This morning while casually perusing Facebook I came across an article, and an accompanying post by a dear friend that was entitled "'Heavy Character Actresses' Need Not Apply?" I was taken aback, for a variety of reasons, became angry and then proceeded to read the article after reading my friend Ally's elegant addressal of this article in her long, and poignant Facebook Post.
My first issue with this: HEAVY CHARACTER ACTRESSES NEED NOT APPLY. Because let's be honest, if you're heavy, a women, and an actor, you're automatically tossed into the "Character Actress" category. It's not fair. It's not right. And it's something that we, as "heavy actresses" have come to accept and something with which we live, every single day we look at the casting sheets.
We won't ever get the ingenue role. We will always be the sassy friend, the vicious villain, the forgotten victim. We will never be cast as Laurie, but almost always cast as Ado Annie. It's the lot in life that has be cast for us, because we have not evolved with the times.
Something that is noted in the article is that according to a study, over 60% of women in the United States are sized 14 - 34. That's right, OVER SIXTY PERCENT! So why, in order for a TV show, Film, or Theater production to be considered "diverse" do they only have the "token fat girl" who more often than not is played by the "token black person".
Don't get me wrong, I am not bashing or trying to bring up the race debate. I do believe that there is a lot of under-representation of a lot of different cultures, races, creeds, religions, and body types throughout all media. But studios try to save themselves the hassle of finding new and interesting people and faces by checking as many boxes as possible, with as few people as necessary.
They can argue it's a budget thing, or a writing thing, but it's a close minded, "use what's always worked" thing. And it's getting old. There are so many interesting and amazingly talented people out there that don't look like "what's always worked". And they will never get the chance to show you that what they bring to the table will work, because you don't give them a chance.
Why am I so bent out of shape about this? Well for starters, I have never been a size two. Ever. I still wanted to be an actor. But not a TV or Film actor, because let's face it. With the lack of vision or ability to see talent, and beauty in the unsuspecting places, why would I ever attempt to try? I fail before I even start, just because my body, even at it's thinnest, would never fit into the cookie cutter image in the studio's minds.
I wanted to be a theater actor. The reasons behind me focusing on theater, are varied and vast. One of the main reasons for doing so was because of something my mother said when I was thirteen.
We had gone to see the Broadway Tour of Godspell. It was the Sunday matinee, so we went after church. It was kind of the perfect follow up. But the cast was different. They weren't what I was expecting in a Broadway Tour cast. Afterall, I had only grown up seeing Film, TV and the occasional local theater, or high school theater play. These guys were suppose to be THE BEST! And they were AMAZING! But they didn't look like anything that I had ever seen on a stage. There were actors of color, not just black, but hispanic, there were two women who no one would ever consider to be a size two, let alone ten, and they all sang, and danced and gave a stellar performance. After the show, my mom said, "I like theater, and these broadway shows. They don't care about looks, they care about talent."
At the time I was a softball player, swimmer, lifeguard, and swim coach. I was by no means fat. And it stuck with me, that talent, was rewarded, not size in theater. You didn't have to fit into the cookie cutter look that everyone seemed to fit into in Film and TV. You could be different, you could just be talented.
I got older, I stopped being athletic, I gained weight. I became the classic "fat" actress type. But I came to New York, and pursued my dreams. But looking back, the reason I didn't pursue musicals, and when I did step into the pond of TV and Film acting, it was because these venues were not welcoming to someone of my "stature". And the reasons behind so many of the excuses given boiled down to them not wanting to say that I was fat to my face, which is even more of an insult.
Do you think I'm blind and I don't have access to a mirror, or magazines? I know I don't look like a pixie stick. (But DAMN are they delicious.) And so I went back to theater. Which seemed like the reasonable art form. The forgiving art form, because it was an HONEST representation of life and humanity, with all their quirks and flaws. Now to see that the most welcoming venue, and outlet for larger artists is becoming more discriminatory is devastating to me.
I hope that this conversation continues, and that there are more and more people that speak up and bring more insight and stories of their experience. I have included a link to the article from Playbill.com. Please read, and share.
London Griffith is an Alaskan born, Montana raised, Southern influenced, New York Actress. She occasionally writes about her life and experiences of being on the verge ...