I am planning on getting into acting, starting with some extra work because I know in order to break into acting I need to get my foot in the door by doing some small work. But I have some questions and I was wondering can I ask them here. I was wondering what if there is something that I as the actress am not comfortable doing? For example: nude/sex scenes. Do you know of actors/actresses that have decided not to do certain scenes or even movies that deals mainly on something or involves doing something that they are not comfortable with and still had a successful career? As well, can your agent force you to do a scene you are not comfortable with? I personally don't think so, but I want to make sure that I choose the right agent/manager for me. One that will work with me and respect who I am. Thank you for your time.
Hi, Rebecca, and thanks for your email. Nudity/sex scenes are obviously very personal for each actress, and different actresses will tolerate different levels of undress. No one can force you to do anything you don't want to do. There are clauses in both the SAG and AEA contracts that govern nudity (for example, when nude or in a state of undress, the set should be cleared of all non-key personnel.) Also, agents/managers will typically make sure that there are riders for each contract to specifically guard your wishes should they not be sufficiently addressed in the general contract.
There are many well known actresses who have refused to do nudity in movies, and many who are very careful with how they are portrayed in love scenes. Oftentimes, a lead actress can add to the contract, stating that they have final approval over a love scene, and this allows the actress to feel confident that they will be shown tastefully. However, this type of power is typically reserved for big names- it can be harder to guarantee those protections when you are just starting out. As far as extra work, there is plenty of extra work available where you don't have to be nude or do things you don't want to do.
The above also holds true for other types of scenes that you are uncomfortable doing- action sequences, scenes with dangerous animals, etc. Now, I would be lying if I said that refusing to do nudity or love scenes would NEVER hurt your chances of getting cast. There are some jobs you won't get because you decide not to do something integral to the script. I myself have been passed over by producers when their projects that required nudity or gratuitous lovemaking that I was uncomfortable with.
Ultimately, you are the driving force behind your own career, and if you want it bad enough, there is no reason to betray your principles for this industry. You are well within your rights to have an agent/manager whom you trust and listens to your wishes. Just follow your instincts when you build your team- ask questions and weigh the answers. You will know what to do.
Thanks for writing, Rebecca, and best of luck to you in this career!
Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has done national tours of plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. To learn more, check out http://www.theactorsenterprise.org.