An Artist’s Address: The Fear

A fellow actor once told me that whether Hollywood would make or break you came down to two things: fear and love. He explained this to me as we sat in his car on a swelteringly hot day, bang in the middle of moving house (artists are renowned for all sorts of movements).

The fact that this person had lied about his relationship situation, his reasons for relocating from LA to the UK, and virtually all of his film experience to date – that came to light later. But, in the strange and amusing experiences we have with one another in this sharing we call life, all of us bring blessings and curses, and from him, this was one of many gifts.

You will hear artists talking about many different things: their art (of course), money, the business, the recession, friends, art, fun, festivals, beer, family, meeting kindred spirits at dawn and seeing the sunrise of a new day together – millions of things really, but rarely do they mention their fear. Hardly ever do we sit and openly discuss how hard it is to stick with a profession over which you have no control, besides making sure you always show up to castings prepared, are always grateful, and always, always choose the job over everything else.

The truth is that as an actress, when I try out for a job, I’ll only ever hear back IF I’m successful. After one particular casting for a very well-known brand, I was asked to wait for callbacks with another actress (now a friend) in a nearby café. Not wanting to appear demanding, we waited patiently to be called, until finally, at 5pm we broke and phoned the office, only to be told that the casting directors had left for the day!

In an environment where only the best or most well-known are called upon, nearly every single day is like living inside a pressure cooker. Eventually, we all succumb to some sort of fear, and this escapes each of us differently. I have decided to refrain from describing how anyone else’s fear manifests. For me, it comes in my dreams, through endless nights when I send my closest friends messages, during long phone conversations, and once every few months, when I go out on the tear.

If you have Irish heritage, you’ll know going on the tear (or the lash) means getting inebriated; we do it when life overwhelms us, as a kind of catharsis. We feel everything very deeply, sometimes too much so, and when that happens, we go out for the craic!

The latest was a tequila-drenched evening with a too-sober friend in Los Angeles (yes, I’m back for take two). I misread her annoyance at my drunkenness as a sign that she didn’t want me to live with her anymore. It was the release of a deep-seated worry, which I’d had for some time; what if I lose my way and fall off the edge of opportunity and possibility and into the side streets of despair? What if nobody catches me? This was my fear, exacerbated by the loss of many things that had previously given me security.

You know what happened afterwards though? We got closer as friends, and I was able to recognise and understand my fears and weaknesses better, and love myself more as I came to accept them. All of this time I was trying to avoid this particular fear, but now I can use it to take charge and head full storm towards the horizon ahead. Come with me! Let’s all let go of “the fear”, realise we are only here for a short time, and just ride the waves, instead of ducking and hiding each time one breaks, totally missing the wonderful view from above.

If there’s one thing I am leaving behind me with each wonderful experience as an artist, it is the fear. I don’t even care about it anymore. Give me trust and love, truth and freedom! Bring me joy and happiness! Bring me movies with characters I am excited to portray; let me act on tv series; bring me roles in commercials that are fun, that introduce me to great people at the top of their game.

Let me experience nothing but the gratitude and wonder of being able to live my life, hanging out only with those I adore, love and enjoy, and let my dreams coming true mark the relinquishing of the troubles, frustrations, and fears from my past!

Out with the old, in with the new, or to give one of my all-time favorite quotes:

“For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning, and is refreshed.” (Khalil Gibran)


Johanna Thea
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