Actors in Media

By Rena Bryson

For this month’s blog I wanted to explore how actors are portrayed in the media and explore what troupes consistently pop up. On Facebook and Instagram I asked for your help and I got lots of responses so thank you, it really helped. It also quickly became clear who is the first character that people think of when thinking of actors in the media – Joey Tribbiani.

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Some honorable mentions were Withnail from Withnail & I and  Nicole Barber from Marriage Story but it was a landslide for Joey from Friends. I also asked What tropes / story lines do you dislike about actors in the media? And I received so many different answers including “Starving actors still being able to live comfortably”, “They seem to paint actors (particularly in sitcoms) as dumb or ditzy” and “That they’re vain, shallow, narrow-minded and lazy, and get where they are through corrupt activities.” 

I took the list of characters you guys sent me and the ones I’d compiled myself and tried to find connections between characters and there were quite a few. I noticed five different ways actors were repeatedly presented. 

The Bad Boyfriend

Male actors were often seen as bad partners, usually the man the protagonist dates but doesn’t end up with as they can do better. 

Adam Sackler | Girls Wiki | Fandom

The main reason for this choice I imagine is to show the protagonist’s growth when they choose a more steady and practical lifestyle. Not just because the love interest is an actor, also these characters are usually awful awful people. Even if they’re not framed as awful people like Joey in Friends their actions are undisputedly shallow but can be framed in an endearing light. This is often because the characters are seen to be in this prolonged adolescence where they’re chasing one night stands and difficult dreams. This childlike quality whether it’s endearing like Joey or full on tantrums like Adam shows a need for these characters to grow up. A part of growing up is often “Getting a real job” and the choice to leave someone who doesn’t have adult aspirations is often a moment of character growth. So why is this so recurring? Does it stem from a fear of being brought down by your partner’s aspirations financially or emotionally? Is it a fable to warn potential dates away from shallow and self absorbed actors? 

Hank (Cheaper by the Dozen) | Love Interest Wiki | Fandom

Or does it stem from some truth that actors make difficult partners? It is a very demanding career that many form their identity around. Although the same could be said for many careers, no one says they wouldn’t want to date a doctor because they’re focused on their career. Are creative people more prone to causing drama in a relationship? Or is there truth to some actors choosing their careers out of vanity rather than a passion for the craft? Or does the actor as a love interest represent a more frivolous time in peoples lives when they lived more creatively and freely, a time when they were young and it was okay to make mistakes, the more passionate and dramatic the mistake the better. 

The Flambouent Gay Actor

The next pattern I noticed was again with male characters but this time not the wominsing kind. The stereotypical flambouent gay actor is still present on our screens but has developed from a joke to a celebrated role model. 

This character is similar to our bad partner actors in their vanity and self absorption but in this case that vanity is usually framed as confidence. They are also similarly never a main character, usually a character within an ensemble or a comedic relief character. 

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An interest in the arts especially theatre is so associated with male gay characters that having a male character with these interests can lead to them being coded as LGBT+ even if this wasn’t the writers intention. This stems from an interest in creative practices being viewed traditionally as a feminine quality. As well as femininine characteristics in men being perceived as indicators of homosexuality. Although stating the obvious their are gay men who would not be persieved as feminine and lots of straight men who enjoy the theatre.

 Although these characters can be empowering to those who relate with them the presence of mainly one type of male gay character can be damaging to those who don’t. Making young men question their attraction to men because they’d rather play sports than sing show tunes. The interest in acting is expressed as a genuine love for performing, even if for superficial reasons. This genuine joy for the craft is often lacking in the other character types. I’ve also observed that each of these characters is seen as weak and harmless erasing the view of homosexuals as something to be feared. Which poses the question are so many gay characters comic reliefs rather than protagoinists because they are still viewed by the media as entertaining but not aspirational. 

