Acting is a disease. Usually you catch it early in life. Perhaps you’re in primary school and it’s dress up time and you’re the first to delve through the piles of extravagant clothes, or it’s your first school play and you’re playing the clown and suddenly the audience erupts in laughter. You hear their response and you’ve caught it for life. You realise that playing other characters on stage is the best feeling in the world. Once you’ve caught the acting bug, it never really leaves your system.
However, though many have the passion, the reality of being a professional actor is inconceivable. Once you try to take it on as a profession, there are other factors that get in the way, like eating, or paying rent, or disappointed parents or partners. Whatever reason leads you to throw in the towel, the passion never fully disappears. And sometimes, once you’re feeling more settled in life, it can be worth getting back to that passion you had earlier on.
Whether you are diving in for a bit of fun, or you want to start a professional career, kicking it off later in life isn’t as hard as you might think.
The Advantages of Starting Later in Life
Acting is undoubtedly a skill that one can improve at. However, there is an element that can’t be taught. That is the magical inner life we all bring to any role; that part of us that makes us captivating to watch. That part of us is drawn directly from our own lives and personality. It’s drawn from our failures, our breakups, our adventures. Having a rich and varied life gives you more to draw from in any audition or scene.
You’ve also pushed past many barriers to get where you are, and so tackling the fear of getting on stage is nothing. That comfort and ease you bring to the work instantly makes you a better actor than your tremulous 19 year old counterparts.
Acting is storytelling. And to tell great stories you have to have lived great stories. Many young actors have energy and passion, but they lack an understanding of storytelling which comes from years of great conversation, reading, watching and observing the world around them. In a world made of stories, having lived many epic tales will play in your favour.
Many acting teachers say that the best training an actor can do is to work on themselves. They encourage counselling, meditation, movement practices, and voice training almost as much as acting lessons. Knowing who you are and feeling secure in your mind, body and voice is a huge advantage in this industry. Many younger actors are insecure and full of self doubt, however little they might show it.
Being an actor in your 20’s is tough. Every second person wants to be an actor, and you are constantly battling with new graduates from drama schools, who each year roll out new cohorts of young actors like they’re iPhone upgrades. This means as a young actor you have to either be exceptional, or exceptionally lucky, or both. As actors become disenfranchised, they settle into a myriad of other occupations and leave acting behind. This is good news for an older actor. At every audition your chances are increased. (However, there is some bad news – see below)
No bad habits
Many young actors accumulate poor habits along the way. They are in a rush to “make it” and don’t take the time to train. Coming into this game with some wisdom and experience means you can beat off those bad habits that young actors seem to attract. You have worked professionally in other industries and know that success comes from those who are the best at what they do.
The Challenges of Starting an Acting Career Later in Life
Okay, starting an acting career later in life doesn’t come without its challenges. The biggest challenge is your lack of experience. As I mentioned above, the competition has died down, but those that remain have CVs the size of your mortgage. You need to up-skill and you need to do it quickly. Accumulating some credits will help you keep up with more experienced actors.
Check out: StageMilk Drama School
This is the flip side of the coin that I mentioned above. As you’re coming into this game without much experience you have an opportunity to quickly gain bad acting habits. Coming into the game with fresh eyes means you are susceptible to bad advice, and inexperienced directors. Always seek out great teachers and mentors, and don’t take everything as gospel. You need to find your own acting process.
All actors need to evaluate their expectations. Generally I suggest all actors try to avoid lofty expectations. You want to be clear about the kind of work you like doing, and the stories you like telling, but that’s the end of it. The way your career will manifest is best left to the acting gods. If you are coming into this game later in life, it will be tough. I encourage you to explore it as a hobby to begin with. Say yes to projects and enjoy it because you love it, not because you want to have a last ditch attempt at fame and glory.
You’ve worked hard to have the life you have now, build on the foundation.
Note: surround yourself with great people. Starting an acting career later in life will certainly turn some heads in your social circles. Interact with people who are supportive and who encourage your artistic side.
You absolutely can do it. Being an actor later in life is not only possible, but common. Many of our favourite actors kicked it off later in life. Your experience is your competitive edge. Your stories, your personality, your uniqueness is what will help you get work.
Remember that the most important factor is always getting better. Focus on training and push yourself into unfamiliar areas. One option is to look at our online acting course. It’s a great way to get started without the intimidation of joining an acting class.
Best of luck!