I AM NOT AN ACTOR

My TV presenting career has been fine. Nothing spectacular - I've not come close to winning any awards or anything like that, but equally I've not been totally vilified for my efforts. There's been the occasional jibe in the press ('presenter Rick Edwards is the real tool'/'a coiffured tower of void') but nothing too hurtful or even unfair. I am, after all, a tower.

I think I've navigated a moderately successful path thus far through a combination of relative competence (I can read an autocue), a vague resemblance to Paul Bettany, and self-deprecation (which I am brilliant at). And I've been presenting full-time for over six years now - long enough to feel comfortable and reasonably confident.

Talking to camera doesn't phase me. Interviewing people doesn't phase me. I will occasionally feel a tad nervous before a live show, but nothing that seventeen espressos won't take care of. Sure, the nerves/caffeine prompt my face to err on the side of an unhealthy shade of red but, basically - I am a TV presenter. And I'm OK at it.

What I am not, is an actor. The last thing I acted in was a school play, aged eight, when I took on the not-especially-challenging role of 'Goblin'. All I had to do was jump up onto a hay bale and shout something or other. During the only performance, I jumped up too zealously, and toppled straight off.

Since then, I have left acting to others. Others with talent. I now have a number of friends who are very accomplished actors, and make a good living out of their craft. I've never really considered straying onto their patch. So it was a surprise (and not a good, people-jumping-out-with-party-poppers-it's-your-birthday-type surprise) when I found myself acting in a sitcom pilot.

Truth be told, no-one involved with the show really wanted to cast me. Least of all me. But our hands were forced by the idea, which we came up with collectively, and which featured a TV presenter at its core. A TV presenter called Rick Edwards. And try as we might, we couldn't think of anyone better to play this man than me. Although I maintain that Jeff Brazier could have had a decent stab at it.

A brief digression to illustrate how little the people who know me best value my skills as an actor; when discussing the project with my girlfriend, she actually said, with a hint of pity, "would it not be funnier for someone else to play you?". We'll just never know, because the production company went ahead and shot the thing with me as me. Or rather, me as a warped version of myself. A worse version, I hope.

I have never had problems with sleeping (unless you count the post-nap 'hot face'* as a problem), but during the shoot I couldn't get a wink. The stress of it gave me a thumping headache. I was filled with a perfectly justifiable lack of self-belief. Throughout the first day, I was violently sick. We were mainly filming on a stuffy minibus. The whole thing was horrific, not to mention unhygienic. I felt as if everyone on set was staring at me as I 'acted' and thinking - what IS he doing? And I couldn't answer them. Because I just didn't know. The rest of the cast were excellent - well, they might not have been excellent per se. I mean, next to me, Orlando Bloom would look like Brando. Oh, for a pithy piece-to-camera! Oh, for a popstar to gently mock! Nevertheless, I kept on plugging away and we got it all done.

Nine months later, I find myself here, writing this blog, the day before the pilot goes out on television. Actual television, where actual people will watch it, and see my best (or worst) efforts. Once again, I am terrified. Once again, my sleep has been disrupted.

Various people, some of whom I trust and respect, have seen the show already, and assured me that I am fine in it. But their kindness doesn't help one jot. Whenever I watch it, I cringe. Seeing myself act - it's just painful.

The other source of anxiety is, of course, the old "is this funny? Guys? GUYS?". I haven't had that particular nagging doubt since I was doing stand-up, and it is a pleasingly distant memory. I haven't missed it. And yet here it is. Smirking at me, not with me. The awful fear that no-one will laugh. That acquaintances will say things like, "Oh, it was a comedy. Right. I didn't realise".

Nothing can be done now though. Tonight, I will watch it; I will squirm; I assume my face will go red and hot. I will hope to God that it gets received well. And if, by some minor miracle, it goes to series, I will enroll in an acting class. Or call Jeff Brazier.

'Rick and Peter' is on E4 at 11pm on Friday 16th September. Be nice.
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/comedy-lab/video/series-34/episode-1/rick-and-peter

*related to the nervous red face. I have a sensitive face, apparently

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