When it comes to stage shows and film production, many actors have been renowned for taking on smoking roles – whether ex-smokers, current smokers or non-smokers. For the health-conscious actors, avoiding period dramas is one of the best ways to ensure that you do not have to smoke on stage, but while most audition papers will explain whether or not smoking is required, there are some productions which do opt for alternatives to help actors mimic smoking instead of smoking real cigarettes. While an e-cigarette can be an ideal alternative for smokers in real-life due to the flavoursome vape liquid that can be found and the health benefits, this isn’t necessarily the best option for on-stage productions as the look of vaping smoke is entirely different to that of cigarette smoke. Here, we’re taking a look at how actors tend to mimic smoking on stage.
This is one of the most popular options for many actors due to the cigarettes being far more pleasant taste wise than a traditional cigarette. Mad Men is a key example of a show which utilises herbal cigarettes, and this is often much easier for actors to handle – particularly when it comes to smoking on stage. Herbal cigarettes can be made from a number of different ingredients, including vanilla, ginseng, clover, and rose petals, and while there are still a number of chemicals included in these herbal variants, they lack the addictive nicotine quality of a typical cigarette. Herbal cigarettes also appear far more realistic further heightening the atmosphere of the production, and in New York it is legal to smoke herbal cigarettes on stage – whereas regular cigarettes are banned.
Some productions tend to opt for unlit cigarettes as opposed to regular cigarettes in order to ensure that the entire set appears realistic. Many viewing the show will be unable to tell the difference between a lit and an unlit cigarette due to the distance between the seats and the crowd, and actors do not have to put themselves through smoking the cigarette themselves. This is particularly beneficial for non-smokers or ex-smokers who do not want to slip back into the habit or who have reverted to e-cigarettes as a heathier alternative.
While herbal cigarettes and unlit cigarettes are often the preferred options for actors to mimic smoking, fake cigarettes can also be utilised – however these can appear very fake up close. Despite this, some well-made fake cigarettes can be deceiving to the eye and appear very real from a distance, which makes them even more preferred than an unlit cigarette. Some fake cigarettes can also mimic the look of burning from what a lit cigarette would appear. The only difference is that the cigarette would not reduce in size. Some fake cigarettes can even produce a ‘smoking’ effect when puffed, further heightening the look of a real cigarette.
Actors of all ages are able to escape the burden of smoking on stage with some of the listed methods above. While this will entirely depend on the production itself and the look the director wants to achieve, the methods listed above can be very beneficial for both the production and the actors.