There is a famous Hollywood saying that goes: “Never work with children or animals. They bring the worst out in you.” It’s a familiar refrain among filmmakers, who know that working with child performers can be exceptionally difficult. The same goes for animals, who can be difficult to work with and require a lot of training.

But for actors, even those who are adults, that saying doesn’t always apply. Sometimes it’s the opposite. Working with your friends can be fun and challenging, and even bring out the best in you.

Take Joseph—played by Dev Patel in the 2018 documentary The King of India—as an example. In the film, we follow the life of this young man from a small town in India as he prepares to navigate life in Hollywood. Along the way, we learn about his upbringing, his journey to the US, and even his rise to fame in Bollywood. But what I find most fascinating about Joseph is how much he shares with his coworkers. Especially his coworkers —they’re his friends. And like most of our best friends, they challenge him, support him, and inspire him.

This is most apparent when we first meet Joseph and his coworkers. After their morning call time, they meet for lunch and one of the first things Joseph shares with his friends is that he had been struggling with his coworkers —especially one, played by Anjali kakkar—who had been giving him a hard time. “I think she’s jealous of me,” Joseph explains. “She said, ‘You’re so talented. Why are you with me?’ And I said, ‘Well she’s my senior, so I have to work harder.’ But it wasn’t about that. I thought I had to prove myself, because I’m from a small town.”

Even after getting to Hollywood, Joseph continues to work closely with his coworkers, meeting up with some of them for dinner and others for holidays. In the film, his coworkers—who all happen to be men—help him navigate the complicated world of Hollywood, teaching him the ins and outs of get-ups and hair and makeup. And what’s more, they help him find the best way to navigate romantic relationships, offering advice on how to be confident and how to speak to a girl.

It’s clear that Joseph, like many of us, was put off by Hollywood’s glamor and glitter, but it’s also clear that he is determined to make it in this new, exciting world. And his coworkers—who, again, are all men—are the people he turns to for support, helping to get him ready for his big break. From his India accent to his positivity and intelligence, it’s easy to see why so many people might admire him, and why others might find him difficult to work with.

Creating A Bicultural Experience

Inevitably, as with any good friend group, there are differences of opinions and ideas. And just as with any other good friend group, the dynamics can change as circumstances do. Take the experience of Nicole, played by Aunty Rose, who moved to Hollywood a while back to pursue her dreams of being an actress. She quickly discovered that the work was hard and that she needed to rely on her agency for representation, or “Agency,” as she calls it in the film, to get roles. To save money for acting classes, she took on extra shifts at a restaurant and even worked as a bikini waiter. But even at this more part-time stage, she found it difficult to make ends meet, and ended up in bankruptcy.

And that’s when she met Dennis, played by Ryan Gosling in the film. Dennis is the son of a multi-millionaire and, as the film reveals, he was entirely self-sufficient from early on, having dropped out of Harvard University, where he was on track to become the first member of his class to go to jail. In the film, we see both sides of Dennis: the caring, sharing brother that he is in the restaurant where Nicole works, and the ultra-competitive CEO that he becomes when Nicole is no longer needed. As an actor, I found this duality fascinating, and even a bit tragic, as this is the kind of complexity that can arise when friendship is involved.

Even in the era of social media, people still want to meet in person—which is why I think documentaries, like The King of India, can be so special. We want to follow people in real life and experience their highs and lows, watching their bodies language and hearing their accents directly. It’s what makes these films different from conventional movies.

The Complexities Of Acting

So, what exactly is acting? In the pages of The Actor’s Handbook, acting is described as “The performance of a role by an actor. The word ‘acting’ is most often used in reference to plays, since actors in plays often have to act out their roles. But the definition includes all forms of performing art and is not limited to plays or reading out texts.”

In the world of documentaries, where, as we discussed above, the stories are often based on real-life experiences, I think this definition is particularly apt. An important distinction to make here is between performers and actors—performers are people who are merely involved in the creation of a role, while actors are those who perform that role once the docu­mentary is finished. The performer in this case is Katie, played by Kate Beckinsale. She had initially agreed to take the role of a bombshell Hollywood agent named Katharine Morrison only to later decide she didn’t want to do the film, or part of it, at all.

According to the Hollywood Agency that Katie belongs to, she received a call one day from a director who wanted her to be the face of a group of international models in an ad campaign. In the film, Katie explains that she is a victim of scams and lies and deceit often and that she doesn’t do well with commitment in her personal life. She feels that this is why she ends up in relationships that don’t work out, and that she needs to hold onto what she has for now and not venture too far into anything serious.

So, is Katie an actress? In the page of The Actor’s Handbook, it’s stated that “[e]very actor is an experienced performer by definition” and since Katie’s primary form of performing art is talking, I think we can safely call her an experienced talker. And, yes, I’d also argue that she is a very good actor, too, given her skill at performing the role of a bombshell ­Hollywood agent.