Breaking Into the Business

29 12 2015

I am going to address this, because I have been asked by a LOT of people over the last several weeks – how do I get on THE WALKING DEAD?  How do I become an actor?  I think having a blog post I can refer folks to will help expedite explaining my journey, and help those searching for how to break into this business.

I can only speak from my experience – but it was not a matter of being “discovered”, or just being talented, or just wanting to be an actress.   It was a concerted effort – for many years – doing the RIGHT kind of work, getting the RIGHT kind of credits…. 35 years of work to be exact.

So here is how I “broke into the business” – this phrase is deceptive – because it seems to suggest that one definitive thing will happen and BAM!  You’re IN!  But this is not the case – I will explain further.

To start, I was onstage by age 5 as a dancer.  In high school I was an avid (nationally competitive) speech and debater :-), and I did my high school plays.  I decided to STUDY acting in college, this was THEATRE acting training – I got my BA in Acting.  Then, I went on to get my MFA – also in THEATRE acting.

In those theatre years I collected quite an impressive number of theatre credits – including major regional theatres like Berkshire Theatre Fest, Long Wharf Theatre, Southern Rep, Ma-Yi Theatre (Off-Broadway). I worked with Tony award winning actors.  Like I said, I thought I had quite an impressive resume.

HOWEVER, when I got an agent to try to start getting my foot in the door for film/TV acting, (my agent came to see me in a play on the suggestion of one of her clients and signed me), NO ONE CARED about ANY of my theatre credits.  I was initially miffed.  The training I had WAS meaningful – film/TV folks recognized that I must be somewhat of a serious actor to have received both my BA and MFA in acting.  But the regional theatre credits?  The Off-Broadway credits?  The Tony award winning actors I had worked with?  The fact that I had played HAMLET?  Nobody cared.

It was like starting over in many ways.  My theatre credits didn’t tell film/TV folks a thing about if I was able to act on camera.  So they didn’t care.  I had to start garnering film and TV acting credits, to have footage from those roles to show I could do the type of acting necessary for film/TV work.  And then, it took another 12 YEARS in the film/TV business before I got to audition for THE WALKING DEAD.

I don’t get irritated when people say, “How can I break into the acting  business?”  But you will rarely hear someone ask an architect, “How do I break into the architect business”?  Also, our positions as actors in this business are precarious at best.  So to ask an actor who is not an INTIMATE friend of yours for many years to vouch for you, and try to help you get your foot in the door…. yikes…. that would mean putting our already precarious position (that we have worked many many years to get to) on the line.  Something I would only do for a dear actor friend who is MASSIVELY talented.  The risk is too great.

Now, as a creator and writer of several TV series that are currently being pitched, I can tell you – my hope is to give several actors that I PERSONALLY KNOW, whose work is OUTSTANDING, the opportunity to get a series regular or recurring role.  But those are actors I know who have pursued this relentlessly – in training, in life, who have credits, and who are amazing talents.

If you want to be an actor – pursue it as you would any other profession you are serious about.  Love!


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3 responses

3 04 2016
Gillian

So TRUE! All of it.

6 05 2016
Jaime van Hameren

Thank you for this story,it shows that you need focus and will-power just to get any job.
Love Jaime

13 12 2016
Christopher Dell

Something tells me that you would have been a hoot to do repetition with.

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