How to Become an Actor
Actors may audition for many roles before getting a job.
Actors typically enhance their skills through formal education, and long-term training is common.
Actors typically enhance their skills through formal education. Those who specialize in theater may have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as performing arts, but a degree is not required.
Although some people succeed in acting without getting a formal education, most actors acquire some formal preparation through a theater company’s acting conservatory or a university drama or theater arts program. Students can take college classes in drama or filmmaking to prepare for a career as an actor. Classes in dance or music may help as well.
Actors who do not have a college degree may take acting or film classes to learn their craft. Community colleges, acting conservatories, and private film schools typically offer these classes. Many theater companies also have education programs.
Creativity. Actors interpret their characters’ feelings and motives in order to portray the characters in the most compelling way.
Memorization skills. Actors memorize many lines before filming begins or a show opens. Television actors often appear on camera with little time to memorize scripts, and scripts frequently may be revised or even written just moments before filming.
Persistence. Actors may audition for many roles before getting a job. They must be able to accept rejection and keep going.
Physical stamina. Actors should be in good enough physical condition to endure the heat from stage or studio lights and the weight of heavy costumes or makeup. They may work many hours, including acting in more than one performance a day, and they must do so without getting overly tired.
Reading skills. Actors must read scripts and be able to interpret how a writer has developed their character.
Speaking skills. Actors—particularly stage actors—must say their lines clearly, project their voice, and pronounce words so that audiences understand them.
In addition to these qualities, actors usually must be physically coordinated to perform predetermined, sometimes complex movements with other actors, such as dancing or stage fighting, in order to complete a scene.
It takes many years of practice to develop the skills needed to be a successful actor, and actors never truly finish training. They work to improve their acting skills throughout their career. Many actors continue to train through workshops, rehearsals, or mentoring by a drama coach.
Every role is different, and an actor may need to learn something new for each one. For example, a role may require learning how to sing or dance, or an actor may have to learn to speak with an accent or to play a musical instrument or sport.
Many aspiring actors begin by participating in school plays or local theater productions. In television and film, actors usually start out in smaller roles or independent movies and work their way up to bigger productions.
As an actor’s reputation grows, he or she may work on bigger projects or in more prestigious venues. Some actors become producers and directors.