Every vegan faces challenges and, as Kevin reveals, even in the glamorous world of acting it’s not always easy.
The year was 2016 and as a new vegan I had just booked my first commercial of the year for a technology company in San Francisco, California. Before 2016, I was an avid meat-eater, who weighed 210 pounds and ate hamburgers almost every day.
I live about an hour from San Francisco, California, therefore I know S.F. happens to be one of the best places to be vegan in the United States. However, getting up and ready by 5am to be on set by 6am meant no time for breakfast the morning I woke up to shoot this commercial. Not thinking twice about it, I hurried along to set with a rumbling stomach, ready to dive into whatever vegan food they had waiting for me.
Typically, if I have booked a role: the company I am filming for will ask me if I have any ‘dietary restrictions’, but this company did not. When I arrived to set I quickly parked my car, hurried into hair and makeup, discussed scene details with the director and producers, and then started bonding with my scene partner. I felt like I was ready for the day until I remembered I hadn’t eaten anything at all and, looking at the time, over an hour had flown by since I arrived on set.
When you’re on a smaller set with fewer people, you typically want to eat something before doing pretty much anything. The reason for this is to get a good overview of the best food options before they start disappearing. However, I was already an hour behind that schedule. Nonetheless, I was excited to eat whatever they had available for me to devour.
When I found the craft services table, my mouth literally felt as if it had just dropped to the floor in disbelief. Looking at the display of food they offered, the food options were: eggs, bacon, pre-buttered toast, slices of cheese and black coffee. Not a single fruit, vegetable, pot of houmous or even non-dairy creamer in sight. Apparently, they did have a small container of orange juice, but unfortunately it ran out before I got there.
Egg and cheese or a job
Throughout that entire day, my stomach was continuously rumbling as I kept asking the director and production assistants to buy me at least one small bowl of fruit from anywhere close to set; since they told me they didn’t want me leaving the set because I had already checked in. Sadly enough, I ended almost losing the role entirely that day because I ran down to a local grocery market in-between scenes to buy myself two apples and a granola bar.
Due to this, the director thought I was being too snobby, because I refused to eat an egg and cheese sandwich he had made “just for Kevin” at the craft services table. Although I thanked him and told him I couldn’t have anything with eggs or milk in it, he still thought I was disrespectful and told me that if we weren’t almost done filming I’d have been out of the job for lack of courtesy.
Ever since that day, I vowed I would never let something like that happen again. My agent lets every company that offers me a role know that I’m vegan. To help me out further, my agent came up with the idea to also provide them with a definition of the term to make sure they understand what vegans actually eat. Unfortunately, I do still book a good portion of roles where the only vegan options they may have on set for breakfast, lunch and dinner is fruit, chips and salsa or just seared tofu during these 8-10 hour set days.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a slow change in food options offered on set. The last role I filmed had good vegan food options, although it helped that we filmed in a real restaurant known for its vegan options.
As much as vegans are definitely still not welcomed with a full seat at the table, veganism is on the rise. I’m excited to see how it will influence the entertainment industry. Maybe even one day I won’t get dropped from a role just because I do not eat meat; and if you’re wondering, yes that has happened to me before, but that’s a story for another time.
Photos © Angelica Shao
Find Kevin on Instagram and Twitter @KevinCoBlack