I used to believe that being an actor wasn’t really a job. Mostly because I started as a child performer in community theater and then spent my college years in theater. It was always a hobby. But I never knew how to become a professional actor and neither did anyone in my family, school, town or county. So when I declared to my family that I wanted to be an actor, they generally thought that I didn’t want to work. They didn’t consider acting to be work. Even if I were a series regular, they would still look upon me as someone who decided not to work for a living and then got lucky. And I believed that malarky too! I grew up in that mindset - that acting was not a job. Even more sinister, I always equated my Dad with a low work ethic and didn’t particularly like that side of him, so to be seen as similar to that made me squirm. Because of that, on a deep level, I could never let myself devote 100% of my resources to being an actor.
But I recently had to talk sense to myself. I started to think about all the ways in which being a professional actor is not only a real job, but one of the hardest ones out there!
I now believe that being an actor is the hardest job in the world. I have to keep my body in shape. Who else besides actors, dancers and athletes has to keep their body in shape? That means a daily diet and exercise regimen. 24/7. School teachers, bankers and cops never have to equate their physical appearance with getting a paycheck. I know that good looks opens doors in every industry, but actors spend their lives knocking on those doors.
I have to be able to act on stage, on tv, on film and in commercials. Each of those require a unique set of skills and I have to be proficient in them all. Voice overs too.
The hours are incredibly long. 15-hour days are common and for 13 and 1/2 of those hours I’m waiting. And when they call me to set I’ve got to be vulnerable enough with my emotions to give a performance. And if you think it’s easy to be vulnerable with your emotions in front of dozens of strangers and on the clock, you should think about that some more.
The emotional fortitude required to live through the slow times and still be creative and constructive is enormous. Again, this job takes a toll emotionally as well as physically and mentally.
And last but not least, being an actor is running a business - Me, Inc. I have to know more than a little about running a business and presenting myself as a product, and that includes lots of networking.
There’s also more rejection than non-actors would ever be able to handle.
So for anyone out there who still has to get right in their own mind that being an actor is a tough and noble profession, I hope I’ve helped.