Actors are never short on collecting advice, whether it’s from a fellow actor, teacher, director, your hairdresser, plumber, that customer that only left 10%, or your Aunt Claire; “I just love that Julia Roberts, you should get her agent to represent you.” (Thanks, Aunt Claire)… you get the idea. But a lot of the advice we receive is about the craft, how to get an agent, whose workshop is really hot, blah, blah, blah. What about how to thrive as an artist? How to balance your life? Be an actor people want to work with again? How to keep your soul alive? Or how to stay fresh?
Over my decade in the trenches, this is by far, the BEST advice I’ve received to date on how to be an actor.
Get a life.
It’s hard to be an interesting/likeable/castable actor when you are completely boring. Trust me, no agent or casting director wants to hear about how many classes you’re taking, or that you found a perfect monologue, or how you really just ‘got it’ during that Viewpoints workshop the other day. They want to know what makes you special and not just like every other actor that walked through their door that day. Go to new places, learn how to cook, get a hobby, fall in love, make babies and live your life. Then wow them with how you speak three different languages, dated a descendant of Ernest Hemingway, and deliver babies in Guatemala during your free time. Not only will you stand out- but you’ll live a much more fulfilling life.
Tip Your Dresser.
I’ve never had an official dresser before, so at first, I had no idea what this meant. Basically, be nice to people. In fact, be nice to EVERYONE. Buy the costume department coffee. Say thank you to the guy who goes up your shirt to mic you each day. Make friends with the gaffers, the set designers, the sound guys, etc. Not only do you never know what assistant may be your future agent/director/producer one day- but it just feels good to do good and put all that positive energy out there.
Don’t audition for them anymore, do it for yourself.
It’s easy to get in your head trying to figure out what you think that “they” want, and then end up going crazy making choices that aren’t true to yourself. Sometimes, you just have to say, screw it and do the monologue you really want, sing the song you love, and read the copy the way your instincts tell you- even though it goes against the direction they gave. When we listen to our gut and do what we love, it radiates out and gets attention- sometimes it even books the job, but ultimately we leave feeling satisfied.
Know what’s going on in the world.
Watch the news, read books, see plays, go to museums. Step out of your comfort zone. If you only listen to pop music, try listening to country for a week. Download a new podcast, read a book that you normally would have never thought to read. When we step out of our daily routines and explore new areas of music, literature, and culture, we explore new sides of our personalities; thus, creating new and exciting characters, which makes for a more dynamic life, which makes for more dynamic art.
Never compare, never despair.
Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to your friends and peers. The rain falls on all of us, the sun shines on all of us. Be genuinely ecstatic when your colleague books that gig. Share their successes with the world, be a cheerleader. Not only does it feel a million times better to celebrate someone rather than pouting, but, those good vibes will come back your way.
Rejection never goes away.
It’s a cold reality but one we must embrace. Just picture your favorite movie stars, Broadway divas, and television actors- they all still get rejected! Doesn’t that make you feel better? Huh? Huh? Maybe not. But just remember we all deal with it, it’s part of the package. So figure out what works for you- a trip to the beach, journaling, kickboxing, or Haagen-Dazs. Whatever it is, find what works so you can put your rejection behind you in order to move forward.
Create your own work
Whether it’s a basement cabaret, a sketch video, a one-person show or a podcast. Do it! It doesn’t matter if that agent you’ve been dying to get in front of turns up for opening night or not. What matters is you’re creating and keeping your passion alive. Regardless if you realize it or not, you’re putting something out there and something eventually will come back from it.