And thanks for reading! Think you’re too old, too young, too fat, too skinny, too SOMEthing to become a successful actor? Think again! There’s a role for everyone!
And let’s be clear
Voice acting IS acting, regardless of how some people may think. I hate it when someone says something like: “Oh, they’re just a voice actor, they are not a real actor”. HOGWASH! True, stage and screen acting are not exactly like voice acting, they encompass movement and form that people can see. Voice acting relies on those movements and forms to affect your voice and how you sound. So, this discussion is about acting, and as such it INCLUDES voice actors.
Can anyone act?
Sure…of course! Honestly LIFE is acting if you think about it, and acting is about portraying life, so it makes sense. Do you behave differently at work than you do at home? With your kids? With you friends? Of course, we all (or nearly all) do. So yes, anyone can be an actor…because we all already are.
Can everyone be a good actor?
DUH…no! But everyone can become a good (if not great) actor with patience and a LOT of practice. Learning the mechanics of acting is fairly easy and straightforward. There are a lot of drama and acting schools scattered across the country, and there is surely one near wherever you live. You no longer have to live in NYC or LA to find a good acting school. Acting is a skill that can be developed and improved over time.
Do I need to be a good actor to find work as an actor?
The short answer is no. As a matter of fact, most actors start out their careers as mediocre actors at best. Now, the odds of being able to support yourself as an actor at first are slim. Ever heard the term “starving artist”? It’s a real thing, and what drives some actors to quit. But you can work, and earn some money, early in your career. I watched a documentary not long ago where they interviewed John Voight (You’ve heard of him, right?) where he talked about one of his first roles and how badly he performed. But he kept learning, and practicing and now he’s…well, he’s John Voight!
The truth is…
The real truth of acting, though, is this: You have never heard of most professional actors who ARE supporting themselves with acting. The VAST majority of actors are NOT famous. Take a close look at your favorite movies or TV shows or cartoons. How many of the actors can you name…maybe 2-3, right? Now go back and look at how MANY actors there actually are (and remember every person you see or hear is an actor…they really don’t just record random people…ever).
But I’m too…
You have to fill in the blank for you, but here are some I’ve heard: I’m too fat. I’m too skinny. I’m too old. I’m too tall. My voice is too high. My voice is too unusual. Balderdash! None of these are true, and even if they are they will not keep you from becoming an actor, or a SUCCESFUL actor. Ever heard Gilbert Godfrey speak? His voice is too something for sure, yet he not only was a successful actor and comedian, he also voiced numerous roles for TV and movies.
Watch and listen with a different perspective
Next time you are watching a movie or show, pay attention to what characters are being portrayed. Pay particular attention to the non-main characters. Are they all thin and attractive? OK, so everyone is attractive to some degree and definitely to someone…but you know what I mean. The answer is no…the characters are portraying “real” people (even when they are fictional). You see people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicity, and gender. You hear people with voices that include every pitch, octave, and accent (and yeah, everyone has an accent…but you only notice when it’s different than yours).
If you watch/listen from this perspective, odds are you are going to find actors that have the same “I’m too” that you do. If they can do it, why can’t you? Too short? Check out Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones fame. Too fat? Check out Kevin James. Too old? Have you heard of Betty White? I could keep going. Productions portray the reality of the world around us (for the most part), even while they show us fictional worlds and situations.
Suspension of disbelief
Here’s the trick: In order to enjoy a movie, podcast, audiobook, or TV show it is required that the viewer or listener suspend their disbelief. In order to accomplish that, everything surrounding the fantastic fictional elements has to appear or sound like reality. If not, it pulls you out of the entertainment and causes you to stop the suspension of disbelief. So, if you are a real person, you are already represented in the things you watch and listen to…you might as be the one representing you!
So how do you get started?
Your first step is to find classes either near you or available virtually. Personally, I prefer the in-person classes now that we are able to have them because it gives you the chance to interact with other actors in class in the same physical space. I think it is better, but you may think otherwise…you gotta do you. A good acting or voice over teacher/coach will start by having you perform something and will assess where you are and what help you need. And we ALL need help, but that’s another topic for another time.
Get an agent
NOPE! Wrong! BIG RED X (ala Family Feud). You actually don’t even need and agent to be successful, but certainly not at the start. The next thing to do is to ACT in something. Find a local community theater group (they usually struggle to find actors, so it is “easier” to get cast in them) if you are interested in stage. Or look for independent or student films looking to cast in your area and submit for roles. Get on ACX and audition for small books to get your feet wet. And then DO it…if nothing else you’ll learn whether or not you even like acting!
It’s not how you think it is
The truth is, while anyone CAN be an actor, not everyone should. And I’m not talking about talent here. The truth of being an actor is a lot less glamorous than it seem from the outside. Acting means long days and a LOT of work. Voice acting means closing yourself up in your closet sized booth for hours on end and talking to yourself – then learning audio engineering so you can produce it yourself. It’s not glamorous, but for me (and most of the people I talk to who do this for a living) it is FUN. If you aren’t having fun, you should not be an actor.
Here’s an example
I was actually on a film set a couple hours from home yesterday. Here’s how it went. Call time was 12:30 PM, I showed up at 12:15 because, well…Navy. Checked in with the producer, then headed to wardrobe to get my costume. After dressing out, off to hair and makeup (HMU) to take care of my wholly uncooperative hair and cover up the three blemishes from where I cut myself shaving (Why does that always happen when I am headed to set?). Once finished with HMU, headed over to the holding area to meet and chat with the other actors I’d be working with that day. An hour later (still chatting) lunch was delivered, and we all ate. THREE AND A HALF HOURS after that, we moved to a remote location to shoot “my” scene. That took about an hour and a half. Then we wrapped, changed, said goodbye and headed home. Total elapsed time: seven hours. Total work time one and a half hours.
First, I’m not complaining, just being real. I am an extrovert, so I truly enjoyed meeting and talking to a bunch of new people for roughly 6 hours. But here’s the other part: It was HOT, and I was in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. I was semi-uncomfortable, but I had a GREAT time anyway. Plus, the piece was set in the 1930’s so there were some AWESOME vehicles to check out, and I actually got to ride in one…so yeah, a long day for a little work but a great day nonetheless.
My point here is this: In my mind, if you want to be a professional actor, the ONLY thing that should keep you from pursuing it is the fact that it is not enjoyable…for you…personally. Let go of all the negative self-image stuff that might be holding you back and go for it. Remember: There is a role for everyone.
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I love this quote –> it takes courage to stand alone in your beliefs’. Entering this industry with even just minimal experience is a start into a life that may just fulfill that ‘dream’ of work as an actor/actress. So, deep breath, and walk onto the ‘stage’ for your piece of the pie. Most of all, have fun even if for a moment. Awesome info!
Gary Mason says
Yep…fun in this industry can definitely be overshadowed by doubts. But it IS fun, and it IS for everyone who wants it. I’ve been surprised by the number of roles available for an older “weathered” man such as myself. Put in the effort, learn the craft and you TOO can be a working actor! I think some of the problem is there are those who think you aren’t “successful” in this industry unless you are the marquis talent, and that can’t be farther from the truth!
don’t you find those with ‘unrealistic expectations’ are the worst ‘critics’? people need kindness in this world, there’s enough ugly. Perspectives really important and definitely need to let criticism of skeptics fall off like ‘water on a duck’. 🙂