I have been an actress for about eight years now. During this time, I have turned down a lot of lead roles because I refuse to do hot, steamy love scenes; be nude; be partially nude; or portray a slut. I don’t feel that any role is worth trading in my dignity for. Am I going about this wrong? A lot of people in the industry tell me that I should be thankful that I am being offered roles and I must be some kind of “feminist” or “innocent” that should stick to Disney roles.

This all stemmed from a role I turned down that would have had me portraying a 15-year-old girl being sexually abused with a screwdriver, among other things. I feel that picking the right roles is just as important when you are starting out as it is when you are famous. Would you agree?

Confused, but proud of my convictions!

I absolutely, positively, 100% agree with you! Even though I just signed on to cast my 20th film, I consider that with fewer than four years’ experience as a casting director I am still building my reputation in Hollywood. Therefore, I make sure to choose projects I believe in, scripts I adore, and partnerships with people I’d be proud to put on a set together. The value in that is far greater than any immediate rewards. I am laying the groundwork for how I want to be perceived as a casting director. You are doing the same thing, as an actor.

If you’re truly in this for the long haul (which I advise all actors to be, since there are so few true rewards for those who look for quick-fix fame), what you’re doing now, by turning down work to which you object, is teaching the industry WHO YOU ARE. And that won’t change, if you’re honest about the choices you make right now. When you make integrity-filled decisions about the roles you are offered — especially at the beginning when it is oh-so-tempting to accept any role since you want to work so badly — you are setting your personal NO line. And that’s something I recommend actors do very early on in their careers (before it’s an issue of money and status).

There will always be roles out there that compromise your personal beliefs. You will always have an opportunity to portray someone who spends the entire film naked! That sort of filmmaking will never go away. So, look at it this way: Even if you doubt you’ve made the right choice today, in saying no to a role with nudity or violence, you’ll always have another opportunity to say yes to a similar role, down the line. I’d bet it’s far more likely you’ll worry “what would have been” a year from now if you DO accept a role you feel goes against your personal value system than you’d worry “what would have been” if you say NO.

I know Hollywood is filled with opportunities to compromise your values. Heck, LIFE is! The fact that you stand by yours at the beginning (when it’s the hardest to do so) says a lot about the kind of actor you’ll continue to be, 50 years from now. And isn’t that the type of career longevity you’re hoping for? How nice to know today that you’ll be able to feel good about your choices that far down the line! Many people can’t say that. “Disney” or not, there are plenty of roles for you that will not involve crossing your “NO Line.” And, by the way, what’s so bad about being a “Disney innocent” anyway? Play those roles all the way to the bank, baby!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000399.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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