1: Is it a role that you will give up on because it goes against your principles?
2. Is it something you will take up because after all, it is just acting?
3. Taboos and Societies perception
4. Is Money a determining factor?
5. Is Kenya ready for it yet?
6. If not why do we enjoy soap operas and programs from the west yet they have a lot of sexual content?
In any part of the Western world, this is a question that should be asked to 2nd year acting students or rather should be a rhetorical question. This is because you are an actor. You should not have these concerns because you are acting. Performing. Pretending to be (add any other synonym you may like) and you are just a character. So as an actor you should not have issues acting gay or acting in a love scene (straight or gay) if the role demands it.
Sounds very nice and straightforward eh? Yes in theory, because in practice things are more complicated. There are a number of factors that makes the above decision a bit more complicated. In this part 1 of the article, I take a look at Personal Beliefs and how they can, in one way or the other, affect your decision on whether to take up a role such as this.
Yes you are an actor but at the same time you are a human being. You were raised in a particular way in your family, in school; by your friends and you have created your own view of the world. You have your own beliefs, rights and wrongs, likes and dislikes and opinions. However, once you chose to be an actor, you will at one point or the other, get roles that will go against your beliefs. As an actor you must have the mentality to understand what is real and what it is not. What is acting and what is not.
Acting as a rapist does not make you a rapist. Acting as a prostitute does not make you a prostitute. Acting as Jesus does not make you Jesus. Similarly acting a gay part does not make you gay (unless you are of course. It therefore will go both ways so here the phrase will be, if you act straight this does not make you straight). Even acting in a sex scene (that is slightly more complicated as it usually involves one - or more - actor/s) does not mean that you are actually having sex with the other person. I have to note though that, for the latter there are many debates lately as some, mainly art house, movies include provoking sex scenes that actually demonstrate real sex between the actors crossing this fine line between acting and reality. For example, “The Idiots by Lars von Trier” But this is another subject all together.
So as an actor it is your duty/challenge to work your mind in such a critical way so when a part comes that goes against your beliefs, you need to recognize the points that will make this part challenging for yourself and your career or If it will actually have the opposite effect not only in your career but also on a personal level. A very good example is Halle Berry and her sex scene in “Monsters Ball”. Quite a revealing scene many will say, but at the same time it is such a powerful moment of a great storyline (if you know the story and did not just watch the sex scene online) that landed her an Oscar award. But even if she had not won an Oscar for that movie and for perhaps, that scene, It is so powerful and justified that it really would not have mattered or made a difference. Besides how many times have you seen Halle Berry doing similar scenes or movies? Almost none. She had the critical eye and mind to understand what this part is all about. Of course there are the opposite examples out there (actually more) when a sex scene or nudity scene turned out to be unnecessary or not as tasty and actors have regretted doing them. Usually these “mistakes” happen early in the career of an actor, when the young mind has not yet had the critical eye because the urge to be out there in the big screen is so huge that one is willing to take up any role.
That is why you need to always remember if you choose to become an actor, you choose to follow a serious career (a business) and this is how you have to treat any step you are doing and character that you are given to act. If you have chosen acting just for fun because there was nothing else around and you are not serious about it then this article is not for you. You still need to be careful with your choices altogether.
My next article will talk about Societies taboos and perceptions. Trying to make a link to that article, I will give a couple of examples from the reality in Kenya in order to understand how things can work here. “Project Daddy” and “Dangerous Affairs” are two movies that almost every Kenyan has watched and remember. There are two movies that help in the taking off of the career of some actors including my friend, Nini Wacera. Nini’s part was very challenging for the Kenyan norms of that time. I am sure that many actors said no to that part before Nini saw the potential of such a role and brought it to reality, putting aside her possible thoughts of what the society may say. From the other hand I know a very talented actor (let me not mention the name this time if I may) who said no to a role to a big budget, promising movie because according to her the part involved unnecessary nudity. In the end, she turned out to have made the best choice as the scriptwriters changed that particular scene and removed the nudity bit, something that made the scene even more powerful. In both cases what worked was the critical mind and judgment of the two actors who despite their personal believes could see the potential or not of the part they were chosen to act.
Catch the Part 2 of this article as we continue with the debate to answer the question “ To act gay or to play a sex scene: would you?”
Please leave your comments below.