Is becoming a character actor right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do character actors do?

Still unsure if becoming a character actor is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a character actor or another similar career!

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How to become a Character Actor

There are no strict educational requirements to become a character actor, as success in the field is primarily determined by talent, training, and experience. However, pursuing formal education and training in acting can provide aspiring character actors with valuable skills, knowledge, and opportunities to develop their craft. Here’s an overview of potential pathways to the career:

High School Diploma or Equivalent
Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. High school education provides a foundation in basic communication and organizational skills, and it lays the groundwork for further learning. Throughout your high school years, take drama and theater classes. Join drama clubs and participate in school plays to gain practical experience and develop your acting abilities.

Post-Secondary Education
While not required, a background in theater or performing arts can be beneficial for aspiring character actors. Consider formal education in acting, theatre arts, visual and performing arts, or a related discipline.

In addition to degree programs at colleges and universities, performing arts institutes and acting schools and conservatories offer a variety of training options, from workshops and seminars to intensive programs. Some well-known schools include Juilliard, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

Regardless of your chosen learning path, look for programs that offer coursework in performance theory, stagecraft, character development and analysis, storytelling, improvisation, dramatic literature, on-camera acting, and audition techniques.

Developing strong vocal skills is crucial for actors, especially for character actors who may need to modify their accents, voices, or speech patterns to suit different roles. Taking voice lessons, speech classes, or dialect training can help actors improve their vocal technique, diction, projection, control, range, and clarity.

Embodying characters with distinct physical traits or mannerisms can be another requirement for character acting roles. Training in movement, dance, or physical theater can help actors develop body awareness, flexibility, and expressiveness.

Gain Experience
Gain acting experience by participating in student films, short films, independent projects, and local theater productions to develop your craft and build your resume.

Build Your Portfolio
Create a demo reel showcasing your acting abilities and performances. Invest in professional headshots that capture your look, personality, and casting type. Develop a strong and professional acting portfolio to present to agents, casting directors, and potential employers.

Seek Representation
Consider seeking representation from a talent agent or manager who can help you find auditions and open casting calls, negotiate contracts, and advance your career. Research reputable agencies and submit your portfolio for consideration.

Audition, Network, and Persevere
Stay proactive by attending auditions for film, television, theater, commercials, voiceover work, and other projects. Embrace versatility and be open to playing a wide range of characters, from comedic to dramatic and leading to supporting roles. Develop your ability to adapt your appearance, voice, and mannerisms to suit different characters and genres.

Auditioning is a crucial part of the job, so be prepared to audition frequently, be persistent, and handle rejection and setbacks gracefully. Stay focused and push forward even when faced with challenges.

Build relationships with fellow actors, directors, producers, casting directors, and other industry professionals. Attend industry events, workshops, and networking mixers to expand your contacts and opportunities. Networking can often lead to valuable connections, referrals, and potential jobs.

Professional Organizations
There are several professional organizations and unions that represent and support the acting community, providing resources, advocacy, and networking and professional development opportunities. Here’s a sampling:

  • The Casting Society – Formerly known as the Casting Society of America, this professional organization promotes the highest standards of casting in the entertainment industry. It represents casting directors and associates in the film, television, theater, and new media industries.
  • Commercial Casting Directors Association (CCDA) – CCDA is an association upholding casting standards and representing casting directors in the entertainment industry.
  • Backstage – Backstage is a leading entertainment industry platform and trade publication providing casting notices, audition listings, industry news, advice, and information for actors, including character actors.
  • Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) – SAG-AFTRA is a labor union representing actors, announcers, broadcast journalists, dancers, DJs, news writers, news editors, program hosts, puppeteers, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists, and other media professionals. It negotiates and enforces contracts for actors working in film, television, commercials, and digital media, and also provides health and pension benefits.
  • Actors' Equity Association (AEA) – The AEA is the labor union representing professional stage actors and stage managers in the United States. It negotiates and enforces contracts for actors and stage managers working in Equity theaters, and also provides health and pension benefits.
  • The Actors' Centre (UK) – The Actors' Centre is a membership organization that supports actors throughout their careers in the UK. It provides rehearsal and performance spaces for members and offers guidance, counseling, and support services for actors.
  • Equity – Equity is a labor union representing actors and stage managers in the theater industry in the United Kingdom. It negotiates contracts, sets industry standards, and advocates for the rights and interests of its members.
  • Association of Talent Agents (ATA) – ATA is the trade association representing talent agencies and talent agents in the United States. It represents over 110 talent agencies, including agencies representing actors, commercial actors, writers, directors, and other talent in the film, TV, and entertainment industry.