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Actor

Industries:
Film | Radio | TV
Personality type:
Creative
Departments:
Performers

The lowdown

  • Interpreting others' words in order to bring a script to life, and to put flesh and blood on characters

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • know how to prepare for and perform at auditions and casting sessions
  • have a good short-term memory and the ability to ‘learn and forget’, especially when working on a popular drama series with little time for rehearsals or repeat takes
  • be able to learn new lines at very short notice, to accommodate script changes and cuts
  • be uninhibited, in order to assume other identities, and also to be made up, dressed, positioned and directed by others
  • be able to assume a different body shape or language
  • be able to drive or ride a horse, or take part in staged fight scenes, ideally
  • have singing and dancing skills, ideally
  • have clear and concise diction, and be able to assume different regional and national accents
  • be able to deliver lines at a specific pace and to precise timings, particularly when dubbing lines onto live action or animation
  • have strong powers of observation, in order to learn from others' body language and create believable characters
  • be aware of how your performance may be affected by: the types and positions of microphones, cameras and cables; different lighting techniques; the requirements of different sets and locations; and whether there is a live audience for a studio recording 
  • be aware of the professional etiquette and traditions of working on television sets and locations
  • be able to deal effectively with the press
  • be aware of health and safety issues, and ensure that your actions do not constitute a risk to yourself or to others

What does an Actor do?

Actors interpret others' words in order to bring a script to life, and to put flesh and blood on the characters they portray. Theirs is the public face of a production, representing many others' work and efforts. It is rare for the public to see the Scriptwriter, the Producer, or the Director - their perception is based on what the Actors portray on screen.

They usually work across television, theatre, film and radio, each requiring some specific skills. Some may also work as models or provide voice-overs for commercials, documentaries, talking books, dubbed foreign language films, etc.

Television acting is geared to a wide variety of audiences, from productions for very young audiences to academic productions of great linguistic complexity. Actors must be able to adapt to the differing requirements. They are cast by the Producer, Director, Casting Director or, in some cases, they may be recommended by the Scriptwriter, or by the broadcaster.

For some roles, they carry out extensive research, for others their character is moulded and developed during rehearsals. They work with the Director to create believable, natural characters based and built on the Scriptwriter's words.

On television productions, they must learn their lines quickly, and retain their inflection while sometimes repeating the same scene many times over. They should know their fellow actors' lines so that they can respond to them appropriately. They must be able to contribute ideas to improve their own performance, in a creative and collaborative way, whilst also being able to take direction from members of the directing team. They need to remember their exact positions and movements at any given time during the performance, to assist with continuity. They must also be able to hit their marks on set, without looking down to locate them.

Actors must be highly adaptable, as they may portray many different characters over a short period of time. As casting a well-known Actor may provide the main marketing point of a television production, he or she bears a great deal of the responsibility for its success or failure.

Will I need a qualification?

You will almost certainly need to train to become a professional actor. You can start training at weekend and part-time classes from a young age. Some full-time acting academies follow the national curriculum from Year 6, as well as training you in drama, dance and singing e.g., the Sylvia Young Theatre School. Some state schools offer customised courses in the media, performing or visual arts, or combine the arts with another specialism. At further and higher education level, you can take drama or theatre studies courses.

You could also go to a specialist drama school. These usually only accept students over 18 years of age and conduct auditions for places. These schools are all fee-paying but offer tailored vocational courses which are recognised by the industry. They have strong links with Agents, casting directors, production companies and broadcasters.

You could also take a qualification or short course offered by one of a range of professional associations and awarding bodies in the fields of sales and marketing. Some of these are aimed specifically at those just starting out in the profession.

What’s the best route in?

There is no specific career route you can take to becoming a professional Actor. You could start your career in theatre, often working initially in stage management, before progressing to acting roles on stage.

Alternatively, you could be successful in an audition for a TV commercial, a radio or TV drama series, or a film role, gaining a reputation by exposure on these media.

Where might the role take me?

There are no guarantees of work, or work progression, for Actors.

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • Equity – is the trade union representing artists across the whole spectrum of arts and entertainment, and offers representation, specialist knowledge and advice for its members and student members on work in film, television, radio and other live performance
  • BBC Academy - College of Production - information and advice on the skills required to make engaging television, including interviews with producers in music, speech, factual and comedy about what it takes to work in television
  • Drama UK - body championing quality drama training in the UK through advocacy, assurance and advice

Publications

  • The Stage – the entertainment trade weekly, includes recruitment advertisements, useful links and 'how to guides', such as finding an agent or drama school.
  • Contacts is published annually by Spotlight and provides details of all aspects of the entertainment industry.