12 Tips for Young Actors from Hollywood Professionals
Updated: Oct 23, 2020
For when you feel a little lost, or need inspiration...
As someone who has been in the acting game for a long time, I have seen it lay waste to far too many talented and wonderful people. This career path is ever-changing and can feel impossible at times. Over the years at 10,000 NOs I have been fortunate enough to interview many great actors: friends, colleagues, and some who I only met through having this podcast.
I compiled a list of short inspiration that you can take from each of them. Don't make the Oscars your goal, make your goal staying in the game long enough to get to the Oscars.
1. Just Start - Mark Duplass
“That fear of not getting into something because you're not educated enough or not "there enough", I would argue, not only should you NOT listen to that, but it can actually be something that becomes a part of your uniqueness.”
When you're first acting it's easy to talk yourself out of going for what you love because you don't feel "ready". Mark Duplass is here to tell you that you probably never will be "ready". Mark and his brother Jay were turned down by Hollywood, but instead of letting this get them down they just started making their own films. So no matter where you are. Start now.
2. Embrace Uncertainty - Josh Pais
“And all of a sudden, it’s like we woke up from this dream, and we continued the play like something real was happening. And the audience became engaged because that broken glass pulled us into the unknown. Making everything alive.”
Josh believes for the art of acting to come alive, there has to be a level of unknown to engage the audience’s imagination - “let go of your structured performance” (3:33). As humans, we find the unknown one of the most difficult things to face. As an artist, if you learn to face it, you will find incredible creativity in “hanging out” in the unknown. By training ourselves to be comfortable within the unknown, we can find a new sense of life. When Josh was training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts, he was doing Shakespeare’s All’s Well, That Ends Well. The night they were putting the play up everything was going perfectly until Josh dropped a glass and it broke on stage. What happened next became a critical life lesson for Josh - and for all of us.
3. What Is For You Will Find You - Annabeth Gish
“Pivoting is necessary. Fluidity is necessary. For what we do in this industry, we have to be flexible, move, hustle, and shape shift. Just because someone says, 'No' doesn’t mean, no you're done, you don’t have it."
In our interview, Annabeth stressed that rejection is part of the game as an actor and she reflected on how she’s felt devastated after not being cast in roles she really wanted. But she affirmed that “ultimately what is for you will find you”. She tells us, as artists, to armor up, but know when to de-armor and how to build your self-esteem back up again. As you progress as an artist, rejection gets easier, but it’s never easy. We have to keep our vulnerability so that your “tough skin” doesn't get in the way of you showing yourself and being open as an artist.
4. Learn to Embrace the No - Dan Bucatinsky
“People have said no, way more than people have said yes."
Dan has done what most actors dream of, winning an Emmy Award, for his performance in ABC's Scandal. But Dan's road to the Emmy stage was not an easy one. He had heartbreak after heartbreak, and no after no, before finally claiming his hard-earned Emmy. Just remember that people will say no, more than they'll say yes, but if you love it...it's worth it in the end.
5. Stop waiting for permission - Create the work - Jeff Perry
“After many attempts at landing that kind of job, that's when I finally landed one: when I knew that psychically and emotionally I had just said, 'I don't care'."
Jeff Perry opened up to me. Create the work: that doesn't mean you have to go start a theatre company or shoot a short film if you don't want to, but don't wait for someone to give you permission to be a working actor. The online world has dozens of scripts, courses, and tutorials available for you to better yourself as an actor.
6. What doesn't kill you, can only make you stronger - Sarah Shahi
“We've got this lifetime.This lifetime is exactly what we make it. This life is a game. The good, the bad, the boring, the up, the down, the sideways. What this lifetime is, is a definition of our perception. Everybody is going through sh*t. Everybody's got something."
If anyone has made it against all odds, it's actress Sarah Shahi. Sarah grew up as one of the few Iranian immigrants in Texas, with an abusive father. When she was just six years old, he held a gun to her head. Parts of her childhood bounced between women's shelters and beauty pageants. Despite these haunting circumstances, Sarah was a Dallas Cowboy's cheerleader and made it out of Texas to grace our film and television screens with "City on a Hill", "The L Word", "Life", "Fairly Legal" and "Person of Interest". She is full of fire, humor, and an absolute zest for life. No matter where you come from, or what your situation is. she'll tell you your dreams are attainable.
