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Career as an Actor

Who are actors?

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is literally "one who answers”.

What does an actor do? Duties of Actors

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.

Different types of actors?


Screen, and in particular film acting, is one of the most popular fields of acting that everybody in today’s business is trying to break into. There’s a lot of opportunities in this area: aside from feature films produced by major studios, actors can audition for parts in independent films, student films, short films and any number of other similar, smaller budget projects. However, even with so many available choices in the field of film acting, the competition is fierce.


Another type of screen acting is for television. This one can sail along with film acting, as anybody who’s pursuing a career in one of these fields ultimately is getting jobs in both. Television productions are naturally on a smaller budget scale, and there are fewer opportunities for those seeking to act just in television. The next best thing to TV jobs for actors who are just starting out would be web series and online projects.


Stage is always a place where actors are required, and many do seek acting jobs exclusively in theatre. However, the number of projects and opportunities available depends on the city you’re trying to work in. London and New York are the two best options for those seeking to become professional stage actors, which Chicago, San Francisco and Manchester dragging along a little behind.


Another type of acting that most articles in this field can try and explore is voice-over. We have talked about voice-over acting multiple times, and it has already been established, contrary to popular belief, this field is not just a supplemental thing. Voice over as a business stands strong on its own, having a huge number of projects constantly being developed with just as wide range of competition as film or theatre acting has. But it sure is something that most actors should try and look into.


Never look past the commercials acting opportunities. Some actors build a career in this fields while others use it as a first step into the business and a way to make some extra cash. Commercials usually require an actor to have some training, and as we previously established, improvisation skills are essential. Once you get yourself booked for a good national commercial gig, it could easily pay your rent in royalties for years and years (depending how long it runs for).


Last and not least is extra or background acting. This is the type of job that every starting actor should experience but not pursue as a career choice if they are serious about their path as a professional performer. While it does fall into almost the same category of show business, background work isn’t really acting per se and will not help any aspiring actor’s career. We’ve discussed this more widely in Acting Handbook.

So, there you go, four major types of acting jobs and opportunities that every aspiring actor should try to pursue to some extent while eventually prioritizing the one field they’re most passionate about. All of them have something in common (aside from a huge chunk of competition), but at the same time, all these acting jobs are very different.

Knowledge areas that need to be required.

Actors play characters in plays, films, and commercial productions, and on the radio, following directions and/or a script to create visual entertainment for a given audience. Being an actor involves a wide range of activities, including:

Learning lines


Attending auditions

Attending castings



Being an actor requires a range of skills, including:

Good stage, screen, or vocal presence

The ability to enter another character and engage with an audience

The ability to memorize lines

Good understanding of dramatic techniques

Having the confidence, energy and dedication to perform

Creative insight


Actors need to:


  • Speak clearly so listeners can understand.

  • Understand spoken information.

  • Read and understand work-related materials.

  • Understand written information.

  • Listen to others and ask questions.


  • Remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.

  • Think of original, unusual, or creative ways to solve problems.

  • Notice when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong.

  • Think of new ideas about a topic.

  • Concentrate and not be distracted while performing a task.

  • Analyze ideas and use logic to determine their strengths and weaknesses.


  • Manage the time of self and others.

  • Check how well one is learning or doing something.


  • Be aware of others’ reactions and understand the possible causes.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.


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 written 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 heat from stage or studio lights and the weight of heavy costumes. They may work long hours, including acting in more than one performance a day, and they must do so without getting overly tired.

Reading skills. When looking for a new role, actors read many scripts and must be able to interpret how a writer has described their character.

Speaking skills. Actors—particularly stage actors—must be able to say their lines clearly, project their voice, 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 to complete a scene.

Job Outlook

They get paid per movie they make. Different actors make different amounts.

Frequent asked questions

How can I become an actor?

A successful career in acting requires equal parts talent and practice with a bit of luck thrown in. Actors at work can be seen and heard everywhere: TV, the big screen, the theater, on the Internet, in videos and on podcasts. They portray characters from the past that have impacted history, and they portray characters that are destined to impact pop culture in the future. Some dabble in a variety of entertainment mediums, while some stick to the stage, use their voice to create new worlds or dedicate their lives to the silver screen. Some make up the cast of extras that round out a production, while some achieve levels of fame that makes them a household name.

Is acting a good career option? There are lot of people in this world who at one point of time think to become an actor. The reason is very simple, it is because of lot of fame & money. But the problem is everyone cannot be an actor because of huge competition, no connection in the industry or not knowing how to start etc.

It is a very good career if you have one of the two qualities mentioned below:-

  1. Exceptional acting: If you are an exceptionally talented actor & it is your dream to become an actor then go for it. But, you need to be confident enough to face the camera & nail the audition. Example of actors in this category Nawazuddin Siddique, Rajkumar Rao, Irfan Khan etc.

  2. Marketing skills: If you are an average or above average actor, then you should know how to strongly promote yourself to beat the rest standing in the que. One of the biggest stars to fall under this category is Shahrukh Khan. There is hardly any actor in the industry who can beat king khan when it comes to promoting yourself. Or learn to promote like Akshay Kumar who has promoted himself on social media as a person who is very patriotic & doing such movies, which all are successful. Or you need to promote yourself or your movies like Aamir, who is a master of creative ideas when it comes to promotion. I remember during the release of 3 Idiots, auto rickshaw in Mumbai had a line printed in the back, which said '3 Idiots only'.

YouTube References

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