It is possible to leave Hollywood.
It’s not easy.
People wrinkle their foreheads at you and ask “why?” in this tone that makes you feel like you have just announced your intention to dress yourself entirely in tinfoil. People say you’re crazy for walking away from a good career just because it wasn’t making you happy. But it can be done. You can leave the film industry and do new things and you can almost leave it all in the past. Almost.
Certain things tend to linger.
I rarely talk about my old job in my daily life. I am now a writer who lives in Virginia, and my acting past is simply not relevant. I’ve been friends with people for a while and they have no idea that I used to be an actor. Usually, it will come up because I have to explain why I never graduated from high school or why I have DVDs of the movies that are still in theaters on my coffee table.
It’s not like I’m legitimately famous. It’s not like I walk into a room and I’m Jennifer Lawrence and everyone starts squealing. Occasionally, people recognize me. Often they squint at me and ask if we knew each other in high school. Or, it’s just odd.
My past creates certain challenges when making new friends – because I don’t know if they know, either from recognizing me or hearing about it from someone else. So, I don’t say anything, because saying something would be obnoxious. Why does my old job matter now? Who’s like “Oh, just so you know, 15 years ago, I worked at The Olive Garden, I hope that doesn’t make things strange now.”
So when I dance around the issue of my past, when I get flushed and nervous and look at my feet while using vague language like, “I was in Honduras once, for this…um…you know…work thing….” I look like I might be a repentant drug lord.
So, I test the waters and mumble “Oh, dunno if you know or not, I used to be an actor, so um…yeah…there’s that.” And I nervously wait for their reaction and try to come up with an excuse to check my phone for text messages.
I’ve had people get weirded out and uncomfortable, thinking this somehow makes me exotic and un-relatable because actors are apparently made of different stuff than regular folk.
I’ve had people get too excited and too comfortable and then they only want to talk about whether or not Fran Drescher really talks like that.
And then there is my all-time favorite reaction. When one of my friends found out, after months of knowing each other, she looked at me and said “Oh my God, it’s like, you’re….fake famous. That’s hilarious. Hey, hand me that yoga mat.”
She’s right. I am fake famous. I have this little bit of recognizability, but I don’t get mobbed in public or walk the red carpet anymore. I never enjoyed those things, they just sent my anxiety into overdrive. I like my life so much better now.
As it turns out, the authentic me is much happier being fake famous.