Eight Qualities of a Successful Actor
How To Become a Professional Actor
Not only can the road to becoming an actor be rough and treacherous, but it is usually quite uncertain. Many starts with a dream and end up only discouraged and broken down. Some, like anyone you have ever seen on the silver screen, end up wealthy and have Oscar as a roommate. Some reasons for this contrast between actors are partly based on talent, but success is mostly based on dedication and passion. Are you ready to become an actor? Can you do it?
Number Eight: An actor must be flexible.
This characteristic comes into play often. There are three types of flexibility that an actor must possess. He must be flexible with time, with criticism, and with change. If you ask any director how easy it is to try and fit the rehearsal schedule into every cast member’s busy life, he will most likely tell you it’s like trying to herd cats. Some directors won’t even try to mess with working around your schedule; they might tell you that if you want to be in the show, you’ll be at the rehearsal, no matter what time it is or what conflicts you have. Most directors won’t do this. But they might, and that’s something you must be prepared for. That goes along with number seven, being dedicated, but we’ll get there in a minute.
As with any artisan’s craft, constructive criticism is perhaps the most important facet to growth. You won’t ever be a perfect actor, just like you’ll never be a perfect writer because these crafts require criticism to grow. When the director suggests you try a scene from a different viewpoint or in another way, you say, “Yes, sir.” If you find fault with the director’s suggestion, simply ask for clarity or say, “I can try.” Don’t argue with the director. That makes you a prima donna, and nobody likes those.
The last type of flexibility an actor must work with is that of change. On a set, anything can happen. Just because a show is running doesn’t mean a beam won’t fall from the sky, light won’t blow out, or a sound cue won’t come. An actor must improvise and be able to cover for any fault in the show. Even when he biffs a line, the mark of a great actor is that the audience never knew. If a beam fell from the sky, of course, they might notice. However, if you cover with, “Those construction workers are at it again,” it might just be workable.
Number Seven: An actor must be dedicated.
So many things rest upon your dedication to becoming and growing as an actor, especially when you are first starting, things are rough, and you are nowhere near to being paid for your time and endless efforts. When rehearsals get tough or when you simply can’t land a role, you must keep in mind your original desire for the stage. Keep that necessity for acting in your life fresh and potent, a poignant reminder when you ask yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?!” The answer is always, “Because this is what I love.” Remember: Everything is worth it when showtime comes. There is nothing more rewarding than that first open curtain and the subsequent ovation at the final bow. But we’ll get to that one later, too.
Number Six: An actor must be passionate.
To get to the bottom of this one, if you look bored on stage, your audience will never enjoy your performance. The moment you walk on, your personality should pop with your entrance and scream, “This is what I love to do. Let me entertain you!” You must let your entire passion for acting, for the stage, for the audience, for the lines simply shine through your every emotion, burst with your every dictation. When you are passionate about your character you are truly able to slip into their clothes and make the audience believe in your story. And that is what acting is.
Number Five: An actor must be confident.
Everyone, no matter how seasoned, gets stage fright. Some get it knees quaking, earth-shakingly bad, some only have it before a Shakespearean show, and some only had it before their first-grade rendition of Picnic. But no matter what, you must remain confident in your line memorization, your characterization, and your talent. No one enjoys reassuring actors constantly that they are talented; you must keep that confidence within yourself. When you walk onto the stage with your shoulders back, your chin up, and your back straightï¿½ï¿½”šï¿½” unless you play an old womanï¿½ï¿½”šï¿½” your audience will know that you know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t! You can act as you do and they’ll never know the difference. Thus, the beauty of illusions.
Number Four: An actor must be talented.
Unfortunately, if you are a terrible actor, you cannot memorize lines, you can hardly speak above a whisper, and you
are terminally allergic to stage lights or microphone foam, then acting might not be the business for you. However, the good news is, I’ve never met anyone with those chronic symptoms. I believe everyone, with as little or as much training as necessary, can be a great actor if they utilize these rules to their advantage. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t the talent of Denzel Washington right off the bat, you can develop talent in classes and workshops until you feel ready for an audition. Even the greats go back to class for help; no talent is perfect. Again, I believe anyone can grow a talent like a flower if they give it the right dedication, passion, and confidence.
Number Three: An actor must be loud.
This only applies to stage acting, not so much film which employs microphones. The number one note that directors give their actors, the one that repeats again and again interminably, is, “You need more volume!” Theatres are physically shaped for sound to travel, but people, clothes, and the seats themselves suck up sound like vacuums. The projection comes with practice, but it doesn’t take long to realize that the people in the middle of the audience just can’t hear you. Diction and volume are a requirement for great stage actors, it’s just one of those things.
Number Two: An actor must be ebullient.
This goes along with confidence and passion. The personality that you bring out in your characters onstage is what makes you unique as an actor. When you’re acting though, it needs to be ten times bigger than you would normally make it. All those funky quirks that you’ve got in your character can and should bubble effervescently throughout your shows. Be a personality that people can laugh at, relate to, or simply raise an eyebrow out and you will be one that is remembered.
Number One: An actor must be personable.
Although all the other characteristics are equally as important, this is one that I cannot stress enough. Be nice. Be nice to your director, to your co-stars, to your audience, and especially to your technical crewmen, or “techies.” There is nothing worse for a cast than to have to deal with a prima donna who can’t take direction and expects people to drop problems to work for him. Not only will the cast and crew despise a prima donna, but what is worse: directors talk. They have their secret little community where they rant and rave about actors. If your name comes up in the ‘Do Not Hire, Whatever You Do’ pile, you’re out of luck. No one is going to hire you or give you a role if you’re hard to work with. That’s just that.
All in all, becoming a great actor is just as easy as learning to dance, learning to write well, or learning to paint or draw. It just takes time, dedication, passion, and the ability to not be a whiny brat. Now, doesn’t that make you feel better and a little less anxious about that audition you’ve got coming up? Not only can the road to becoming an actor be rough and treacherous, but it is usually quite uncertain. Many starts with a dream and end up only discouraged and broken down. Some, like anyone you have ever seen on the silver screen, end up wealthy and have Oscar as a roommate. Some reasons for this contrast between actors are partly based on talent, but success is mostly based on dedication and passion. Are you ready to become an actor? Can you do it? Here are the top eight qualifications for a great actor.