Sometimes acting is a tough gig. Auditions. Rejections. Wondering if you’ll ever make it.
So it's time to encourage yourself!
Here are some inspirational lessons from actors with successful careers to remind you that you are not alone, and that what you do is worth it.
LESSON 1: BE AWARE OF THE POWER OF THE ACTOR. Actors are not just “pretending”. You actually have a significant role to play in society. When you choose to tell stories that matter, you can actually affect the course of people’s lives - and even the course of history. Stories can challenge perceptions, raise social issues, and even sway votes.
As Alan Rickman (Snape in the Harry Potter franchise) said,
"Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."
Alan RickmanActors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theatre, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world."
LESSON 2: REMEMBER THE PRIVILEGE OF THE ACTOR. Feeling emotional today? Good. You need to be able to access your emotions as an actor if you're going to create authentic characters. Acting is about finding that emotion in your voice, body, and face, and bringing it to life on stage and screen. Hugh Jackman (The Greatest Showman) said,
"Acting is the greatest privilege. You get to inhabit lives and you get to touch real emotions. That’s the job and at the end of the day, you’re calm like you played a great game of rugby. And then at the same time you’re going, 'OK we’re going to climb that mountain again tomorrow'."
You take the audience on a journey up that mountain, too. They'll experience what you have to give. And then - your job is to let it go. It’s the character living those feelings, not you.
LESSON 3: KEEP PERSPECTIVE. Are people telling you to give up this acting thing? Well, you’re not the first to experience this. Even some of the world’s most successful actors have been forced to face this issue - Tom Hiddleston (Infinity Wars) is one of them:
"My father and I used to tussle about me becoming an actor. He's from strong, Presbyterian Scottish working-class stock, and he used to sit me down and say, 'You know, 99 per cent of actors are out of work. You've been educated, so why do you want to spend your life pretending to be someone else when you could be your own man?' "
If this sounds familiar, don’t give up. Tom Hiddleston’s net worth is now $22 million. He’s doing ok from this acting thing.
Likewise, Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) wasn’t sure how it was going to go, either. She reflects on her early years as an actor:
"Acting had become like this terrible addiction. I felt I needed to give it five years and see where it took me.”
So give yourself a reasonable time frame to get started and established, and don’t expect too much too soon.
In five years, Cate was on her way and winning some wonderful roles.
LESSON 4: LEARN TO LIVE THE ACTOR’S LIFE. Emma Stone (Easy A) originally began acting to deal with her anxiety, but quickly grew to love it and wanted to make it a career. When you’re starting out professionally, the actor’s life is full of uncertainty - admittedly not a great situation for anxiety sufferers:
"All I wanted to do was sit in my bedroom and worry, but instead, acting threw me into situations where you just have to go with it. And it was good for me. Like the shy kid on the debate team."
Learning to ‘go with it’, to be in the moment, to work with whatever happens, is a big part of training to become an actor. And it has huge application in general life for all of us.
LESSON 5: FIND YOUR OWN SENSE OF SELF. You need this to sustain you as an actor - as you do in any creative field. Sometimes people are drawn to acting because they can pretend to be other people, but never face up to their own internal issues. Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) said:
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."
Acting is about living truthfully in given circumstances. Rather than becoming somebody else, acting is about finding more of yourself to bring to a role.
LESSON 6: OBSERVE THE HUMAN CONDITION. As Benedict Cumberbatch (Dr Strange) says:
"See lots, read lots, hear lots. Experience life as well and just keep observing, really observing, not just looking.”
A good actor is constantly absorbing material to enrich their capacity as an actor. You’re always learning; your next role might call for something quite outside your normal experience. So expand your horizons. Go to the theatre. See a film you might not ordinarily see. Go to an art gallery and stare into the eyes of a portrait. Read widely. When you go to a café for a sit-down, watch the people go by. The whole world can be your inspiration when you’re an actor. And if you’re not working as an actor right now, you can still keep your observation skills going till the next job comes along.
So there you have it - six great lessons for the actor. You don’t know the future. We can only ever live in the present. So stick at it. Train hard. Master your craft. Put your best self forward. See what happens.
Photos courtesy of depositphotos.com.
Writers from Perform Australia contribute to these posts