The Second Lead

By Deborah Clark on 12 April 2019

I was looking into the biog of Gig Young, the worn and louche looking chap in front of me on the wall in the bar here at SoHoEx. He had a ride through the backstage of Hollywood in the mid 20th century. He was talented but not handsome enough for the lead, always the support (he even won an Academy Award for it) and constantly frustrated. Alcohol, probably drugs also, lead to a murder-suicide death for him and his fifth wife. Quelle waste.

So I’m thinking about the second lead, the interesting and talented people who don’t make the front page for want of photogenic cheekbones, piercing eyes, a way of walking. But the film doesn’t work without them.

I’m thinking and thanking now all those who bring the action together, who inject a bit of comedy, pathos, character to the role and then end up dead, dumped or discarded. Take a bow: Robson Green, Jane Horrocks, Doug Henshall, Penelope Wilton, Adrian Dunbar, Kathy Burke, Danny Webb, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, Celia Imrie, Edward Fox and that’s just a few of the British actors who have injected personality into the production without the need to be perfect.

In a way, the staff who work in hotels are the second lead to the guest. We’re here to support, keep safe, attend to you but the guest is centre stage. Creating the backdrop is what drives us (and a sideline in therapy and funny tales). How many of you really, seriously, appreciate a flashy maitre d’ or hotelier who is just out there? Who makes it clear that s/he is the one in control, not you? Nope: second lead is a good, supportive place to be yourself.