Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.
Actor, Actress, Comedian, Comic, Community Theater Actor, Ensemble Member, Narrator, Performer, Tour Actor, Voice-Over Artist
Actors typically do the following:
- Read scripts and meet with agents and other professionals before accepting a role
- Audition in front of directors, producers, and casting directors
- Research their character’s personal traits and circumstances to portray the characters more authentically to an audience
- Memorize their lines
- Rehearse their lines and performance, including on stage or in front of the camera, with other actors
- Discuss their role with the director, producer, and other actors to improve the overall performance of the show
- Perform the role, following the director’s directions
Most actors struggle to find steady work, and few achieve recognition as stars. Some work as “extras”—actors who have no lines to deliver but are included in scenes to give a more realistic setting. Some actors do voiceover or narration work for animated features, audiobooks, or other electronic media.
In some stage or film productions, actors sing, dance, or play a musical instrument. For some roles, an actor must learn a new skill, such as horseback riding or stage fighting.
Most actors have long periods of unemployment between roles and often hold other jobs in order to make a living. Some actors teach acting classes as a second job.
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 voices, 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.
- Self-employed workers
- Theater companies and dinner theaters
- Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private
- Professional, scientific, and technical services
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.