Yesterday, Zelda Williams, daughter of actor Robin Williams, wrote an open letter about nepotism and second generation entertainers in Hollywood on her tumblr. It was interesting to me because just recently I had read an article in a magazine about how children of famous actors/singers face a lot of challenges others don’t. The bottom line being that if they don’t follow in their parents’ fabulous footsteps they’re considered failures and if they do they’re considered having their position only because of their famous mom or dad.
Because I had strong feelings towards the subject matter, I decided to write my own open letter. To Zelda Williams, or Emma Roberts, or Lilly Collins, or any other second generation actor…
I don’t disagree with anything you said. It’s very apparent that, as a child of a famous, successful person, you face a different set of challenges than most of us and I’m sure a lot of ugly, uncalled for jealousy. However, the fact that you felt the need to write this letter, and mentioned certain things but not others, makes me think you’re somewhat unaware about exactly what it is that bothers normal, non-second-generation-actors-hating people like myself about “sons and daughters of”…
The bottom line being, that while your challenges may be tough and given by birth, they’re really not much compared to the challenges normal aspiring actors face.
It begins with the education normal aspiring actors would like. Not everyone can afford an acting program at an acclaimed school, or even the less famous acting classes. Normal aspiring actors either have to work years to pay off such student loans, or find a day job just to pay their rent, and then hope they have money left for acting classes. These financial issues bring forth tremendous worry that grows worse as the normal aspiring actor gets older and wants to maybe start a family or settle down. It also weighs an actor down at auditions since they become too important, while being relaxed and free is key to be good.
But let’s assume they get an all-covering scholarship, and only have to make money (in the evenings, on the weekends?) to be able to pay rent, food, a car, gas and all that. No financial worries. Let’s assume they’re supertalented and trained and want to go look for an agent. Almost all decent agents require submissions by referral. A normal, fresh-out-of-a-small-town aspiring actor usually does not know any good, high-up folks in the business, and has to work years to get a decent agent or find a referral, work years just to be seen. Or they have to spend years doing unpaid student films and theater productions, 80% of them of very poor quality, and hope to get noticed. The child of so-and-so, obviously, can skip all these steps and all these years of work. They have connections of gold already.
So now they have an agent and start auditioning for the real stuff. They get rejected 99 out of a 100 times. Very tough, especially considering the financial future, but part of the business as everyone knows. But hey, on audition 212 they finally get a noticeable role in a paying film or pilot. Then they just have to hope it somehow becomes a succes. The chances of that of course grow considerably if there’s already a big name attached. So the impact of the fact that a lot of children-of usually begin in a movie that stars their dad/mom should’t be underestimated. It’s huge. It’s usually a guarantee for a theatrical release, a thing which usually takes years to accomplish for any other actor, if it even ever happens.
So all these three things- money, connections and a part in a production that actually gets seen- are either completely down to luck for most actors or take years and years of hard work and worrying. Children of so-and-so have all these things given to them by birth. Whereas for most actors it’s a combination of talent, hard work and a lot of luck, for second generation actors it’s only about talent. As Lily Collins said herself , these doors are already opened for you.
Of course famous-last-namers have to be nice enough people with a good enough drive. But when you write a letter about the challenges for you it sounds so incredibly ignorant of all that I’ve written above. I don’t take any issue with the Kate Hudsons and Zoe Kravitzes, as long as they realize how incredibly blessed they are and how others face challenges that are a lot harder than proving yourself to be worthy. Most of us face that challenge anyway. Most of us might even want to be actors because of that challenge.
So, Zelda, I really appreciate you starting an intelligent discussion about this subject, and don’t discredit your talent nor any other actor’s with a famous family member. But you must agree that other aspiring actors have to work much harder to get where you are, and face much more difficult challenges. And agree that a lot of doors are openened for you. After all, how else did Tori Spelling ever end up acting on a famous TV show?
Shanice, a sometimes struggling actress from the Netherlands
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