4 Ways To Dealing With A “Challenging” Scene Partner

I saw a forum post recently – a young lady who is studying acting – she was deep in rehearsals, working on a show that opens in a week, and lamented that her scene partner kept dodging the kiss scene and being difficult about it. This was causing her some concern and rightly so – she felt that her work was being ruined and her grades would be equally impacted.

Maybe it’s surprising, but this is not the first case of a difficult scene partner I’ve heard about .. even this week. They crop up far more often than they should – and it can make your dream show an absolute nightmare if not handled correctly.

In the case of our young friend, the advice she was receiving was not only unhelpful, it bordered on unprofessional behaviour. Advice like “just stop the scene then and there and have it out with him” is tempting, especially a week out from opening. Sadly it will not help her, or you build the rapport you need to do your best work, and it may backfire – earning you an undeserved reputation.

I have had more than a few difficult cast members to work with, from the egotistical, the disinterested, the “I wanted a different part”, the “rehearsals are only for OTHER actors – and I know my stuff already”, the ever present “this is just a hobby for me”, and even one who accepted the part of a homosexual author and then refused to participate in rehearsals because it “might make him look gay”.  Without naming any names, I have found some ways of dealing with even the most … irksome costars.

  1. Talk To The Director.
    This may seem like the really obvious step, but it is surprisingly often overlooked in favour of less desirable methods. It should be your first port of call if things are becoming an actual issue. You should approach them quietly and away from the eyes and ears of the rest of the cast. Keep emotion out of it, state your facts, and leave it in their capable hands. The director should have the best interests of the show at heart and will hopefully intervene on your behalf. Note – the director may listen to your concerns and just ask you to persevere with it. This can be frustrating – but the director may know something about the situation that you don’t. Remember they see the bigger picture – that’s their job – and as such they are a vital step in resolving any difficulties you have.
  2. Talk To The Offending Cast Member. 
    Again, a really obvious step and one that people just don’t do often enough. I went to uni with an actor who – we could only assume – bathed each night in a vat of his own sweat. Unpleasant does not begin to describe it. However, it occurred to us, after weeks and months of complaining and whining between ourselves that maybe no one had ever approached him about it being an issue. So we had a quiet chat to the stage manger, she quietly had a chat to him one day after rehearsals and wouldn’t you know – it miraculously stopped being a problem. Similarly, I’ve had personality clashes with the odd cast member (I know – who would have thought someone like me with the temperament of an angel would ever have a personality clash – weird I know – but it’s happened) and these are so often just a case of misunderstanding. More often than not, me just approaching them and airing my “issue” in a professional manner, quietly off to the side has yielded far better results than not.
  3. Be The Bigger, Better Person.
    This one may be a hard pill to swallow, but we often make mountains out of molehills in the heat and passion of doing a show. Weigh it up and, if it’s not going to be world ending, maybe just get on with your work. This would apply to around 95% of grievances I’ve had with other cast members even when they were at their most difficult. There is a lot of peace to be found in acceptance and knowing that you are going to come in day in, day out and do the best job you can do regardless can be really satisfying.
  4. Quit. 
    Controversial, and a difficult step to take, but valid. I don’t put this step on here lightly but, in the rarest of rare cases, where it cannot be ignored and you have taken steps to talk to both the production team, the company, and the actor themselves and nothing appears to be being done about it – Walk. Away. I stress the only time I would do this is if my health, safety, and well being were in jeopardy and I honestly felt that no one was doing anything to intervene. It’s not always possible sometimes you’ll just have to grit your teeth and go with it, but when it is, if that is what is going on – walk away with your head held high.

It’s never fun when someone decides to rain on our parade. An amazing opportunity to do what we all love to do, and then they go about being difficult. When these moments do rear their heads though – there are ways to go about dealing with it that don’t involve waging WWIII. Much fun as that would be, I’m sure.

Don’t let these moments get you down – deal with it and move on and enjoy the art you’re there for.

Happy Creating –



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