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PERFORMANCE: The Actors' Roundtable: "Politics"

Actors Roundtable
Actors' Roundtable

For 12 weeks, Paden Fallis posed one question each week to a group of professional working actors from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to dig a bit deeper into their artistic working processes.

In this second series of 12, an expanded group of actors explores where their art fits into the larger cultural context.


Are you incredulous when you hear an actor is a Republican?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

- Paden Fallis, Performing Arts Contributing Editor




It is a bit surprising if and when I find out that an actor is a Republican, because it seemingly goes against the moral fiber of one who wants to be an actor. Art is supposed to be a reflection of our society, challenging the status quo, especially if it is morally unjust. Artistic endeavors should seek to highlight our similarities and our overall humanity, not encourage any divisiveness. Inclusivity, not exclusivity. Basic Republican tenets focus on individual rights and liberties, yet which party has been on the wrong side of history regarding gay rights, worker’s rights, & women’s rights? If we are not evolving as a people, we are defending the status quo. Democratic tenets are, in general, more progressive than Republican tenets. How can one be a successful actor if he/she is part of the “me society” instead of the “we society”? How else can one understand a character and bring that character to life if he/she doesn’t have empathy, understanding, and compassion for that person? (Not to say that Republicans aren’t compassionate, but we’re generalizing here.)

However, this is all very idealistic, and we can’t be so naive to think that everyone and anyone who wants to be an actor is doing it because they possess some sort of elevated moral fortitude. People are attracted to the money, excitement, thrills, and lifestyle our society associates with actors in general. Still, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the majority of actors are more liberal minded. Science can now help us understand why people tend to lean towards conservatism or liberalism. These are partially heritable personality traits that predispose people to feel one way or the other. Conservatives tend to be more cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. Liberals are more cognitively flexible and looking at the science behind it, it seems to make sense that someone who would be good at using their imagination as an actor would have more of a liberal mind.




My father always referred to me as one of those “bleeding heart” liberals. Being raised in a small town in the south, I definitely stood out from the crowd! Ironically, even though I have very strong opinions about politics, I very rarely dive into heated political debates. More often than not, my motto is to let my actions speak for me more so than my words. How ironic, being that I am a voice/speech instructor as well as an actor! I can report that an overwhelming majority of the actors I know personally claim to be Democrats and have found their beliefs to be more liberal than the stated platform of Republicans. Therefore, I must admit whenever I discover an actor’s political leanings toward Republican, I am surprised. There are a couple reasons for this reaction. One is I am surrounded by actors constantly scrounging for the next job, of which there just isn’t enough, and when we learn of government funding possibly being cut from arts programs or organizations, we are thrown into a state of despair or panic. These cuts have been supported by Republican leaders more often than not. It is a widely known fact that the budgets for the arts organizations such as NPR, NEA, and PBS are extremely small and cutting the funding would do very little to decrease government spending. Those of us in the nonprofit arts industry are always cognizant of the fact that the arts industry generates billions in economic activity and creates millions of full-time jobs. Being a member of a political party that seems to ignore or not care about that fact seems irresponsible to me.

Furthermore, like myself, most actors I know are inclined to follow the Democratic Party’s support of a broader range of social services, and believe in the responsibility of community as a whole, accepting and helping all who want to be a part. Perhaps my love of feeling a part of an ensemble that creates something is what keeps me in the business and makes me strive to succeed all the more. Not that the Republican belief of entrepreneurship and one’s individual success isn’t laudable, but my “bleeding heart” continues to desire the whole company. I don’t believe that supporting a government that wants to help its people means one loses his or her freedom of choice. So when I hear an actor is a Republican, I am momentarily stopped in my tracks. I feel the two parties continue to strike a divide between us, even when just uttering the names. We need to come together, now more than ever.



I never understood the idea of a Republican actor for a number of reasons. Call me biased but I tend to associate the Democratic Party with values I hold dear: inclusion and tolerance, a capacity for nuance, an appreciation for the arts, a sensitivity and empathy with the have-nots of society. Conversely, I associate the modern Republican Party with the antithesis of these values: exclusion and intolerance, dogmatism, indifference toward the arts, and a lack of sensitivity and understanding when it comes to the downtrodden. Watch any interview with great actors and what do they always say? “I never judge the character I’m playing.” Whether it’s De Niro in Taxi Driver or Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List, these actors are bringing truth to each role; judgment of a character’s behavior is considered counterproductive to the entire point of manifesting the soul of another human being. So what does this have to do with being Republican? In a word, Republicans do exactly the opposite of what good actors do, they JUDGE. They are fearful of those who are different-looking or different-behaving or different-loving. Acting, as far as I’m concerned, is grounded in embracing and not fearing the diversity of humanity in all its beautiful ugliness. I still don’t get it, though, because Clint Eastwood is so damn good in his films. Maybe I need to make one exception for Dirty Harry.




Nope. Not one bit. As an unregistered “Independent” (whatever that means), it’s really no skin off my nose. In fact, I often find it refreshing because a Republican in the arts doesn’t fit a comfy stereotype. A liberal in the arts is pretty common and nothing to write home about. And a roomful of like-minded people is just plain boring. One of my best friends in grad school was a staunch Republican at the time, and without him our class discussions wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting. I think that one purpose of theatre is to question stereotypes; to question everything the collective “we” thinks is the truth. I don’t think art should make us feel comfortable. It shouldn’t make us feel more confident in our beliefs. And if I feel that way about the audience, then why not the artists as well?




Jimmy Callahan is an actor/writer/comedian/acting coach living in Brooklyn, NY. Originally from Chicago, he trained at The Second City & iO. He has appeared in over 60 national commercials between CHI, LA, & NYC.

Page Clements has been a professional actress, vocal instructor, and private coach in NYC for over 20 years. Currently an instructor of voice, dialects, and Shakespeare at the T. Schreiber Studio & Theatre in New York, she has just completed an instructional video for actors and public speakers to be released later this year. She has appeared in over 50 productions throughout the country, received the Favorite Vocal Coach and Dialect Coach Awards from Backstage in 2009, and is a member of Actors Equity Association.

Nathan Klau’s touring credits include Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Forever Plaid, and Anything Goes. Regionally, he has worked at Goodspeed Opera House, Arkansas Rep, and Theater-by-the-Sea. A native of West Simsbury, CT, Nathan graduated from Yale University in 1994 with a degree in History and Theater. He hopes to use it someday.

Thomas Ward is an actor and playwright based in Minneapolis. He appeared in the Off-Broadway premiere of Craig Wright’s The Unseen at the Cherry Lane Theatre. He has performed regionally with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Georgia Shakespeare, WaterTower Theatre (Dallas), and the ZACH Scott Theatre (Austin), among others. He was previously profiled by stated.

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