1. We are all famous!
This is the biggest misconception people have about actors. The idea that one could be a ‘working actor’ and not necessarily ‘known’ by the general public is somewhat confusing to some people. Often when I introduce myself as an actor the first question I get asked is “What have I seen you in ?”. It is an innocent question, but often leaves an actor feeling uncomfortable that they cannot meet the expectations of what the person feels should constitute as their success in the chosen field.
2. We are all rich!
Unless you are extremely lucky, most actors will need a survival job, or two to pay the rent while they pursue their careers. It can take years before acting can become the main source of income, and it is also never guaranteed that when it does come it’s going to stay! Actors are essentially freelancers, and as anyone that freelances knows, there is rarely a set salary, and you are always looking for the next gig.
3. We all have representation on our side.
Again, if you’re lucky, and get an agent straight out of drama school, things can happen much quicker and easier. However, most actors, especially those who come from overseas will have to put in a lot of time, and money attending networking events before they find good solid representation. Without an agent/manager it is very hard to get in the door for big auditions, particularly in T.V and Film. An agent is definitely not everything, and actors will always have to work for themselves first and foremost, but having representation is an important step if you want to make acting your chosen career path.
4. We all live in Astoria!
Over the past year I have heard Astoria being referred to as ‘Actoria’ more than once. It is true that a lot of actors live in this area of Queens, mainly because rent is more affordable, and you get a lot more space for your money, but there are other ‘actor inhabited’ communities around the city.
5. We all sing and dance!
There is a big difference between a ‘Musical theatre’ actor and a ‘straight’ actor, and often the two don’t like to be confused with the other !Musical theatre actors will attend a lot more open calls/dance calls, and will generally work a lot more as there are more opportunities for young aspiring actors in this area. In straight theatre you have to work a bit harder to make your impression as someone trying to make your mark. Then there are those who can do both, the ‘triple threats’. If you are a triple threat you have maximum potential to work in all areas of the theatre.
6. We are lazy!
We live in a society that expects immediate results and instant gratification. Therefore, if an actor has been out of work for a while, his/her family will often think they are simple being ‘lazy’ and may even suggest they ‘get a real job’. People don’t understand that we work in an oversaturated market, and if this is the path you really wish to take, you have to pay your dues, and put in the blood sweat and tears. Most actors out there are extremely hardworking. You have to be. Those that are not, will not survive past their first year out of drama school, it is just too hard not to be proactive and determined. There are also a lot more actors producing/writing and directing work in the city now than ever before. You cannot sit around waiting for the phone to ring, sometimes the best way to get out there is by creating your own work.
7. We are extremely competitive with each other.
While there is definitely a level of competition between actors, I have found this to be offset by a wonderful collaborative spirit. Actors know its hard, and any opportunity to come together and create work/help one another out has always been, in my experience met with open arms. Of course we get jealous when our friends are working and we are not, or even worse when our other half is working and we are not, but I believe we ultimately wish eachother well, and it's exciting when somebody close to us begins to work a lot,as long as they are gracious and thankful for the opportunity. There is nothing worse than an ungrateful actor. Al Pacino was quoted as saying to his friends that anytime he got to act was a “great day” even if he didn't get the part, the opportunity to act made it worthwhile. There are so few opportunities that we must treasure any we are given. You have to love this more than anything else to make it a career choice.
8. We will never make it if we haven’t gotten there by 25!
I think this is true for all professions. We are all working against an invisible clock. We think if we are not married, earning $100,000 a year, living in the best apartment, or ready to have children by a certain age that we have somewhat ‘failed’ in the eyes of society. More and more I have to come to realize the ridiculousness of this concept. Life happens in the present moment, and only in the present moment, we never know what’s around the corner. Being present, and in the moment is one of the most important lessons an actor must learn. It is hard enough already without putting everybody else’s expectations on top of our own. Many actors did not get their ‘big break’ until late in their twenties or even their thirties- look at Gabriel Byrne and Brendan Gleeson. An older actor once told me that it is better to reach your peak later in life, that way you know you were always headed somewhere. So often we see a young actor get his break at a young age, but he/she is only relevant at that time, and in that moment, they do not translate out of their youth. That is why building your craft, and finding your integrity as an artist is the most powerful thing an actor can do. Family members should also try to be as encouraging as possible. We are fighting a hard fight, but its a good one if done well, and with the right intentions.