Jack McFarland | Will and Grace Wiki | Fandom

Personally I welcome any kind of diversity on screen and am thrilled that gay characters are being celebrated but I feel we have a long way to go. It’s fantastic to show gay characters as warm and funny but I also want to see them as well developed protagoinists, In my own work I’ve strived to bring LGBT+ characters to the stage that face issues irrelevant to their sexuality and who both do and don’t fit into queer sterotypes. For example Michelle in Jungle Door being the girliest character I’ve ever written lead to some interesting discussions around her place in the LGBT+ community. But I really can not comment on the affect of sterotypically gay male actors in media on gay men for obvious reasons, so I’ve reached out to my friend and fellow actor Killian Glynn for his insight. 

“I think that for me gay male permittivity hasn’t impacted my life on a daily basis, luckily. But I do think that it’s ingrained in the general populous a type of psyche that isn’t necessarily beneficial to the cause.”

The Young Ambitious Woman

The next recurring character type I noticed was female. It’s actually quite unusual that for a “feminine” interest the majority of characters sent to me or I found in my research were male. This is likely just a symptom of male characters being a default in much of our media, but that’s a topic for another day. I noticed several young conventionally attractive white aspiring actors that were resilient in their struggle. With each female character the struggle to become a successful actor is focused on and they often work a low paying side job to support themselves financially. 

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It’s also interesting to note that female actors are often love interests but are framed very differently to the male love interests we discussed. Male actors were framed as a bad choice of partner but female actors are framed as desirable. I believe this is for many reasons, a female actor is always conventionally attractive, not just because she is an actor but because most women in media are. In the male partner stability is desired as traditionally in hetrosexual relationships (these women are always straight) a woman depends on her husband financially. Making this an issue for a woman dating a male actor but not the other way around. Often these aspiring actresses have male love interests who help with their finances. 

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Their dreams can be framed through adolescent lenses but it is often more flattering than it is for male characters. The female actors’ dreams don’t seem dangerous; they’re aspirational and their desires although challenged are rarely mocked with the same force. However even though they are not strictly viewed as bad romantic partners does not mean that they are ideal. The theme of sacrifice and suffering for your art is present throughout most portrayals of actors in media and for female characters this usually means their love life. A troupe that is seen repeatedly with female characters is prominent for female actors, they must choose love or their career. This troupe is more connected with gender roles than actors in media but bears mentioning as due to the intensity of a career in the arts often female actors must be single to strive. Or perhaps they just have to sacrifice a particular relationship that stood in the way of their ambitions. 

Overall it would seem that female actors with ambition are treated with more kindness by writers than their male counterparts. Although male actors on screen come in many shapes and sizes and are rarely objectified in the same way, but again this is an issue not strictly linked to the characters being actors but that they are female actors. 

The Producers | Westchester Broadway Theatre

I’ve realized in writing this that there are so many patterns repeated with female characters that it’s difficult to determine similarities that are because they are actors rather than just because they are a woman. This isn’t to imply that they are badly written characters, rather it’s an observation that the character type could be represented with more diversity. Some of the best representations of actors on screen are female, a topic I’ll discuss at the end of this blog. 

The Self absorbed intoxicated actor

The next character type I would like to discuss is the self absorbed intoxicated actor. This character can share a lot in common with the bad boyfriend character type but is far more developed. 

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Whether these characters are deep or pretentious is usually up for debate but they certainly are all introspective in one way or another. The characters’ suffering and self reflection is tied to their career or lack thereof. For these men their self esteem and self worth is binded with their success as actors. They don’t necessarily strive to become a great actor but rather they push themselves to be recognised as successful. For many of these characters they find joy in what could be regarded as ‘less serious’ acting but they push themselves towards projects which don’t bring them the same happiness in exchange for outside approval. Often they are trying to escape their fixation with the career they had in order to grow. 

Although these characters are well written and often open up conversations about issues such as substance abuse and mental health they also walk a dangerous line while framing the issues. Having a character that suffers from addiction and mental health issues but is also a terrible person is trickly. As the audience views the world from the protagonist’s perspective they will sympathise with them and as they grow to like the character more and more they can begin to make excuses for their behaviour. Bo Jack Horseman addresses the glamorisation of these character types directly when he ends up playing a character similar to himself. 

