I turned down the role. It would've been good money, good (if indecent) exposure, and a good credit for my résumé. But I know where I stand on that issue. I told them that I would love to be considered for a future role on the show. I haven't heard back from them, and I doubt that I will. That's a risk I was willing to take.
After my post on Personal Morality, a parent wrote to me that in their teen's search for a good college theatre program, they came across a couple in which classes are "conducted in underwear, on a bed, with a partner." Huh?
Can you imagine anything like that happening in any other career field? If a chemistry student or an accounting student were asked to strip down to underwear in class, the professors involved would surely be fired!
No one needs to get naked to be a good actor. I have a Master's Degree in Acting, and I have never been asked to disrobe on stage. If I had been asked, I would have said no. And I know that I would not have been kicked out of school for that.
[In the interest of full disclosure: I was in a bikini on stage once in grad school, but that was my own decision and unrelated to my studies. My friends were producing a play and asked me to take on the role, and I felt it was a safe situation in which I felt comfortable, so I said yes.]
It's frustrating to know that acting is one of the only careers in which you can be disqualified from a job based on gender, race, age, hair color, eye color, height, weight... I even once had a production company cancel my audition after I complied with their request to send them a picture of my hands (for the record, I have worked as a hand-double before, so I don't think I have unattractive hands).
I think maybe that's part of the reason that it's hard to say no to things like nudity, simulated sex, and intimate scenes: it's just one more reason that people get immediately disqualified from consideration without being given a chance. It's hard to remove yourself from the running.
I recently got a callback for a project I would love (LOVE!) to take on. And it was painful to see, "Are you willing to do nudity?" written on the callback form. I rocked my audition, but I know that my chances are greatly reduced by that one little "no."
It sucks that this is part of our industry. It sucks that most student films I see audition notices for require nudity (um, why?). It sucks that there's no easy way to change it. It sucks that being willing to get naked became a sign of being an artist. A real actress.
I know that my choice to stay dressed is going to limit my options. But for me, it's the right choice.
P.S. Have you come up against this issue in your work as an actor? Leave your story in the comments!