We’re not robots. We’re people. And in this industry we’re constantly meeting beautiful, dynamic, intelligent, and attractive people. Sometimes, that leads to romance. Many of our friends and us have met romantic partners on set and stage.
But sometimes it doesn’t. It can be uncomfortable when dealing with the unwanted or unwelcome romantic or sexual advances of a fellow actor, but they can’t hurt us. We’re on the same level. But when it’s coming from someone we associate with industry power—an agent, manager, casting director, director, producer, writer, executive—it can be downright nerve-racking.
Now, let’s be clear: We’re not talking about cases where there is mutual interest, or where no inappropriate or professional lines have been crossed and he or she respects your wishes after you’ve made it clear you’re not interested and wish to keep the relationship professional. That, of course, is fine. If no one ever pursued anyone, the human race would die out.
However, even telling an industry professional you’re not interested can be scary. What if they freak out and retaliate? What if they don’t stop after you clarify? What if simply and politely saying no could have negative consequences on your career? Isn’t just the thought of that unacceptable?
I don’t have all the answers, nor am I qualified to give you legal advice. I do know that we have options like reporting harassment to our agent, manager, or appropriate union like SAG-AFTRA, the AEA, CSA, WGA, DGA, PGA, the City Attorney’s office, law enforcement, or consult with legal counsel.
But most of us would prefer to be able to deal with these types of situations in a way that preserves our ability to maintain a professional working relationship with people, if possible. Feelings and attraction happen. Let’s just be mature about it, right?
I want you to know that if you are experiencing, or have experienced this, you are not alone. It happens to so many of us. Be comforted that unprofessional conduct is the exception, not the rule. I need your help, dear readers, to share in the comments what you think the best ways are to deal with this issue or what has worked for you. It could really, really help someone.
As far as I am concerned, let me say this loudly and unequivocally: Fuck anyone who uses their position or power to pressure you into doing something you don’t want to do. Those with power should protect, not exploit, our dreams, passion, and willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed.
My best advice on how to identify, prevent, and manage unwanted advances is to keep professional and personal relationships separate and deflect and charm.
Beware of any industry professional you don’t already have a clear relationship with, offering or discussing professional opportunities—jobs, auditions, meetings, connections, support—in exchange for, related to, or in the same communication as, personal, romantic, social, or sexual activities. No one should be dangling work as bait in front of you while asking you out. If they do, that’s a huge red flag.
All industry communication should go through proper channels, usually meaning your agent or manager. No one from casting or production should be contacting you directly unless as part of a job, in which case the nature of the communication better be entirely professional. Redirect creepers to your team. If you’re unrepresented and an agent or manager is contacting you directly and being sleazy, you can take a harder line with them. You can always find another, more professional agent or manager.
In order to set those precedents politely in a way that preserves your ability to work together professionally, deflect their advances with charm. “Thank you! Sounds like a great opportunity. I trust my team to handle these things. Please contact them moving forward. Here’s the number.” “I’m flattered. I have a boyfriend, and meeting outside of work wouldn’t be appropriate, but I really look forward to working together someday!” As long as you’re kind and positive while you redirect them to your team, tell them you’re not interested, and want to keep things professional. Hopefully, they’ll be cool about it and move on.
If not, unleash hell.