When you decide that you want to become an actor, you always imagine that you’re the next big thing. You imagine that you’re Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, or Gerard Butler. You see yourself as the leading man. The Hero. The guy who rides in on a white horse and saves the damsel in distress while making a funny joke that shows how cool you are under pressure while an explosion goes off behind you that you don’t notice.
You never imagine yourself as Gomer Pile or Ernest P. Worrell. You never see youself as the goofy screw up, or the gay best friend, or the annoying older sister and you certainly didn’t become an actor to portray such demeaning roles.
On Monday, I posted How to be an Extra. Right after I did so, I got a message asking me how to become a principal actor. They wanted to know how to get a leading role. The problem with that question? There are a million answers. There’s no one way to break into the industry today. Granted, there are things to do that will increase your chances of being successful.
The first I’d say, is to be a character actor.
I used to work in casting. When we started casting the film, the director didn’t even want one leading man. The project had dozens of actors in it and every character in the film was either old, ugly, stupid, or evil. Everyone was a character actor.
That’s the thing with LA and NY especially. There are thousands of extremely attractive men and women that have more talent in their pinky than you have in your whole family and those people aren’t even getting booked!
In an interview at the Sunscreen Film Festival, Alexa Vega from Spy Kids said that she hated pilot season. She said that every audition that she went to had hundreds of girls that looked just like her, but were even more attractive. This confounded me. This was a very pretty girl with tons of experience and all the connections in the world. How could she not get a role?
What would I do? Find someone honest around you. Get someone who won’t lie to you and tell them that you won’t be angry, but they need to answer this question honestly:
“What roles can I play?”
They’ll answer one of two ways.
- You’re a leading man
- You’re a great garbage truck driver
OK, so there may be more roles than garbage truck driver, but you get the idea. Are you a dad? Are you a nerd? Are you the school bully?
If you’re the leading man, then fine. GO TO THE GYM. You need to get an edge on every other handsome devil in town.
However, if you’re a character, then you just have to fit that role better. If you can figure out what kind of character actor you are, you immediately have a jump on so many people. You’ll know what makes you different. You’ll know what characters you can play and you’ll know how to talk, dress, and act like those characters.
A friend of mine with long black hair told me, the other day, that he was going to cut all his hair off and then try to get an agent. I almost slapped him in the face. Why cut off the thing that that differentiates you from everyone else? Instead of going against 3,000 other actors with short spiked hair, he’ll be competing with 300 other actors with long black hair. Personally, I like those odds much better.
Find your look. Make yourself different. If you’re a funny fat guy, then don’t lose weight! You can always change your look once you’ve established yourself. This is just a way to jump start your career…