New actors, listen up! When a show is being cast, most casting directors have a system for going through the roles.
- Typically they start with series regular roles. First, they send out direct OFFERS to the actors that producers want to GIVE the parts to.
- According to casting director Joey Paul Jensen, “Reading of known actors starts at the same time as offers go out to celebrities. It’s important [that] if the celebrity lane does not work, the backup lane is ready to go without delay. That’s why sometimes actors can be seen and not go any further because they were seen at the same time an offer went to a celebrity and the celebrity took it. On the other hand, if the celebrity didn’t take it, then casting is ready to go with backups.”
- The agents and managers who represent those actors look at their actor’s commitments, their schedules, and the money, and see if the actor wants to take the role.
- As the offers are being/have been dealt with, casting moves to the next stage and they call in the actors they ALREADY KNOW.
- Next, they call in actors who ALREADY have guest star credits.
- Then they look at actors who ALREADY have costar credits.
- And finally, casting will see brand new people — who, as you can see, are at the bottom of the pecking order. (I can talk about the exceptions here but I don’t want that to throw you off.)
Getting work on TV can take 3-6 years. That’s usually how long it can take for casting to get to know you. When I say, “get to know you,” I mean you walk into the room and they know your work. I want actors to be realistic and understand that you don’t just land in Los Angeles and get on a TV series.
There are fabulous actors (and I mean fabulous actors!) who have been grinding away for years, paying their dues, getting known in the casting community, and they work on many projects, yet they are still unknown and still not series regulars on a TV series… yet! (Many of them are members of this site and they can tell you their story here if they want to — why they do this, how long they’ve been here and their advice to newcomers.)
If you look at their résumés, they have tons of costar, guest star and even some great film credits. They spend years training, networking and following through on opportunities. They are committed. They show up. Sometimes an actor gets lucky and books a neat role in a great TV show or a movie and they think they’ve “made it.” But they really haven’t. It’s just one tick on a long list of ticks that makes a career.
I spoke to an agent this morning who represents an actor who has been a series regular on three different series, and she’s having a hard time getting him in on pilots this year! So the name of this game is patience, and consistent persistence, as I always say.
There are things you can do that increase your odds, that make a stronger impact, that are more directly and specifically focused on creating the results you want, that get you in more audition rooms, that get you better agents; there are things within your control. There are ways to specifically market your type; there are great publicity and marketing things you can do to get more heat on you. And of course, that can get you further ahead of others faster. I always say the more you know and understand about how this business really works, the better you’re going to do. You can take my course, the Hollywood Winners Circle Academy, if you want to learn how to do all of that.
But know you have to be doing this acting thing because you love acting. Plain and simple. Not because you want to get rich or famous, because most likely, neither one of those things will happen.
Instead, you do this acting thing because you love the craft of acting. You love creating characters, you love expressing emotions, you love telling stories and you love working with the crew and set because when you’re there you feel alive — and that you are living your purpose.
Most actors make their living doing something other than acting because you have to have a secondary form of income that brings home the bacon — and a flexible schedule that allows you to generate enough income. I suggest finding something else you love that you enjoy doing to earn money. Know that it doesn’t all have to come from one source — you could have multiple streams of income that come from different sources. It all adds up.
And save. I can’t stress this enough. Put $100 away every single month in a savings account no matter what, because in 30 years that money will matter. If you don’t do anything else I say, do this. You will thank me for it.
While you are working hard getting traction with costars and guest stars, be very busy doing your own content — or SAG low-budget films, funky films, shorts — all of which could go to film festivals and garner some heat for an actor.
Actors, you can have a fantastic creative career working with amazing people, writing scripts, selling projects, casting yourself in projects, collaborating with others on their amazing projects, making great friends, and living a creative life. And if you get lucky, you may even get rich and famous… but that’s simply the icing on an already delicious cake!
Wendy Alane Wright is a Hollywood Talent Manager, Author, and Acting Business Coach. She has authored seven books about breaking into show business in a series called, “Secrets of a Hollywood Talent Manager.” She helps new actors understand the business and how to realistically get started via her popular YouTube channel, which has 5 million+ views. Wendy created TMFA (Talent Managers for Actors), which is a 75,000+-member Facebook group to help connect actors, agents, managers, coaches and casting directors. She also created The Hollywood Winners Circle Academy, the most advanced online acting business training program in the world. FREE MASTER CLASS.