Like most actors, I have an ego that can be a bit, well, delicate. It goes with the turf really - the mixture of recognition and rejection, occasional glory and regular insecurity; it's a weird balancing act and, most of the time, you manage it while trying hard not to be a dick. Sometimes though, the swoop from high to low and back again is so fast and so absurd that all you can do is laugh (even if you're left mainly laughing at yourself). Last month I found myself on just such a rollercoaster.
Let's start with the first of the highs. I got nominated for a GLAAD award! You know, the glitzy, glamorous "Gay Oscars" held in LA that every high-profile homo attends in his or her very best frocks. Ok, so it was in the 'International Advocate for Change' category as opposed to 'Hottest Body' or 'Sexiest Leading Man' but still... I was properly chuffed, especially because they agreed to fly my boyfriend, Cam, and me out to the ceremony.
Look, I know that I'm hardly in the 'Brad Pitt' category of fame. On the A to Z spectrum of celebrity, I know my place on the red carpet. But having spent a few years in a popular soap opera, the fact is that I do get recognised on a pretty regular basis. In Manchester, where Coronation Street
is filmed, I might get stopped ten times a day for a photo or an autograph. It's not always convenient; I've been asked for a picture while trying to deal with my two-year-old having a tantrum in the supermarket, or when I'm trying to wolf down a sandwich in my only ten-minute break of the day. I've had people interrupt me while I'm on the phone or even wanting to shake my hand while I'm having a piss at the urinal (seriously people, at least let me put it away first).
I always make the time, though - firstly because it only takes a minute or two out of my day so it seems ridiculous not to; and, secondly, because I'm well aware that it is those people, the ones who care enough to stop me to say hello, who are the reason I have the good fortune to be doing a job I adore. Without an audience an actor is nothing. So I'm grateful for the support, even if it is occasionally a bit clumsy.
Anyway, off Cam and I went to LA, all giddy with excitement. I was a nominee! How thrilling! It's not that I particularly expected to be feted by the great and the good, but literally nobody had a clue who I was. First of all, the Americans don't care about the International Award. I was in the equivalent category of 'Best Foreign Language Short Documentary' at the Oscars. And secondly, what fame I have is very much UK-based. But I didn't mind - we were there to have a blast and, actually, being anonymous made that kind of easier (if no-one's watching you, right?). Everyone in our party got VIP wristbands apart from me who "didn't need one because I was a nominee". But, because none of the security people had any idea who I was, I ended up getting stopped every time I tried to move around the venue. So eventually I decided to beg for a wristband just so I could go to the loo without being interrogated.
Back at the hotel, we actually did run into some Corrie fans who asked if they could have a picture. I, of course, obliged. Then, after a two-minute chat and a "thank you very much", I was moving on when I spotted an actor who I admire enormously. I'm not going to name names here, but I will say it's someone who's made a huge breakthrough quite recently. This person is also an eloquent and moving advocate for LGBT rights, so my admiration is based on their activism as much as their talent. I was excited to see them so, without thinking, I crossed the lobby and started to compliment them on the work they've been doing. They didn't even break stride. A quick glance and I was dismissed.
It's been a long time since I was on that side of the fame equation, and I've certainly never been dismissed out-of-hand like that. I felt embarrassed and belittled, but in some ways I'm glad it happened. It reaffirmed to me how important politeness is, whoever you are. And it made me even more determined to be respectful of the people who, ultimately, pay my wages.
I still admire this person for the way they have spoken out on unfashionable issues. But I wish that they would practise the idea of universal respect that they so clearly articulate. Those of us who work to represent LGBT issues need to make sure we really do walk the walk, lest that hypocrisy come back to bite us.
Oh and, finally, congratulations to the winner in my category (no, it wasn't me). I was up against people doing some awe-inspiring work and, clichéd though it sounds, it really was an honour to be named alongside them.
Read Charlie's last column: 'My problem with the phrase 'openly gay'
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