Actors use speech, gesture, facial expression and physical movement to portray characters on film, television, stage, radio or other media and venues. They follow and interpret a writer's script to play a specific role in a story meant to entertain, educate or inform an audience. Actors may specialise in a particular medium or in dramatic, comedic or musical works.
- Attend open calls to try out for various parts in a play, programme, film or other work
- Work with an agent to read through potential scripts and accept roles
- Prepare appropriate dialogue, music or other materials necessary for auditions
- Audition in front of filmmakers, casting directors and other staff
- Research a character's personality, background and motivation to fully understand the role
- Collaborate with writers, directors and cast to find the most affecting way to portray a character
- Memorise character's lines
- Learn any necessary dialect, physical or vocational skills unique to character
- Attend read-throughs and rehearse script with cast and crew ahead of performance
- Use facial expression, body language, speech, timing and other skills to emotions
- Perform the role, transmitting the themes of the script to the audience in the final production
- Attend press interviews and do promotional work as required
Skills and qualities
Actors who make a good impression with audiences, critics and coworkers can advance to more prestigious and lucrative projects, companies and venues. Some choose stability and work toward more permanent roles such as talk show host or entertainment news presenter. Others branch out into other genres or different areas of entertainment such as music or modelling.
You can also shift to roles with more control over the final product, like director or producer. A postgraduate degree is helpful for these and other management positions.
Nights, weekends and holidays
Working hours can vary depending on the type of role, shooting schedule and budget. Actors in a long-running theatre show or on a single-location sitcom are more likely to work a set schedule with consistent daily hours. Film roles often require 12- to 14-hour days or longer, with filming possible on nights, weekends and holidays.
Jobs are largely temporary and often range from a single day to a few months. Most actors work on a part-time basis and many work other jobs to supplement their income. The stress of frequent rejections and irregular income can be emotionally draining.
All acting jobs potentially include travel to another location, including internationally. You may work in difficult conditions, including extreme temperatures or weather conditions, standing for long hours, and performing under hot lights in a heavy costume and makeup.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
Although no formal education is required to become an actor, acting classes and workshops help train you for the roles you want. There are education opportunities available through theatre companies, community colleges, film schools and other independent organisations. Coursework can range from a single class to two years of study.
You can also enrol in theatre arts, film, music and other entertainment-related classes at four-year universities on a part-time basis or in pursuit of a BA. Advanced degrees are also available.
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022