This article was published in the March 2015 edition of the Chicago Actors Studio newsletter. To get updates about CAS and read great advice columns like this, subscribe to the CAS Newsletter at http://www.chicagoactorsstudio.net
There are many ways of not getting cast that don’t even have anything to do with your acting ability.
This is a topic that is usually tucked away in the back of my mind. On occasion, I touch on it with the students in my acting workshops, but maybe not often enough. Maybe because I didn’t think it pertained to too many actors. Thinking it would be a column for only a few… so I probably haven’t covered it as often as I should. Yet as time goes on, I’ve realized that I may have been mistaken. I’ve been surprised over the last few years, learning about the number of times talent have been required to pass a background check before being hired for, say, a commercial for example. Or more often (and sometimes more damaging) after an Internet search for material or experiences attached to a talent, certain brands may not want that talent representing their company. Are you catching my drift?
In short, commercial actors should never take a job nor engage in conduct that would keep them from being hired in the future.
Let’s tackle the biggie right off the bat. Porn. I believe when you are pursuing a career in acting, specifically hoping to work in commercials, you may want to think twice about doing any kind of porn. That includes cable TV, even the “soft” stuff. There have been many actors who lose the job because they had made that choice in the past or were currently discovered to be working in the porn industry. One time they used their actual name, another time they used a different name, blah blah blah. Maybe you could get away with it, maybe not. But there have been many an actor being “caught” and being passed up for that reason, and that reason alone. Exposing yourself in scenes such as a featured extra, bit part or in low or ultra low budget films, and even in a major film early in your careers, can easily ace you out of many casting opportunities that could have moved your career substantially forward. Those questionable photos on facebook and other social media, for example, can also be damaging. Of course one may argue that this stuff is all over the place in major films, done by major actors. Right, but their careers are already established and well on their way. Done too early, this will prevent you from being considered for many if not almost all commercial spots or industrial training films, representing a certain company’s products and services. They may also prevent you from being sent out on TV sitcoms and various other casting opportunities. Why risk it for some low or no pay situation just for the opportunity of being in front of a camera?
Now that we’ve got past the obvious and uncomfortable one, being on a reality TV show can be another reason an actor may be passed up. I understand this is tricky. There are examples of shows that launched an actor’s career. It was their big break! Great! That may be the case with you, too. Just know there is a possibility it could work against you as well. If you hope to work for Disney, as one of many examples, you may want to avoid some of the more questionable shows. Use discretion and think things through. Even if it’s your aim to be one of the “good guys” on the show, the powers that be may not do the research to realize this… or care, frankly. Your name associated with a reality TV show can mean (and often has) a pass, for that reason, and that reason alone.
Here is another hard truth. Some of your past mistakes can hurt your career. Specifically thinking of a DUI. Although there are other things. Already have one? Forgive yourself and keep making better decisions. Do you have a bad habit of drinking and driving? There’s a million reasons why that is a terrible idea. If the potential consequence is damaging your acting career then decide to grab a cab, Uber or Lyft next time. I’ve experienced an actor being passed up for a role due to the fact they had a DUI, for that reason, and that reason alone.
And finally, the Internet is forever. You have heard this phrase, surely. It’s true. In general, brands want sparkly and clean people to represent their products. Use care in deciding what photos to post, what topics to cover in your blog… use care and consideration in what you post on the Internet. Some of those things that you think are so cute, may not seem so by a potential buyer of your acting abilities. It’s becoming routine to search talent before hiring them for a commercial. Don’t give the powers that be a reason to go with someone else.
If nothing else, please realize the choices you make outside the small commercial or TV, film, industrial training film world can become an unwanted factor in your acting career. Most of the time you are not given a reason why you were passed over for a role, so avoid having these as reasons. Make positive, smart, and informed choices and you will have no regrets.
-Edward Dennis Fogell