Hey J! Ask the Agent: Bad Romance?

Hey J,

My agent was always a bit brusque and abrasive whenever I spoke to them on the phone but recently they’ve started being downright rude, and they often shout down the phone at me and call me terrible names. I’m now scared to even call up – what should I do?


Hi Ella,

I absolutely hate hearing things like this. What should you do? Leave. And if they’re a member of the AEAA – report them. To me, it sounds like incredibly unprofessional behaviour which needs to be addressed. I believe that in order for our industry to change we must all participate in that change. We need to not only speak out when we see something wrong but also refuse to be complicit in allowing wrongdoing to continue by our tacit acceptance. We must all be the change in the industry that we wish to see.

I firmly believe that good communication is the most important part of any actor/agent relationship and that when it has broken down the first step should always be to try and salvage it, but this doesn’t sound like a relationship that has broken down and needs a bit of TLC. This sounds like a relationship that has completely gone sour and become abusive.

Your agent is there to be your voice in the industry. If that voice is rude, abrasive, vulgar, demeaning, dismissive, aggressive – is that really the voice you want speaking for you? Is that the person you want to align your dreams and aspirations with? In almost all walks of life we are judged by the company we keep – are you happy with that? This person speaks to casting directors, directors, producers – all on your behalf. They are there to represent you – is this the way you want to be represented?

The actor/agent relationship is an odd one because it’s not quite a business relationship – we are often a shoulder to cry on, we delight in sharing special life moments with you, we are there for the good news and the bad. And yet, we’re not quite a friend. It is, fundamentally, a transactional relationship – what can I do for you, what can you do for me? When that transactional relationship is skewed too far in one direction – ie. you pay me money and I scream at you down the phone – what are YOU getting out of that? When we’re at that stage it’s become very problematic indeed. Like any relationship it needs balance and balance takes work.

I’ve talked a lot about the actor/agent relationship before. It is a little bit like dating someone, isn’t it? At the beginning we are both on our best behaviour, dressing up for each other, trying to impress, showing our best sides. However, like any relationship, after a while, we start to relax and show what we’re really like. Sometimes that’s wonderful – as we get to know each other better we are more open and honest and the relationship improves over time, but sometimes, when the mask drops, the best thing to do is head for the hills. Fast.

Once upon a time when there were fewer actors and even fewer agents, sure, I can understand people staying in a relationship that wasn’t quite perfect. Some people might have decided that they can put up with being shouted at because their agent was getting them great work and good fees, but now? There are so many agents out there and so many opportunities for actors that the days of putting up and shutting up are long gone. There is another agent out there who will understand the value you bring to their client list and who will nurture it. A good agent works with you to help develop a productive and prosperous career; a great agent sees potential in you that you don’t even see in yourself – and the best agents help you to believe in it. Remember, we make our money from you working – that’s the bottom line of our business – and I do not believe that anyone can produce their best, most authentic, most creative work when they are scared or intimidated. If you are scared to speak to your agent then they are not enabling you to do your best work.

Lady Gaga may have wanted to write a bad romance but you shouldn’t. Your agent should be on your team, lifting you up, empowering you to do your best work in an industry that all too often can be difficult to navigate. Choose your team carefully and change it up when necessary.

Stay connected. Stay creative.


Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]


JBR is a UK Talent Agent based in London. He began his career as a child performer in the 1980’s and has spent more than three decades in the industry exploring creativity and working across a number of fields. He has been an actor, a director, a writer, a designer, a drag queen, a producer, a dramaturg, a teacher, a comedy booker, a publican, a marketing manager and an agent. He runs JBR Creative Management working with a small group of multi-platform creatives. JBR's first book, Getting, Keeping And Working With Your Acting Agent will be published by Nick Hern Books on May 27th 2021 and is now available to preorder.


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