When to Cut Toxic People Out of Your Acting Career

shutterstock_749819029Collaboration is an enormous factor in any acting career. Actors must be able to work with artists of all personalities, training backgrounds and approaches. That can lead to actors, especially those who are young and/or new to the field, feeling obligated to include and oblige those in our careers that don’t constitute a healthy or positive presence. In the name of preserving opportunities, many of us have allowed behavior we never would have otherwise tolerated. 


Something I wish I had known starting out is that it is possible to maintain a flourishing career and good reputation and still draw healthy boundaries for yourself. I want to say right up front that this is absolutely not to place wrongful responsibility on anyone who has fallen victim to the abuses of those in power. It is the fault of no one but the perpetrators when people choose to use their position and authority to manipulate those around them. 


What I do want to communicate is that I believe it healthy for us as artists to feel empowered to surround ourselves with collaborators that fulfill, inspire and support us. With that in mind,  when is it all right (and in fact productive) to cut people out of your career?


  1. When You Feel Unsafe. No matter who you’re working with or how important the project seems, you have a right to speak up and protect yourself. If someone is consistently making you feel unsafe, you are not being a “bad actor” by discontinuing work with them. Any opportunities missed would have been marred by that party’s toxic behavior.
  2. When You are Being Treated Unfairly. Maybe the treatment you’re getting isn’t unsafe or toxic, but if it is not up to your professional standards, you are allowed to stop working with someone. Value yourself as an artist. You don’t have to say yes to everything, even when you’re starting out. No one gets to direct your career but you.
  3. When You Stop Learning. Someone doesn’t have to necessarily be toxic for you to decline working with them. Sometimes you will get into a pattern of working with people for the sake of convenience rather than artistic fulfillment or growth. While there is no shame in just collecting a paycheck now and then, if you feel stuck and inhibited by your collaborative environment, it is all right to cut yourself loose and seek new things. 


Cutting people off doesn’t have to be dramatic. Setting healthy working boundaries for yourself can be as simple as declining to audition for a toxic director, or insisting you be appropriately compensated for your time and services. It is important to remember that removing toxic influences from your life and career is not only personally healthy, it preserves professional longevity. Anyone that damages your ability to perform and create to the best of your ability is a drain on your career. Allow and encourage yourself to remove them.

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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