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Although the career of these characters are a central part of their world the plot extends well beyond that in their effort to create a three dimensional character. Their work as actors is a vehicle to explore territory more relatable to a large demographic. Allowing the audience to both enjoy a world unknown to them while relating to the issues, humanising the actor. 

The Villainous Actor

The last character type I discovered was actors as villains. This was mostly present in films and shows for younger audiences. 

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The vanity and selfish traits we’ve seen before are here but I also noticed something interesting. Characters that are both villains and actors to me seemed to express the most love of their craft. This could be due to the playful nature of the media, the young audience it’s directed at or because it’s not taking itself too seriously. They are motivated to commit crimes to fund their acting or to get ahead in their career, showing the sinister side to sacrifice for your art. They really genuinely love acting more than anything. Using their skill set and costumes frequently in their schemes. 

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Usually the characters are male and when they are they are often queer coded, meaning they have many traits that intricate they may be LGBT+ but this is never explicitly stated. Outside of characters that are actors there is A LOT of queer coding in childrens media and it’s usually the villain. 

Once you see it you can’t really unsee it. Again a topic for another day but I felt it was relevant. 

Accurate Representation?

So we’ve identified the different character types used to portray actors in the media but are there any examples of good representation? I asked you guys and most responses were either Nicole Barber from Marriage Story or Mia Dolan from LA LA Land. I also received one response saying “Part of Whitnail and I lol knowing actors from that era” which was quite intriguing. For me Marriage Story was one of the few films I felt captured working in the theatre accurately. Nothing about their lifestyle felt extraordinary even though their jobs were in the arts. It also addressed the differences between the worlds of theatre and film and how it can divide artists. Although Nicole doesn’t look down on her film work she’s very aware that her husband the theatre director does.

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Mia’s struggles attending audition after audition while working as a barista. I felt in this often stylistic film there were moments that felt very grounded and relatable. She puts everything she has emotionally and financially into producing her one woman show which she performs to an audience of one. Feeling crushed she returns home to reevaluate her life path. This moment of defeat felt very raw but was quickly flipped as the one audience member happened to be a producer that lands her an audition. 

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Other Types of Actors in Media

As this blog ended up being so long I stuck to characters on screen for this discussion but honorable mentions from animation and the page are Mary Jane Watson from Spiderman, Baby Doll and Clay face from Batman and Laura from Laura Cassisys walk of fame.

I also received some response that referenced real actors rather than characters, referencing how famous actors are presented on TV, online and in tabloids. Some responses to the tropes they are tired of included “Work they’ve had done”, “Some are expected to be outrageous while for others one bad moment ruins their reputation” and  “People who shoot up the fame with hits.” I think it’s a really interesting if not very postmodern topic how the media creates storylines about actors when they are not being characters. Whether it’s to humanise or further other the actors they continue to dramatise their lives for our entertainment. This could be an interesting topic for further discussion but it is too complex to explore briefly at the end of another blog. 

In conclusion it’s been interesting to discover the many different personas of actors in media even if they are often detached from reality. There have been connections and similarities between characters from Paddignton to Tarantino. I covered characters from popular media as I felt these would be the characters that have the most impact on how the media portrays the profession. Meaning there may be characters from lesser known media that I have not discussed. Let me know your thoughts on the topic and what character’s you feel best represent actors in media.  

Dinner and No Show

12th of March 2020, it was a Thursday. I went into work as normal looking forward to date night when I got home. Rehearsals were great the previous weekend too, there’s still two scenes to be blocked but we had a show. I showcased a scene at an International Women’s Day event where people came up after saying ‘What are the show dates?’ and ‘I’ll definitely be checking it out’. Anyone I spoke to I said to tell their friends and follow us on socials. I went back to Sligo happy and looking forward to the following weekend already. 