7. It might take time, but it's worth it if you truly love it - Richard Schiff
“I drove a cab for years, I proofread in law firms, I worked in a factory when I kind of dropped it all out and went to Colorado. I cleaned Greyhound buses on Eleventh Avenue from eleven at night 'til seven in the morning in summers while I went to school. No, I didn't start making a living for real until my son was born."
Richard Schiff is possibly most famous for his Emmy Award-winning turn as White House Communications Director Toby Ziegler on "The West Wing" but he seems to be just about everywhere in film, TV, and theater these days. He's an actor's actor. Sitting down with him was a reminder of not only the intensity and intelligence required to portray characters so deeply, but the thirst for storytelling in multiple mediums, and the willingness to take risks, that leads to a career with such longevity. It wasn't always this way. He's a reminder to all of us to keep following our art until it pays off.
8. Don't stop moving. - Tom Skerritt
“There's a lot of strength in going through all the sh*t. You have to go through, you just gotta keep your feet going, one foot in front of the other. Just don't stop movin' man, just don't stop movin'."
Sitting down with Tom Skerritt was an unforgettable experience. He is an inspiration to all artists, and at 87 still lends his celebrity and passion to worthy causes. His love for art and creativity is infectious,. If there's anything you can learn from Tom, it's in this career you just have to keep moving through the hard times, even if it's only one tiny step at a time.
9. Learn to let go. - Melissa Ponzio
“If it doesn't matter in five years it doesn't matter."
Melissa Ponzio is best known to a younger generation for her portrayal of Melissa McCall, mother of Scott McCall, the central character on MTV's smash hit Teen Wolf. She's also known for her runs on Army Wives, The Walking Dead, and her ongoing stint on Chicago Fire. On social media, her 800K Instagram followers and over 600K Twitter followers are vehemently loyal to her because she leads from a place of authenticity and genuine outreach to those who do not feel heard. Here, she walks us through the incredibly long and arduous path she traveled from obscurity to your TV screen. Melissa has a huge heart and is a huge inspiration to all of us. Her grit, authenticity, and infectious positivity are something we believe the world could use an extra dose of.
10. There will always be a place for you in the business if you want it. - Jere Shea
“The notion an artist has to starve or suffer is bullsh*t to me. I tried that route and I did plenty of it. I starved. I had no money.”
Jere Shea is a Tony Nominated Actor, who now stars in Showtime's "City on a Hill". Jere's story is different from most other actors I've interviewed, as he took 20 years out of the business to raise his kids. As actors I know there is a fear of taking time out of the business, but Jere serves as inspiration that even if you do take time away you can always come back and kill it.
11. Stay true to yourself - Henry Winkler
“If you know in your center that you’re on the right path, that this is the right thing… ya gotta keep going."
Henry Winkler is a legend who doesn't need much of an introduction. It's likely you first knew him as "The Fonze" on Happy Days, or maybe you're a big fan of his current Emmy-Award Winning portrayal of Acting Teacher Gene Cousineau on HBO's Barry, or his equally hysterical performance as Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development. But you may not know that he's the co-author of 35 children's books and one of the producers on MacGyver, or that he had to get over his self-assessment, as a kid, that he was a "dumb" outsider because he was dyslexic. Despite his stardom and stature, he is full of humility, generosity, and a love for the craft of storytelling. His story is full of resilience and tales of overcoming his own 10,000 "No"s.
12. Being killed off isn't the end of the world - Julie Benz
“In the moments when I feel rejection, I have a method... Writing 10 to 20 things I’m grateful for."
Julie Benz has been working steadily as an actress for many years, but is probably most recognizable as Dexter's wife, Rita, on Showtime's Critically Acclaimed smash hit, Dexter. What you may not know is that Julie had serious anxiety when she found out her character was being killed off. As an actor, we can all relate that a steady job is not one we often come by, so Julie's reaction is one I think all of us would have. Her rigorous training as a champion figure skater, from such a young age, has no doubt had a big effect on her career, perhaps mostly in the area of her mental game. This is why she not only survived but thrived after being killed off of Dexter in the 4th season's finale. She claims to be lucky. I beg to differ.