10 Things I Think a Professional Actor Should Never Do

To be an actor is a special gift, in my opinion — with all that is going on in this world, it’s a beautiful thing to be able to entertain people and to take their minds off of what may be troubling them, to make them laugh or cry or think. Acting probably saved my life as a kid and I have nothing but respect for those who treat our craft with love and professionalism and support others along the way. Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a truly professional actor, so I wrote this blog piece.  I’m still growing as an actor (and as a human), so this in only my opinion based on what I believe so far.

This is my List of 10 Things I Think a Professional Actor should Never Do:

1) Be an Asshole
This should be SAG-AFTRA’s Global Rule Number One. I’ve seen so many instances of actors being assholes and mistreating or disrespecting people on set and on social media. What is the point of being unkind? Being in the film business is hard enough — there is constant rejection and it can be very frustrating, so why treat someone badly and add to the stress that is already there? If you are somebody who has “made it” or simply someone who thinks they have made it, remember where you came from and the struggle it took to get there.  On set and in social media, we should treat each other with respect and kindness. Be a positive force!

2) Be an Egomaniac
Often, when some people get a taste of success, they let it go to their heads. They brag about “their movie” and name drop all of the famous people they have worked with. They post photos and brag about their accomplishments. Next to acting like an asshole, being an egomaniac is the the worst thing an actor can do. In my opinion, working hard, lifting up others around you, and being humble are far more flattering than a big ego. At the end of the day, do you want to be known as a self-absorbed egomaniac or do you want to be known as someone who is kind, humble, and supportive?

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3) Be a Bully
Of course, constructively calling out people on their bullshit can be a positive thing, but I try to live by the rule “praise in public, criticize in private.” It doesn’t matter how far you have come, there is really no point in belittling people. It doesn’t help them, so if you have a critique that would be helpful, share it with them, privately, and give them a chance to learn. I see more “successful” actors shaming other actors and extras almost every day. Those people seem to forget where they started. However far this business takes me, I will always try to remember where I came from and offer a helping hand and treat people respectfully. Being a bully has never done anyone any good.  Nobody is beneath you — extras, PA’s, new actors, caterers.  We are all in this together!

4) Be Bitchy
Recently, I was on the set of a major television show as a co-star. Several actors were sitting around chatting between takes and one of them started bitching about his rate, which got others bitching and creating a spiral of negativity. Yeah, I get it. Headshots and classes are expensive. Work is hard to come by. But, the reality is that the return on investment in being an actor is never a good one. We all know that. On a network television show or studio film set (or any gig that actually pays), there are literally thousands of actors who would kill for the chance to be there, so cherish it and don’t bitch about it. Yeah, the ROI sucks and the days can be long, but bitching about any of it is pointless and brings others down.  Think about the fact that you won that role over the HUNDREDS of people who were submitted.  You won!  It’s nothing to bitch about!

5) Say No to a Friend
Being actor is not something you cannot do alone — you need support. You need people to run lines with you, advise you, introduce you to agents, record an audition, whatever. So, if someone asks for help, always find the time to help! At some point, you’ll need help too. We are all stronger when we support each other and lift each other up!

6) Miss an Audition
I preface this by saying, there are times when things are out of our control. Once in awhile, you may have to miss an audition because you have a hard conflict or may even turn one down because of a strong moral objection to the material or because the quality of the material stinks. You may also need to turn down an audition if you can’t work as a local or because your agent/manager might think it’s a bad idea. Other than those scenarios, I think it is disrespectful to refuse or be late for an audition. Think about the fact that there may be thousands of other actors who would be grateful to have that opportunity. Every audition is a gift and it gives you the chance to ACT, even if you don’t book the role.

7) Take Photos of Celebrities 
I think when you are on set, you shouldn’t act like a fan — you are a colleague and should treat your fellow actors (no matter how big their name) as such. Combine that with the fact that name actors often have to deal with constant requests for autographs and photos from fans, you can see why they would be annoyed by a fellow actor asking for a photograph while they are working. If you feel like you must have s souvenir from set, let the completed project be that souvenir. Sure, there may be times when you have established a strong rapport with a “star” on set where a photo might be acceptable and, if production agrees, it may be okay to post it on social media. I understand that on-set photos can be a great way to promote yourself and engage your audience on social media, but only do it if you have permission from production and you are not giving away any plot details (you could get sued!).  I still don’t get actors’ obsession with more famous actors — we’re all just people getting paid to do something we (hopefully) love.

8) Be a Pest
Yes, we all need advice and guidance. We all want to get our foot in various doors and connect with people. But, I think it is important to do so respectfully and through proper channels. Yes, ask another actor for advice, but keep in mind that their time is valuable and they have put in the time to get where they are. Learn from them, but don’t expect them to do the work for you. In regard to agents, only send in an unsolicited submission if they specifically allow for it and don’t ask other actors for a referral unless you know you are ready!! Never badger a casting director over email or social media — if you want to get seen, be patient. You’ll get the chance to audition and connect in the audition room eventually, if your work and reputation are good. Most people in this business are busy and working to get things done, so being respectful of people’s time is important as it takes some of the burden off of others and makes you look like a pro.

9) Be Something You are Not
At some point, we’ve all envisioned ourselves as the dashing leading man or stunning leading lady, but few of us will ever get there. We have flaws. People typecast us. Accept that! I’m a middle age, average looking white dude who is always cast as a detective, reporter, or military guy. Not always the most challenging roles, but I know if I keep plugging away at it, I’ll eventually have the chance to step out of the stereotype. It took me a long time to accept who I am and how people see me and now I try to own it! Sometimes how people perceive us doesn’t always agree with how we perceive us, but roll with it. Embrace it! If you are an awkward goofy looking chick, be the best damn awkward goofy looking chick in the business! If you need to challenge yourself as an actor, do that in class or work scenes with friends — eventually, someone will take notice and you’ll get the chance to step outside the box!

10) Lie
Okay, so maybe this should be number one on this list, but I’ve saved the best for last. Honesty and transparency are so critical in this business and in life. I see it every single day — actors embellishing their careers by listing extras gigs on their resume, lying about where they live, bragging about a “big role” that is simply a day-player thing.  Hell, I may have been guilty of some of that in the past myself.  Yes, we all want people to believe we are bigger than we are, but when you lie on your resume or on social media, people see through that bullshit so fast. Not telling the truth, or telling half-truths, will always come back to bite you in the ass at some point. Let’s always be honest about who we are and where we are!

It’s pretty simple, really. Show up on time, know your lines, make strong choices, and conduct yourself in a professional matter.  Follow directions.  Be helpful.  Keep training and growing.  Be humble.  Ask for help. Give help.  Respect the craft and others around you.  Why are those things so hard for some?

Of course, everbody has their own path and their own way of self-promotion, so these are just my opinions. But, in general, I think the best way to stand out as a professional is to be humble, supportive, dependable, and gracious. I’m still learning and growing and I don’t know how far this career will take me, but at the end of the day, no matter what level I achieve in my career or life, I hope to be remembered as someone who was kind and supportive and honest. I’m not always that guy, but I’m working on it.

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