Fast forward to Thursday, we were getting the kids ready for dinner when our manager came down. She informs us that Vradkar has made an announcement that all creches, schools and colleges were to close at 6pm that day until the 28th of March… My first thought, rehearsals. How will we manage? Will we find another location? Will I have to sit feet away from people on the bus? As I walked home that evening I rang Rena to devise a plan. We decided to postpone rehearsals that weekend, hold a virtual rehearsal the following weekend hoping for the best. This should be fine, I thought. Last weekend went well, no matter what we have a show.         

It’s Wednesday the 22nd of April 2020. Last week should have been show week for my one woman show ‘Uniform.’ The weekend before would’ve been our last rehearsal, ensuring all props and costumes were sourced, that I was off book, that the characters were nailed down and all was set for tech day on Wednesday.  We would’ve celebrated 3 years of Eva’s Echo amongst crew and friends on the Saturday sensibly ensuring fresh heads for the next morning. This week I should be in work with the kids daydreaming; ‘This day last week was our tech rehearsal. It has gone by so fast. I can’t believe I actually did a one woman show. When can I go back on stage?’ I’d then remind myself that rehearsals for Jungle Door are due to start in three weeks time and that I must get off book again. All of this is not so, with exception to the later which we still have to wait on.  

Although Uniform was postponed due to circumstances out of our control, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of worry, defeat, anger, loss and hard done by. I spent a whole weekend perfecting the final script, I’d started a diet to get into shape (cringing at photos from the production just gone) and ensured I was well rested after work each night. I went into 2020 full of ambition and anticipation; ‘2020 is my year’, ‘This is the year I get back into acting’, ‘I’m going to show everyone how good I am.’ Sometimes I feel all the above but then other times I feel ok. I know that it will be ok and the show will go on. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe the world isn’t ready for ‘Uniform’ yet, as well as the global pandemic obviously but still.  

As an artist and producer all I know is that I want to give back to the community as much as I can  now and when all this is over. To start that blog, to teach drama like I’ve always wanted, to get that play published, to get new plays on stage, to get upcoming artists on board for future productions and so forth. As I’ve said to friends and family, if 2020 has taught me anything is that nothing is permanent. Life is too short to be worrying about things which is a lesson I’ve tried taking on for a long time, but it has fairly sunk in this time. You only have one body, one family and one chance. 

The Artist verses the virus

By Rena Bryson

These are uncertain times for everyone, nationally and globally. With social distancing and self isolation many have struggled with work, not all can work from home. Especially artists who are often collaborative, social creatures used for working together. I’ve been missing teaching like crazy and we’ve been missing our rehearsal room and will be rehearsing via skype, a new challenge we’re looking forward to facing (virtually) alongside our amazing team. Here are some tips for the enclosed artist.

Hit the books

I’ve been using some of my new found free time to pick up some acting books I haven’t tackled properly since college. I’m currently reading Stella Adler’s The Art of Acting and re reading as a more experienced actor is a completely new and valuable experience. Next up on my list are Sanford Meisner On Acting and Secrets of Screen Acting.

Keep moving

Actors should always be moving and keeping in touch with their bodys. A great way to do this when out of the rehearsal room is yoga. I personally love Yoga With Adriene on youtube and try to do at least one video a day. This will keep not only your body fit during inclosure but your relation to it active and ready for when you return to the rehearsal room. 

Keep in touch

Just because we have to be enclosed doesn’t mean we can’t catch up with friends, family and collaborators. Why not still keep up that weekly coffee catch up with friends, just move it from your local cafe to an online space. With video chat there’s no excuse to not reschedule plans with friends. 

Self Tape

Many casting agents are still accepting self tapes for their upcoming projects. If none appeal to you you can still record self tapes of monologues to have prepared for future castings. 


Due to canceled rehearsals and rescheduled shoots most of us will have a bit more time on our hands. This offers a great opportunity to really reflect on our ongoing or upcoming projects. So often we’re moving too quickly to reflect on why we’re doing what we’re doing. Take advantage of this time when you have it. 


Although collaboration is often key artists can still create alone. Why not pick up a pen or an instrument and create a new piece. You could make a short film, write a new play, learn a new song, finish a painting the opportunities are endless.

