That is a very sobering realization. :( Where did you get these figures Jamie?


  • Deborah Jane

    EXCELLENT. REAL. VULNERABLE. Exactly what actors are thinking!!!! I


  • Michael

    Nice piece.


  • Ashley

    I love this Jamie! I’m so happy you’re writing and sharing your stuff! I love that you are such a go getter! And I personally love response number 3! I’ve been practicing that one a lot lately <3


  • Mary

    Wonderful article! This is something I speak about frequently with my students and clients. It’s so important that we stand fully in our power as actors – and yet it can be SO easy to be thrown by questions that bring back every insecurity. I LOVE your responses and will definitely share the link… we can all learn so much from them. Thank you for sharing.


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