How To Be A Happy Actor In A Challenging Business: A Guide To Thriving Through It All by Justina Vail (book review)

A couple years back, I was curious about what happened to actress Justina Vail after the TV SF series ‘Seven Days’, found she had turned into a life coach and had written a book with a lengthy title, ‘How To Be A Happy Actor In A Challenging Business: A Guide To Thriving Through It All’. Bought it a couple years and put in the pile to read sometime and realising I should have read it sooner.

As I was also curious as to what a life coach does and can its lessons extend beyond acting because, after all, you need confidence in anything you do. From a British perspective, we must appear hardier and surprised no one’s addressed what makes us different. Is it training or attitude, more so as British actors frequently pop up in American productions when they are out looking for work.

Obviously, the focus of this book is insecure American actors in an insecure industry where you’re only as good as your last audition and how to deal with failure because not everyone is going to end up with a job. Vail relates her own problems with this although oddly, she doesn’t mention ‘Seven Days’, her biggest long-term success by name. Any audition process depends entirely on the casting team and them looking for the right blend of actors with the right faces and talent and no one can anticipate what they want or can be offered to the roles available. There are references to a TV series not having a happy cast and I really hope it wasn’t ‘Seven Days’ because I thought it worked well. The team being dysfunctional was what made it work than having everyone in agreement with each other which would have made it too sugary. With actors prone to method acting, it might have extended to them not relaxing that attitude. Had Vail laid her cards on the table, it might have stopped me speculating like this.

I do think Vail forgets the American work ethic where the standard worker is expected to go to work up to 5 or 6 days a week and only have an enforced fortnight holiday once a year. With jobs like acting, it is essentially a freelance job with intense hours when working and prolonged inactivity or filler-jobs in between, which is totally against the work ethic expected. Keeping anyone’s empathy levels up is going to be a lot harder where people just want to be successful and be ahead of the thong. Saying that, her advice in chapters 4 and 5 would apply to any job if you want to get on in your career or be a boss.

A lot of her advice would probably apply to any career and essentially keep a balanced outlook and be happy in the workplace. Shame it can’t apply to all people but that’s why mindsets are different. Looking at this again here, I confused the hell out of bosses when I worked by describing my computer programming skills and other job skills as a game to enjoy. I took the job seriously but I always had a happy attitude towards it.

I have to confess that the American mindset doesn’t appear as resilient as the majority of the British mindsets. Whether that is down to training, especially in the acting profession, or purely because we get used to failure and trying again would be hard to say. Certainly there is no need for therapy sessions over here, let alone even considering that suggesting our egos are less fragile as it probably wouldn’t occur to us as a need.

I can see how Justina Vail can work as a life coach. Even in this book, she conveys optimism and good attitude and is a good cheerleader to encourage people to do their best work.

If you need to get this natural vibe for whatever career you’re doing, its worth picking up this book for a read. If anything for me, it shows I’ve always done the right thing.

GF Willmetts

March 2024

(pub: CreateSpace/Justina Vail, 2012. 202 page small enlarged paperback. Price: varies. ISBN: 978-1-47752-221-9)

check out websites: www.justinavail.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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