I hope these tips will be useful for you and remember to take care of yourself and loved ones during this time. 

As many of you may know we had planned a Clothing Swap fundraiser for our upcoming show Uniform but unfortunately had to cancel due to the coronavirus. Due to this we are asking for support online through our Go Fund me. If you can offer any support it would be greatly appreciated.

The Taming of the Blues

By Hazel Doolan

Post show blues, I’ve been aware of it since my youth theatre days but never really understood what it was. All I knew was that sinking feeling of sadness, fidgetiness and worry the day after closing night. Will our next show be as good? Will I get as good a role next year? Am I ever going to see my friends again? Would it be worth my time going back next year? Oh how little I had to worry about back then.

Hazel in The Way It Is

It was only when I stepped into the professional world that I grasped a real understanding of post show blues. After my first leading role in ‘The Way It Is’ (which didn’t get the best turn out), it hit me really hard. We ran for just one night and I put everything I had into that performance so it was a rapid high to low. The next day I went into work daydreaming of the show, wishing I was still in the theatre and not in the shop as my colleague snapped me out of it to attend to customers. This happened again after our most recent production of ‘Jungle Door.’ We went through such a roller coaster of a journey between intense week rehearsals, changes, line runs, script analysis, movement workshops, hilarious encounters and an all round great show. After our intense week of rehearsals I was back in work for only two days but I even found that hard. I was looking at the clock on the wall and thinking ‘*sigh* We’d be doing script work/warm ups right now…’ Two days later we were on the road to Naas which went by as quickly as it came around. 

Hazel in Jungle Door rehearsals

Given the amount of work that went into the production and the positive vibes from the team, this was the hardest production to walk away from. Those two weeks felt like I was living the life of my true authentic self, working with people who shared similar values and pursuing what I truly love. If you asked if I’d rather be grinding through paperwork or hot seating three times a week, I’d choose the latter any day. That is the hard truth as I would have said before being a working artist. You’re scrapping to pursue a life in two conflicting universes. Many weeks have gone by when I would breeze through it all like Samantha Jones, but then other weeks I’d be in a tissy like the White Rabbit. From talking to other artists I know that this is a common reality for many, which is a comfort all the same but doesn’t make it right. 

Going back to post Jungle Door, I just did what one would do after a major event. Be grateful that it happened and be proud of what we achieved. Now we do have Uniform coming up and it is advised to not jump into another show if you’re also working full time, but we had this booked since Christmas so that doesn’t count! Besides, we already have Jungle Door scheduled for June in Galway (Town Hall Studio 10th-13th of June!!!). While that it came as much excitement and relief that the experience won’t be quite over yet, a sense of anxiety and fear emerged… What if it won’t be as good? What if something bad happens? What if I get fat(ter)? What if-… This wasn’t good either. I realized that yes it’s nice to look back (now ironically Don’t Look Back in Anger is now playing on my laptop) on the experiences, the friendships, the wins, and the losses but it can’t define the next run. I even thought of ways to recreate the experience and rent an entire apartment in Galway, this was not smart and my pocket wouldn’t thank me for it. Instead, I choose to be present in everything I do while looking forward with hope and joy. As with artistic purpose and life it is meant to be experienced to the fullest.     

Traveling through the Jungle Door

By Rena Bryson

Images by Catriona Bonner Photography.

Revisiting Jungle Door was a journey completely different to what we had expected. It was a play that had stuck with us in a very significant way, the representation of queer characters in a storyline unfocused on their sexual orientation was a mission I felt we achieved and I was very proud of this accomplishment. The team gelled together like a family when bringing the play to Sligo and Galway audiences. We felt comfortable in the world of the play knowing it and each other like the back of our hands. This was all about to change as we and the characters were thrown out of our comfort zone with the help of a new version of the script and a new director.

New Script

The new script further highlighted Michelle’s struggles with her body image and societal pressures, allowing us to view one character without the other for the first time. As both women are constantly playing what we in the rehearsal room simply titled ‘the game’ this shared the vulnerable side of Michelle she is scared to share in front of Louise for fear of losing. I was excited to get the new script up on its feet, especially this additional scene which featured a new character Sharon, played by Sabrina Kelleher. Other than this, the rest of the play would resume as it was previously, or so we thought..

