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“Dear Remy”: Hollywood Career Coach Gives Advice to a Henpecked Star and a Reluctant Sitcom Actor

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Will My Wife’s Domestic Demands Damage My Image?

Dear Remy,

At first, it was just texts with the usual requests partners send each other—”pick up the dry cleaning”; “we’re out of diapers”; “I’m on my way home”; “could you lay out my slippers?’

Sure, my wife could have asked her PA or the housekeeper. And yes, the tone was a little rude and demanding. But it felt like she was playing at us being a normal couple (rather than two award-winning film actors with a sizeable staff). And I thought I could detect a hint of domination in there too. I didn’t say anything because I found it sort of sweet and even a little sexy.

I should have said something to nip it in the bud — my wife had never before treated me like an underling. I hoped the whole thing was just a phase — like the time she got into Zumba or started collecting exotic house plants.

But then things escalated. She would page me with announcements in public spaces, for the world to hear. We’d be at my parents’ country club, and I’d hear over the tannoy: “Would Dave (not my real name) help his wife with the bags in the parking lot?” Or at our department store I’d hear: “Dave, please head to the kitchen section — your wife wants you to pick out oven mitts.”

Just recently, my wife has taken these demands to a whole new level with cute asks via her socials like “Hey Dave, come home already — the kids are waiting for their bedtime story,” despite the fact we employ two nannies. She has millions of followers, and now they all know I do a great Elmo impression.

I know my wife is proud of everything I’ve achieved as an actor, and she’s also super successful in her own right, so I don’t think she’s threatened by my elevation in the industry. She and I have always shared parental duties, and I wouldn’t dream of texting her domestic demands. Let alone paging her requests or broadcasting them on social media. I dread to think what she’ll do next. Go on Oprah to give me my list of chores?

I feel I should have more of a sense of humor about these incursions, but my friends and colleagues have started to rib me about them. I’m worried my reputation as an actor with “throw down energy” (how my agent refers to masculinity: apparently I have it, and Eddie Redmayne doesn’t) will be imperceptibly damaged.

If I raise this with my wife, will it further emasculate me?

Dear Henpecked,

First off, kudos for handling this with a modicum of grace and humor — qualities every actor and husband should aspire to. Your predicament is a classic one, blending the comedic with the genuinely perplexing.

I’m not a relationship coach, but I do feel that it’s important for you to explore what’s really going on here.

When you and your wife next have a quiet moment alone together, there are three open questions you may want to ask her:

1. What are you getting from me that you want more of?
2. What are you getting from me that you want less of?
3. What are you not getting from me that you want?

All that is required of you in asking these questions is a little acting. No matter what she says, do not show any emotion. This will create a safe space in which your wife will hopefully open up.

She may say she wants more alone time — react as if she said, “I want to take up the banjo.” Or she may say she wants more physical intimacy — imagine she has just said, “I want more cookies.” React impassively. And always be sure to follow up whatever she says with, “…And what else would you like more/less of.

Your job here is to mine (as for gold) under the surface for any long-festering resentments. It may seem daunting, but this is where so-called masculinity should come to bear.

I’m curious what it is your partner really wants from you. Given the retinue of domestic staff you currently employ, it seems unlikely that it’s tea towels or help with the children.

Also, consider this: your friends and colleagues might be ribbing you, but they’re also watching how you handle it. Every time you laugh it off or turn it into a joke, you’re reinforcing your image as someone confident enough to not take themselves too seriously. And that, my friend, is the essence of true “throw down energy.”

If you can, try to embrace the absurdity and have a laugh with your wife about it. Her actions may come off as embarrassing, but they’re also endearing in a quirky, offbeat kind of way. Let your fans and friends see that behind every great actor is a partner who knows how to keep them grounded — and perhaps slightly off-balance.

Illustration by Russ Tudor

Chekhov or Sitcoms — I Can’t Decide

Dear Remy,

When  I went to drama school many decades ago, my cherished goal was to be in the theater — I saw myself doing Tennessee Williams or David Mamet. Instead, to the green-eyed fury of my classmates, I landed a role in a TV sitcom.

While it was not the dream of my formative years, I comforted myself with the thought that in the ’90s, sitcoms WERE theater. Had Chekhov been around then, would he not have written something like The Golden Girls or Everybody Loves Raymond?

Moreover, it has set my family up nicely. We have a home which the team from Selling Sunset would chew off their Manolo Blahniks to market. It even has a plunge pool.

Now, as I approach my twilight years, I had hoped to finally knock on theater’s door — perhaps is still time for my Mrs. Havisham or Mary Tyrone.

However, my agent has just come to me with an offer to reboot my old sitcom. Apparently, classic IP is all the rage at the moment. I find myself in a quandary. Should I return to my old part, or plump for my long-held board-treading dreams? I have a terrible gambling habit, so the first would seem most fiscally responsible.

Dear Sitcom Thespian,

Returning to your TV role, especially given your personal financial concerns, could provide stability and ease any immediate fiscal pressures. 

However, might pursuing your passion for theater not only fulfill a lifelong dream but potentially redefine your artistic legacy?

If you have to pick just one, you could try this simple exercise: Place a small box, marked “Theater” at one end of a room, and another box, marked “Sitcom” at the other end of the room. Slowly approach each box. One baby step represents the passage of a year. Notice what feelings arise in your body as you move towards a future of “Theater” and what feelings arise in your body as you approach “Sitcom?” Be guided by which choice feels “right.

And here’s a thought: why not both? Morning sitcom, evening Chekhov. Angela Lansbury, Kelsey Grammer, Neil Patrick Harris and Taye Diggs all balanced successful television careers with flourishing roles in theater. 

Whatever you decide, remember: Every great character has layers, and it’s never too late to show off a new one — even if it’s wearing period costume.

Break a leg (or a slot machine).

How can I stop being just another member of my mom’s “entourage”?

Dear Remy,

My Mother is a very influential music artist. She has always dreamed of us performing together, and last year I finally gave in and joined her on stage. Now she wants to make this a regular thing.

How can I tell my Mother I actually want to be an archeologist? She has long assumed that following in her footsteps — to find world domination via catchy tunes and dazzling hairography — is my passion. I am much more interested in excavating the grasslands north of Ulaanbaatar looking for the much fabled “Mongol Bog Man.” But where to even start that conversation? Remy, she is a very overbearing woman, used to having her own way — how can I get her to stop viewing me as just another member of her “entourage”?

Dear Future Archeologist,

It sounds like your Mom is a strong, passionate woman. You certainly are in no doubt about her needs and wants.

But does she know how you feel? Have you powerfully expressed your own passion for archaeology to her? At your next movie night (I assume you have a home cinema), why not screen a Lara Croft or Indiana Jones film to ease her into the idea?

If, as you say, you want your mother to stop treating you like another member of her entourage, my advice would be to stop acting like one. Quit serving your mom’s needs and communicate your own. Speak up.

The parent-child relationship can easily become inverted. Have you, perhaps, become the mother to your parent? If, once you’re clear with her about your intention to go hunt for the Bog Man of Ulaanbaatar or explore irrigation systems in ancient Mesopotamia, your mom still insists on you singing alongside her, maybe she needs a time-out on the naughty step?

Remy Blumenfeld is a veteran TV producer and founder of Vitality Guru, which offers business and career coaching to high performers in media. Send queries to: [email protected].

Questions edited by Sarah Mills.

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