Guest Blogger Heather Gibson gives aspiring actors the 411 on navigating the world of showbiz. Her insights range from finding health insurance to exploring how much money actors can expect to make . Read more of her musings at heatheragibson.com.
Spoiler alert! I’m an actor! Yes, an actor. Being an actor, like any other profession, offers so much to those whom pursue it and take it seriously. I mean think about it, have you ever watched a movie or a show and a certain monologue coming from a character made you cry? Made you angry? If you have, then you have witnessed some good damn acting. Think Heath Ledger when he played The Joker. Denzel Washington when he played Alonzo in The Training Day. My personal favorite is anytime Sterling K. Brown, who plays Randall in This is Us, has a deep and emotional moment. I cry so easily!!
And yes, there’s good acting and bad acting … a lot of bad acting. Every actor has experienced their own form of this, especially me in my early days.
But, let’s be honest, when someone mentions the fact that they’re an actor, I can almost guarantee, someone will immediately ask, “Oh, that’s nice. So, you want to be famous?”
I have had this happen to me quite a few times and let me tell you now, IT IS ANNOYING!
Let me break it down the reasons why.
See, I’ve been acting since I was a child because I simply love to do it. I love opening myself up to the lives of other people, developing a character, showing empathy for people’s stories, but above all, I love acting because it’s my safe space.
Safe space? Yeah. A safe space is where you’re allowed to be vulnerable and be 100% your authentic self. Acting is mine.
Now, like with any other profession, it comes with its perks and downfalls. Constant rejection, crappy pay, competing with friends for that one role and the demand to be flexible.
It’s a profession that can mess with your self-esteem, self-confidence and self-love. I have suffered from this. It takes a special kind of person to handle the acting industry. Rejection leads to self-doubt. Crappy pay leads to a side hustle then another side hustle, then before you know it, you’re working three jobs just to keep your schedule open for that big gig coming up!
It doesn’t matter what your credentials are, what school you came from or how many acting classes you’ve taken. That means nothing if you do not work on your craft. Again, it is like any other profession. Do you see, where I’m going with this?
Acting is a continuous road of learning. Learning how to promote yourself, networking, building technique, oh and did I mention networking? So much goes into acting before you even go to that audition or submit your electronic self-tape.
It’s very hard to live a life that’s indeed unpredictable, so, I’m going to answer some of the most popular questions that curious minds have asked in reference to me as an actor:
- Do you want to become famous? I don’t know an actor who wouldn’t. Simply said, no, I don’t, but I will take advantage of every opportunity that will advance my craft, my artistry and my life. So, if that means, audition for a small role in a Denzel Washington movie, HELL YEA, I’m going to take advantage of that. But, do I act to become famous? No.
- Don’t you just play around onstage, though? (Yes, I’ve been asked this.) NO! Acting for the theatre takes a lot of stamina. Eight-hour rehearsals, line memorization, figuring out who your character is and why do they do the things that they do. One time, I played a young girl whom was very smart, and I was on a treasure hunt. I had to figure out why she was so invested in this one treasure hunt, when she could invest in so many other things. So, it’s not all play. It indeed is a lot of business.
- How do you get paid and how much? It literally varies. Some theaters and films don’t pay you, but it’s worth it for your resume or building a video reel that can be sent to directors, etc. Then you get to perform at big venues like The Kennedy Center in DC and get paid well enough to live a comfortable life.
- Have you ever thought about switching careers? Yes. After I graduated from college. I got sucked into what others saw in me. I got sucked into focusing on a backup plan instead of giving 100% to my first plan. But, that was short lived the moment, my happiness started to go down the drain.
- Taxes, health insurance……? Actors that are not covered under SAG-AFTRA and/or Actors Equity, which both are unions to protect actors and their rights, are responsible for their own health insurance, paying taxes, etc. So, if you know an actor over the age of 26, whom is not on their parents’ plan, then they’re either on Medicaid, paying private plans, or don’t have it all.
- What’s a typical day for an actor? Well, that depends on a lot of things. For me personally, I begin my day planning it out. Writing down important tasks, reminders, etc. Then if I’m not doing one of my side hustles, I’m submitting to castings, confirming audition times and locations, and preparing for upcoming auditions. I also do a lot of reading and seeing local shows. The best actor is also the best audience member. Never a dull day for an actor!
These are just some basic questions that I’ve been asked when it comes to be an actor.
So, now you know. It’s never a dull day. It takes a lot of courage to keep going. Not all glitz and glamour like some thing and like any other well-respected profession, it requires hard work, dedication, and passion.
And … maybe…next time you see an actor or meet one, give them a hug. Thank them for their work. You never know whose day you may change.