New Director

Unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts our original director Elizabeth Flaherty was unable to join us this time around. She was very missed and we so appreciate her making Jungle Door what it was, but we were excited to see what a new director’s view would change. We would soon learn it would change quite a lot. Cornelius Dwyer focused heavily on text analysis encouraging us to dissect the play fully, line by line. This process completely changed the dynamic of the two characters and opened up dialogues about the characters issues and why they are the way they are.

An interesting element of the script that had previously gone unhighlighted was Louise’s internalised misogyny enforcing her to mock or disregard anything feminine, wishing to be a ‘cool girl’ or ‘not like other girls’ not for male approval but because she genuinely views femininity as a weak characteristic. Through a mixture of script work and hot seating more and more was revealed about Michelle’s relationships or lack thereof with other memebers of the LGBTQ community. Michelle felt rejected by the community for not presenting as ‘gay enough’ and would prefer to maintain the heteronormative aspects of her personality than fit in. This concept was based on the discrimination sometimes faced by bisexual people, who are believed to be experimenting, especially in a college setting which is were Michelle and Louise met. Louise being accepted by the community during their relationship and Michelle being accepted by the larger community in present day created a great dynamic of status to work with.

New Moves

Following the intensive script analysis Louise and Michelle had transformed, while still maintaining the core of the characters they had become fleshed out, wanting to leap off the page. So we began to leap and jump and flex all thanks to Choreographer Jessica Bruen. Cornelius and Jessica worked together to lead us to discover a method of transforming our characters subconscious thoughts and feelings into individual movement pieces. This was a beautiful and powerful process that not only gave us agency as actors but produced authentic and unpretentious movement pieces that reflected the world of the play. Cornelius adored these pieces so much they made the bold decision to cut all projections from the show, not risking any distraction from the movement. Instead a song accompanied each piece ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to Jade Bird. Have a dance along to the full playlist here.

New Music

We realised a monologue Louise expressed during a projection scene no longer fitted the new shape of the play. This was initially a voice over or the actor speaking but it was an expression of the subconscious rather than something Louise says during the play. Much like a Shakespearean actor will perform aside, letting the audience know their feelings but is unheard by the other characters. For this to now work within the pre established rules of the play it must be a song like the others. So with the script in front of me and some backing tracks from a band I was in years ago I began working on the original song Jungle Door. As if it was meant to be the lyrics blended perfectly with an acoustic track created for a different song in 2013. Adam Conboy generously donated his time to re record the track in Sligo and I added the lyrics on top of it in Galway and hey presto we had ourselves a song, a first for Eva’s Echo.

New Roles

On top of a new script, new movement and a new song Sabrina Kelleher landed from England to receive various new roles. Always a trouper Sabrina went from the shows Designer to the Designer/ Stage Manager/ Sound Operator and took on the role of Sharon, Michelle’s mother. Each night Sabrina performed through a live mic in the tech box, simulating a phone call with Hazel on stage. The live aspect to the performance allowed the actors the freedom to react authentically each night, playing off one another.

New Theatre

We absolutely loved our time at The Moat Theatre. The technical aspects of the theatre allowed Cornelius and Sabrina so much opportunity regarding design and the staff were more than lovely, a special shout out to Conor who made us feel so very at home. It was exciting to perform in front of a new audience and challenged us to not rely on the safety of our regular audiences, pushing us even further outside of our comfort zone. Although we did receive a few surprise visits from familiar faces, which we so appreciate, it made us feel all fuzzy inside and still does.

New Adventure!

After the first show the four of us sat in a lovely Italian in Naas and decided this could not be the last stop for the new Jungle Door. It desired a longer life span and we didn’t want to let it go just yet. So we are bringing the show to Galway’s Town Hall Theatre Wednesday the 10th of June to Saturday the 13th of June . See you there for all the botox, brides and booze you can handle!