Question: "Should my son have a back up plan?"

I’m sitting in my dressing room, boiling with a sense of injustice.

A few of the cast and I have just finished a Q&A with a group of teens and their parents as part of Kids Week. I’ve taken part in many of these over the years and the questions are usually pretty predictable and harmless. We give a little insight into whichever show we’re working on and a little advice to any aspiring performers in the group. Occasionally you get a more testing question and often these catch you off guard. There’s no time to truly collect your thoughts and give a fully realised answer and so occasionally you fail to give an adequate one, or even any answer at all.

This was the case earlier as a mum spoke of her concern for her acting-obsessed son and his worrying lack of a “back up plan”. She asked if we, the cast, had day jobs and what work we planned to do once our contracts came to an end. A few of the cast gave more than reasonable answers as I squirmed in my seat, frantically trying to gather my thoughts to such an extent that I could answer the question. I couldn’t. I stayed silent and stared at my shoes. We answered a couple more questions about walking in heels and I shuffled out for dinner - a wrap from Pret if you must know.

Let me cut to the chase…

I don’t believe you can pursue your passion whilst also pursuing a back up plan. You don’t have time. There is no useful stopping off point during your training to quickly do a degree in accountancy or plumbing (unless of course, they are you passions). Plan B will always distract from Plan A and believe me, Plan A is all consuming.

Time for a tangent. Stick with me.

I’ve come to view my career as a fluid thing. I find it strange when people ask me “what do you do?” at Dinner Parties - partly because I never go to Dinner Parties, but mainly because the answer is forever changing and never that simple.

During my relatively short career, I have been (in order of appearance) a Drama Student, a Singer, a Barman, a Singer again, a Shoe Salesman, an Actor, a Husband, a Principal, a Father and an Actor again.

I took a year off from acting a few years back to buy and establish my own Stagecoach Theatre School with my wonderful wife Tara. Did I cease to be an actor in that moment? Did I buy the school and PING! become a Principal? Did I step back on stage and PING! become an actor again. Am I a singer whenever I step into a studio?

Of course not.

In reality I am all of these things and none of them. I am David Hunter, doing stuff.

I send Stagecoach emails during Kinky Boots intervals, confirm flyer designs on the train home, I write and record EPs on free afternoons, I change nappies, well…whenever I’m called into action. So which am I? What am I?

I am David Hunter, making plans, changing direction, pursuing goals, changing nappies - doing stuff.

My career (and my life) has been fluid enough to allow me to seize opportunities as they arise, rather than pre planning them before I even begin, and as a result my life remains varied, exciting and profitable, while I remain really flippin’ happy.

So, as my thoughts begin to drop into place I think my advice is this:

Don’t encourage your son or daughter to water down their Plan A by dedicating time to Plan B. Instead prepare your child for life’s uncertainties by instilling within them the flexibility to acknowledge opportunities when they arise and the bravery to pursue those opportunities with dedication and determination - qualities he or she has already shown a propensity for by pursuing their passion in the first place.

Now I’m not suggesting we all down tools and become actors. I’m certainly not suggesting that if you “work hard”, “dream big” and “don’t take no for answer”, your child will become a successful performer. He may not. In fact, he probably won’t. But that’s no disaster. Plan B (if we subscribe to such an idea) can be forged later, if he ever needs it. And in the meantime, by pursuing his passion, he will learn skills, make contacts and encounter numerous opportunities that may excite him and naturally take him in a new direction.

In my experience, actors tend to be precocious, creative, confident, determined, dogged, adaptable and utterly focussed on their goal. If they ever reach a point (and many of my friends have done so) where a change of direction feels desirable or necessary, these qualities allow them to flourish.

There are many wonderful careers that begin with a training in (or simply a passion for) the arts, so embrace your training, stride boldly forward and see what happens.

Your passion is rocket fuel and it will take you far.