For actors, the road to success is filled as many potholes as there are stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sometimes, they need a hand. That’s where the SAG-AFTRA Foundation comes in.
JoBeth Williams is an actress and president of the nonprofit that for more than three decades has provided education and financial assistance to professional performers and their families.
There is currently a holiday auction — filled with memorabilia and star-studded opportunities — going on to raise funds for the organization.
Among other programs, the foundation offers emergency assistance and and help to actors facing catastrophic health issues.
“It’s a rollercoaster,” Williams said of acting. “You may have been the star of a television series for five years and everybody loved you and you were a household name, and then you might not work for 10 or 15 years — not through your own fault but because your ‘type’ isn’t being hired or there are no roles in our age range.”
The statistics have been shared before. Female characters fill only 28.7% of all speaking roles in film, according to one study. Another called seniors “an endangered species in cinematic storytelling” after finding that only 11% of speaking roles in the top 100 films of 2015 were characters over 60.
But the figures translate into real issues for working actors.
“Our older actors — many of whom are well known but haven’t been able to work for a period of time, maybe can’t pay their rent or buy their food, we are there with emergency assistance,” Williams said.
Williams said Hilary Swank is among the actors who have been spoken about using the foundation’s programs in the early days of her career.
“[Swank] came to the SAG Foundation and got rent money to get an apartment,” Williams said. “You never know. You really never know.”
Funds raised from the auction will also benefit a number of the charity’s children’s literacy programs.
The auction ends December 18.