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The Industry
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Anticipating a call to confirm you’ve got a part? Niamh McEnhill talks about her experience of playing the exhilarating but frustrating waiting game.

When you’re waiting on news of a job, there is sometimes nothing more comforting than listening to ‘our kind’ talk about their experiences

We actors are patient creatures. We find the character’s objectives, research the subject, learn our lines then nail our audition, meeting or self-tape. Then we wait. We might wait 24 hours, 2-4 weeks, I’ve even heard of hopeful actors spending weeks in R&D (research and development) periods, several table-reads and waiting for up to six months until they got the call!

You might find yourself in round one or round four. You will have gone to the effort of getting to various places, locations and countries, dealing with delayed trains and missed flights. Then there is the agonising time spent in a waiting room for your final meeting. Bagging a part can be an overwhelming and draining experience, but, it will never be the same experience each time around.

Here are six moments actors go through whilst we wait for the call…

1. Nerves, nerves, nerves

You are a big ole bumbling babbling bag of nerves. Your face is taut with stress, hello new wrinkles! The click from the kettle as you make your morning brew makes you jump and every time the phone rings your poor ole nervous system goes into overload. During this time any meal tends to stay in your little tum-tum for an average of 5 minutes.

Give yourself credit for dealing with this immense pressure. You’re a trooper, a real nerve crushing machine and not much will faze you at this point, apart from a call from your agent!

2. ‘What if’ roulette

You play what I like to call ‘What If’ roulette. What if it’s picked up by Netflix? What if I have to move to LA? What if Helen Mirren plays my Mum and I no longer worry about direct debits bouncing in my account?! At this stage, an 80s montage starts playing in your head complete with The Pointer Sisters soundtrack.

Some might say this is a rose-coloured approach but remember, we actors signed up for the chance to play ‘what if’ roulette full-time. To slip into fantasies of dark characters, filming in exotic places, so you know what? Keep spinning that wheel and dream big kid!

3. Mindfulness

You suddenly become a beacon of mindfulness, manifesting and meditation. You are seen roaming the West End carrying rose quartz crystals and regularly chanting ‘I am worthy, I will get the part, I will rise…’ While this might be the wisest and most serene approach to surviving the waiting game, and certainly nothing to be scoffed at, it can leave you feeling like Jim Carrey in Yes Man. All that optimism can be tiring.

Aim to stay present, oh patient one. Acknowledge that you have worked damn hard and had a chance to flex your acting muscles. What happens next is what is meant to be. As my Granny says ‘What’s for you, won’t pass you!’

4. I am writing to inform you…

You craft resignation emails for your day jobs. This will vary from ‘I’ve hit the big time! I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for everything you have done for me’ to ‘Sue, I’m leaving – sorry not sorry!’

If you have a flexible job that pays the bills and it hasn’t sent you up the walls, it’s best to look on the bright side. Recognise that it supports you as you trailblaze your way to success. But, if it gives you 10 minutes of sheer childlike joy, then I say draft that goodbye… just don’t save it in the company’s shared inbox!

5. Acting is my everything

Each morning you are tuning into The Spotlight podcast and The Mono Box Speech Share podcast for pearls of wisdom. You’ve queued the back catalogue of the Honest Actors Podcast, ready to take notes. When you’re at your wits end waiting on news of a job, there is sometimes nothing more comforting than listening to ‘our kind’ talk about their experiences and what it has taken to get there.

You’re dusting off that copy of An Actor Prepares while watching Inside The Actors Studio, immersing yourself in all things ‘Acting’ for mega motivation! Learning more about your craft and the work of others is a plus. Of course, this is the time when you can revisit lessons on emotional memory, vocal warmups and give it time to sink in.

I’m going to make a bold move and suggest you go off-topic and find inspiration in other sources. Why not let acting heavyweights like Tilda Swinton and Benedict Cumberbatch read you chapters from Moby Dick? Or pop on an episode of No Such Thing As A Fish and you’ll soon know why some frogs have regional accents and the history of ham sandwiches!

6. Give yourself a break

What’s that you say? Slow down? Take a breather? Our industry is guilty of pushing our limits and glorifying the ‘hustle’. Getting the audition is the hustle.

You’ve tested your memory, sacrificed sleep and gone through all sorts of mental gymnastics. It sounds like you deserve a pint with your pal or a good ole rest! Now is the time to do so as when you find yourself working on weeks of night shoots or an 18 month run with weekend matinees then those Sunday bevs in the pub that turn into an impromptu karaoke party are suddenly a lot harder to come by.

Overall these experiences are challenging and can exhaust even the chirpiest of souls. With a combination of patience, support and humour, you will be able to persevere to the day you hear that magical phrase – “you got it!”

Niamh McEnhill is an Irish actor and writer currently based in London. A graduate of both New York Film Academy (Acting for Film) and London Met, Niamh continues to work across film, theatre and voice overs, most recently lending her voice to the Spotify Ads for the Channel 4 hit ‘Derry Girls’.