ON ACTING: Living Dangerously
To begin with, acting occurs in a safe, accepting environment. When watching a a performance in a play or film, the audience doesn't judge the actor according to the ethics or morals of the character they are playing. All the audience asks is that they play the role performed fully , engagingly and excitingly. Once the performance is over, the actor--and the societal judgement that may apply to the character--never attaches to the actor.
Acting is the ultimate 'one night stand.' An acting performance has no social consequences...other than failure to engage the audience. Danger in acting exists only emotionally, never factually in any consequential societal sense; and for only a short time. There are no long term everyday life consequences other than a brief period of deep feeling. No ones ever gotten fired for having acted angrily to a character wife or an onstage boss, gotten pregnant from loving too sexually onstage, or committed suicide from living the character’s the depths of despair.
Moreover, acting is an intermittent occupation (some wags call it a lifetime of unemployment occasionally broken up by a job). There is plenty of down time to rest up from an emotionally demanding role. Even when working in the most arduous emotional circumstances, it is a union protected job (at least for union members). Even during the most demanding acting role, SAG (the actor’s film union) legislates a twelve hour ‘turnaround’ time; time to rest between leaving the set and being required to return to the set. In theater, rest periods during rehearsal are required by the theater actor's union, Actor's Equity.
Finally, living dangerously on stage may be exhausting and enervating, but it is survivable...and the reason you get paid. A performance in any one scene, no matter how intense, only lasts an incandescent moment or two. Therefore the actor can press himself (and be pressed by ravenous demanding producers, directors and audience) to go beyond his natural and protective hesitancies to achive an above-average, more-than-superficial, creatively extremely intense and varied effort in his acting choices. A long-lasting acting career is the reward for such job behavior.