Watching famous people on TV and film, it might be easy to feel that the lives of actors are glamorous and fulfilling. But for aspiring performers, it is often a challenge to stay true to their passion when the acting roles are not enough to pay the bills. Kate Ford speaks to actor Reis Bruce to find out what he has discovered on his dream career path.
“I thought it was a scam email at first,” says actor Reis Bruce, recalling the day he found out he had been nominated for Best Newcomer in the British Soap Awards. “I was home alone and I was shaking.” This uplifting moment was one of the highlights in the 25-year-old’s rollercoaster journey as a performer.
Although Reis did not win the 2018 award for his appearance in the daytime soap Doctors, attending the red carpet event was an exhilarating experience. And it was the perfect way to say thank you to his mother, an avid Soap fan, for all her support over the years. “She made me prepare a speech even though I didn’t think I’d win. It was the first ever live Soap Awards so there was that extra pressure. At first I thought how am I going to look cool, but then I thought, I’ve just got to be myself and enjoy it. I couldn’t stop smiling. But I was so nervous it was almost a relief not to win, I don’t think I’d have been able to get any words out.”
You could do the greatest job and still be unemployed after.
The surprise nomination was a welcome boost for Birmingham-born Reis who made his TV debut in 2015 in the Lenny Henry biopic ‘Danny and the Human Zoo’. After his performance as one of the comedian’s childhood friends, Reis was sure the BBC film would be the big break he had coveted. “I thought it was going to change my career completely. I thought, after this I’m never going to have to worry about a job again. That wasn’t the truth at all. It gave me another challenge of acting which is, you could do the greatest job and still be unemployed after.” He was fortunate in that he did find work, with a ‘theatre in education’ company, but the experience was part of the learning process of his chosen career.
“You go to auditions, you get turned down and you don’t necessarily get used to the no’s, but you learn how to endure them. You start off thinking is it my hair, is it something I said, something I didn’t say. There’s the audition you do on the train in your head, the one you do on the day and then the audition you do on the train back. You have to stop thinking that way. My best advice is once the audition is over, throw the script away, don’t hold onto it. Carry on and focus on what’s next.”
...if one child comes forward ...that is one more person you have helped.
And that is what Reis did, touring with education shows tackling raw social issues, which often took their toll on him emotionally. A solo show for Kent Police, playing a youngster who had been groomed, was particularly gruelling. “You have to focus on different emotions and make them feel as real as possible. I was really crying my eyes out and it was good there was a team around me to give me support,” he says. “You might be doing a hard, challenging role with many different aspects, where you feel you could break. But even if one child comes forward about what is happening to them, that is one more person you have helped.”
Reis’s choice of career was seeded in the pantomimes his parents took him to as a youngster. “They sparked something inside of me,” he says. He loved to create stories and when he got into music, it cemented his love for performing. Ever eager to express his creativity, Reis taught himself piano, guitar and drums and he writes songs and music scores.
The inconsistency of regular acting work means he still needs to have two ‘normal’ jobs and he is grateful that his current employers allow him to attend auditions. He also takes part in ‘home’ auditions where he records himself acting the roles to send on to casting agents. It is a continuing process and one which remains hidden from most people who believe acting is glamorous. “People don’t realise actors may have amazing jobs but they might not have them often. People automatically presume that if you’re on television you’re making a lot of money and that’s not always necessarily the case,” he says. “You could do one fantastic show, but financially you are struggling. I’m juggling two jobs, a bar job and a catering job, and that’s fine. They’re really great with me. There was a point when I really needed some work and couldn’t get any. All I wanted to do was act.”
It’s almost like talking to a psychiatrist, you feel so relieved to get all these feelings out.
Having learned his trade well in the four years since his first TV appearance, Reis feels there are many benefits to acting, such as giving him the opportunity to explore other people’s lives. He has found it has helped him learn more about himself as an individual, because he has had to open up about his inner thoughts and feelings. “It’s almost like talking to a psychiatrist, you feel so relieved to get all these feelings out.”
Reis has most recently appeared on Father Brown and Casualty but during the quiet period that followed, Reis had an idea for a comedy drama. When the acting work slows down, he cannot help but channel his artistic energy into another endeavour. He is currently writing a script and is relishing the new learning and experience this blossoming project is giving him. “I’m really excited about it. I’m hoping to tell people stories that haven’t yet been told.”
He is able to remain committed to his goals by being realistic and not straying from his unceasing work ethic. “I understand why people quit this career. It is stressful for you and your family. The more you train and the more you just do it, the more chance you have. You can either wait until your agent calls with auditions, or you can practice every day. Whatever you channel it into, do it every day. As an actor you’ve chosen a challenging career. Accept that and challenge yourself. It’s not an easy ride.”
Reis can be contacted through his agent Shepperd Fox, email@example.com