And thanks for reading! There is a lot of mythology surrounding acting and most of us believe at least one of them. This week let’s debunk some acting myths!
Just a reminder here that when I use the term “actor” I mean it to encompass all forms of acting including voice, stage, and screen. What follows applies relatively equally to all of these forms of acting.
The myths of acting
Sitting on your couch binging Netflix is a great way to be entertained, especially during a global pandemic (let’s hope THAT’S behind us in 2023!) and may make you want to be an actor. Actors and non-actors alike have likely heard many of the myths that follow, and maybe even believe them. What follows are 10 common acting myths you may have heard, and reasons why they are myths and not facts! There are a lot more, but these are the 10 I chose to talk about. So, let’s just jump right in!
Background (BG) work leads to principal roles.
OK, so this misleading bit of tomfoolery gets passed around pretty often. It’s true and can be verified by our friend Mr. Google, that many of the famous actors you know and love once worked as background actors. The thing is, none of them were “discovered” as BG actors. Working in BG is a great way to learn your way around set, make a few bucks and get an idea what the life of a principal actor is like. While it is possible to pick up a line or two (rarely), working as a BG actor is not likely to get you discovered and help you move into speaking roles. While I was able to find many examples of famous actors who once worked as BG, I was unable to find a single example of an actor being noticed by CD’s, producers or directors.
Actors are born, not made
Ummmm…no. Talk to any well-known actor or VO artist and you will find that each and every one of them has put in countless hours of training and practice to become the actor they are. Having some natural acting ability is certainly a plus, but even starting off with no natural ability won’t stop you from being a working professional actor. Acting is a learned skill…after all, acting is, according to Meisner, just (Just…LOL) “Behaving naturally in fictional circumstances”. Acting is living, even if it is living in a fictional universe. We all know how to live; the key is learning out how to live within the framework of the fictional world.
You have to be young and attractive to become an actor
Seriously, I don’t understand how this keeps going around. First of all, watch TV and movies…you see every type of person being portrayed, because these productions are attempting to depict a real (even if fictional) world…that every kind of person inhabits. And if you are into VO? Who CARES what you look like! My mom said I have a face for radio, and I STILL have managed to book a number of on-screen gigs. I didn’t even start till I was 60 years old!
You need an agent to be successful
A lot of people believe that signing with an agent will propel them to stardom pretty quickly. They are sorely disappointed when reality sets in. Having an agent is not a bad thing, and agents generally have access to bigger roles than we do as actors…but the agent doesn’t book your roles, you do…so if you are not booking roles on your own, an agent isn’t going to magically make a producer hire you. The unhappy truth here is that an agent is not likely to even consider signing you unless you are already booking work on your own (they only get paid when you get paid!) and even after you sign with one you need to keep hustling on your own if you want to be successful.
You need connections to make it big
Sure, having some connections to people in the industry doesn’t hurt…just look at all the “legacy” actors who have followed in their parents and siblings’ footsteps. Connections help, but not having connections won’t prevent you from making it as an actor. I’ve said it many times, relationships in this industry are foundational, but you don’t have to start with them; you can build them over time. Get involved in your local acting community, join groups on social media for the type of acting you want to do. This is the way to meet people in the industry and start building relationships. Just remember, building relationships starts with how you can help them, not the other way around.
Introverts can’t become actors.
I’d love to put a BIG RED X (a la Family Feud) on this one! Again, Mr. Google is helpful here. Click the link and see if you recognize any of the names right at the top of the page: Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks…these are just the first three on the list. It’s also true that many successful actors are extroverts, but it is not essential to being a successful actor. You bring a bit of yourself to every role, and you just have to find the roles that are best for you and your personality. And when your character is an introvert, who better to portray them than an actor who is an introvert!
Actors are “starving”
We’ve all heard of, or may even know, a “starving artist”. The problem with this myth is that there is a grain of truth to it. Particularly when just starting out, most actors will need a survival job in order to make ends meet. It is extremely unlikely (although not completely unheard of) to begin your acting career and immediately earn enough money to support yourself. The simple truth is if you put in the work and keep putting yourself out there you can become successful (not talking about fame here) and be able to fully support yourself with an acting career. There are many, many, non-famous actors making a good living with their craft!
Voice actors are not “real” actors
I love (HATE) this one! Let’s start by setting the record straight: Voice Artists are actors. If you want to “get into” voice over, first “get into” some acting classes (along with VO classes, because while it IS acting, it is a different kind of acting from stage or screen acting). Of course, the most obvious difference is you can see a stage or screen actor and not a voice actor. The truth is just because you can’t see them doing it, a voice actor behind the mic, if they are any good, is presenting the same facial expressions and some of the same gestures as any other actor…and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to “hear” those expressions. Voice actors are real actors.
There are rules and rituals to follow for success
Most of us have our rituals or things we believe will help us along our career path like always making sure to send a thank you, mailing postcards every six months ad infinitum. The truth is a career as an actor is very unpredictable and there is no formula for a one-size-fits-all path to success. If that were true every actor would follow the same path, and all would eventually be a success. Instead of looking for some magic formula try working on honing your skills as an actor and figure out what works for you. Acting is art, and art is both individual and unique. If you want to be successful, find out what makes you unique and highlight that.
Fame is success
If you are acting because you want to be famous, I have bad news for you: only .001% of all actors become famous. The good news though, is that fame does not equal success in this business. If you are an actor because you want to be famous, then perhaps you need to find another line of work. While fame certainly means you have been successful, being successful doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be famous. There are thousands of successful actors, people you see or hear all the time, who are not famous. Truth is, success means something different to each person, so figure out what success looks like for you and pursue THAT.
And there you have it!
Ten acting myths debunked. If you can think of more, stick them in the comments section below, but remember: They call them myths for a reason. We’re all individuals with an individual path and an individual goal. Don’t just follow someone else, find out what works for you in pursuit of your acting goals and just keep working it!