The Difficulties of Acting With IBS
Last updated: August 2023
While on a movie, or TV show, us background actors, and principals, are given "lunch," a mandatory meal that’s supposed to be offered 6 hours after our breakfast, which is supposed to be 2 hours after we arrive to set.
As a member of the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG), these are privileges that I’ve grown accustomed to. Two free meals a day? Score! Especially ones that aren’t prepared by me–even better! Just another day I don’t have to enjoy a spoonful of peanut butter. (I’m just lazy, and don’t really cook for fear of poisoning myself forever.
Eating carefully on set with IBS
We never know what foods we’re going to get on set. We usually don't know our options until we get to the serving table or food truck. I usually try and go for the least offensive dish, meaning no seafood, less heavy on the red meats, and cheese. But often, I don’t have that liberty. So, I load up on Imodium.
Rather than risk it – or just not eating on a film set that can go on for 15 hours – I’ll pop my no-poop pills and enjoy some catered spaghetti, salad, bacon egg and cheese biscuit, and maybe a cookie to boot.
The IBS gurgles before acting
It was on a particular build-your-own-taco plate where I found myself confronted with those all too familiar gurgles.
See, this was my second day on set with back-to-back days. I had taken Imodium previously, and had zero issues. No bloating, no nothing. Just some smooth meals and yummy rainbow cake (YUM).
But, it had been about 30 hours and I hadn’t dropped my kids off at the pool yet, if you know what I mean. Knowing my body, I knew that after this meal, one would reveal itself. I just hoped it would be at a convenient time.
I enjoyed my sloppy tacos, avoiding sour cream just in case, and sat there waiting, dressed as a soldier for the play Macbeth in a TV show drama pilot airing on CBS. Twenty minutes go by...nothing. Thirty... nothing.
It was 35 minutes before some PAs (production assistants) told us we were to back on stage in 5 minutes. Perfect...Didn’t get to poop.
I walked with the rest of the play members, went to my position upstage with the other soldiers, and began my march.
Take one, take two... dang, how many takes do we need? This is network television after-all.
The urge to use the restroom
I felt a slight pain and hoped it would relieve itself. "Sometimes it does," I tried tricking myself, as if it doesn’t escalate. Knowing full well it always does. And it did. My tummy swelled and I felt that knock at the door.
“Not yet,” I said. In order to appease this unworthy butt demon, I unleashed a toot that could have killed a horse. I inhaled, and tried moving around a bit, dissipating the stick and hoping my playmates wouldn’t notice.
"Man, they keep doing this scene over and over again and we super can’t be seen!" I said in jest. Their chuckles meant only one thing: Stink averted! Nobody would joke with me knowing I was some sort of toilet ridden fart goblin.
These were some long winded farts that meant only one thing. It was here. The thing I was keeping away for almost 2 days now.
I started to panic, and sweat. My hands got clammy as I weighed my options.
“The camera is on the second floor balcony," I told myself.
Maybe I could just sneak out, or ask the second assistant director in the wings if I could leave and take a 10-1, as they call it in the business. Take after take, march after march, step after step, I held it in, shaking my hand and bouncing up and down, trying to take my mind off my tummy and fantasize about the one thing I needed: Just a beautiful toilet.
Restroom relief while
“CUT, checking the gate, we’re moving on!” I heard from above, like some sort of restroom angel.
The second AD said, “Alright everyone, great work, now you can go back to holding and take a break.”
My eyes nearly filled with tears as I hurriedly dropped off my prop and rushed to the restroom. It was the best moment of my entire life. I want to thank the academy and everyone who got me here!
It’s times like those where I held it in, used my coping methods and got away by the skin of my teeth (gross idiom for a poop story). It’s grateful times like there wherein I reflect and appreciate that it could have been worse, and it has been worst. But here, on this day, I made it.
Have you ever tried acupuncture to relieve IBS symptoms?