We all have our own points of view and our own convictions. It is both a right and a privilege for you and every American citizen to speak your mind and stand by your beliefs. As a struggling actor, you can be confident your views and opinions will not be broadcast across the nation in a moment’s notice, and the worldwide media and a ubiquitous internet will not analyze your untimely gaffes. But once you receive recognition as an actor, the game quickly changes.
Jennifer Love Hewitt is being featured on the cover of Maxim Magazine’s April 2012 edition. Her svelt figure is a hot topic in the media now. But do you remember the media frenzy not so long ago when the paparazzi snapped photos of Hewitt on a Hawaiian vacation clad in her bikini with her then-fiance Ross McCall? Her apparent weight gain was headline news across America. Finally, she released a statement about the whole ordeal: “I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all the girls out there that are struggling with their body image…To all the girls with butts, boobs, hips, and a waist, put on a bikini–put it on and stay strong.”
Former Growing Pains star turned evangelical Christian minister, Kirk Cameron, was featured on Piers Morgan to discuss a movie he coproduced and starred in entitled Monumental. But, as interviews so often do, the conversation strayed–on this particular night to the topic of homosexuality and gay marriage. Cameron’s expressed opinion that homosexuality is “unnatural” became headline news, and he received a backlash from gay rights activists and campaigners including his former TV co-stars Alan Thicke and Tracy Gold. Subsequently, on the Today show, he tried to clarify his beliefs with Ann Curry and stated, “I should be able to express moral views on social issues, especially those that have been the underpinning of Western civilization for 2,000 years–without being slandered, accused of hate speech, and told from those who preach ‘tolerance’ that I need to either bend my beliefs to their moral standards or be silent when I’m in the public square.”
Viola Davis had quite a year thanks to her outstanding performance as Aibileen Clark in The Help. She was a Critics’ Choice award winner, a SAG award winner, and was nominated for an Academy Best Actress award in recognition for her work. But she received criticism for portraying a black maid by some, including the screenwriter and Spike Lee collaborator James McBride. McBride asserted it is demeaning for an African-American woman to win an award for playing a maid, especially since the first African-American Oscar winner, Hattie McDaniel, won an Academy award for portraying a similar role in 1940. Some maintain this indicates a lack of progress for African-American actors. Viola said the criticism helped her understand what her character, Aibileen, experienced. “During the course of promoting the movie, I found myself having to defend my choice in playing a maid. I’ve had to find my voice. I had to find my voice as a woman of color, as an artist. And I never thought I would be put in a position like that. I’m usually in the background of movies. All of a sudden, I was being put to the test, being pushed against the wall. It kind of made me feel what Aibileen felt.”
What Viola, Kirk, and Jennifer found was that, seemingly overnight, you can be asked about your deepest personal beliefs, photographed at almost any given moment, and your decisions can be publicly dissected. So remember, as you are building upon your career, be conscious of your convictions and consider what you do and do not want to articulate in the public eye. And realize that at some point, your voice may be called upon–and your words or actions could create a media frenzy and/or have the potential to make a significant cultural impact.