One sentence answer: you’re never too old or too young to start acting, but it does depend on what you want out of it. Acting means different things to different people, and if you are asking the question how old should you be to get famous, then the answer is as young as possible. Realistically, there are plenty of easier ways to get famous, regardless of age. If you are young and want to start acting, well there is no time like the present. I will walk you through the standard actors career a little later in this article!
If, you are an older actor that wants to get into it not to get famous, but because it has always been interesting to you, or you did it when you were younger and want to reconnect with the craft, or perhaps you just want to get out of your comfort zone, well then you are in the right place. Acting, like every other art out there requires work, dedication, passion and joy, and you are never too old or too young to embrace those things and dive in!
The right age to start acting is however old you are right now. There is no time like the present, as long as you are doing it for the right reasons. More than likely, acting isn’t going to make you famous, it might, however, give you a lot of life skills, lifelong friends and a creative outlet to express yourself.
When Should I Start Acting?
Today! Right now! Come on – hit this link and learn a comedic monologue, or check out some Shakespeare or maybe some great film and TV monologues! Dive in! Give it a go and see if you like it! So many actors, and people who want to be actors, that I speak to are so imminently worried about being great that they don’t give themselves the opportunity to see if they actually enjoy it! Acting, like so many other creative pursuits, is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. People are so worried about being the best, and being the best before they have even started that they dont give themselves the opportunity to discover acting! It is a lot of hard work, and if you are wondering if acting is right for, you the only way to find out is to try doing the hard work and see, in the words of Marie Kondo, if it sparks joy!
For our young wannabe actors, the best place to start is with a local theatre group for young people. A great example here in Sydney is The Australian Theatre for Young People or ATYP. ATYP employs great actors and teachers to work with young people from pre-school right up to 26 years old. Go and try one of their beginner classes for your appropriate age group and see if you enjoy it! If so great and if you hate it, no worries! Good on you for trying!
For our older actors, you are never too old to start. We here at StageMilk have worked with actors who are getting started in their 40s right up to their 70s and 80s! The only thing to note is that acting does require a lot of memorization. If your memory isn’t so good, just know that you are going to have to work harder, for longer in order to practice and learn the craft of acting than someone younger. Again, the key here is just to try it out and see if you enjoy the process. See if you enjoy working on text and performing it! If so, fantastic there have been a lot of actors who have found career opportunities later in life so really, there is no time like the present to get started!
If you have absolutely no idea where to start and don’t have any groups nearby or want to work online with people who will do their best to help you out, check us out. Yup we here at StageMilk run our very own Scene Club where you can work on a new piece every month, get personalised feedback, get weekly one on one sessions with our professional coaches as well as access to huge scene, monologue and play libraries! Take a look!
If you are neither young nor old, say in your 20s or 30s, well guess what you are in primetime my friend! Let me go into more detail in the next section!
What Does a Career as an Actor Look Like?
If you are wondering what it takes to have a professional career as a working actor, and when you should start on that journey, the answer is: as soon as possible. Let me step you through the main trajectory here. Generally speaking, a working actor has done drama all through high school, either through their school or externally, sometimes both! This person will come out of high school and audition for drama schools – the vast majority of the time they won’t get in on their first attempt and they’ll spend the next two to three years working on student films, maybe doing a different degree for a time or travelling to get some life experience.
After a few attempts they get into drama school and spend the next 3 years studying acting full time. Upon graduation, they get seen by agents, casting directors, and producers at the showcase performance or via their showreels being sent out by the school. This actor gets picked up by an agency and spends the next few years working on their craft, going for auditions, booking a few gigs and looking to move up the ladder from 50 word role to guest star to supporting roles to leads in film, tv and or theatre. Some actors don’t go to a full time drama school and make up their education with on-set experience in shorts and a range of short courses. However, for every one of these actors you can think of, I can think of thousands more who have gone to drama school! Just try me.
What does this mean for age? Well it means the earlier you start this process the better. You are never too old to go to drama school, although I can understand how, potentially, you may not want to. Generally speaking, people tend to be in their mid to late twenties and early thirties at drama school. On the other side of the spectrum, you can be too young. In Australia, all drama schools are higher education institutions and require their applicants to be over 16. Whether going to drama school is the right choice for you is a very personal decision indeed, we do have a great article on the topic here.
The best thing school age students can do to, if you are interested in acting or want to have a career as an actor, is to stay in school, study Drama, English, History, Politics and Media. There is an alarming amount of history, politics and cultural studies in every role you take and having a background in these subjects will really help you to be an actor down the track. Be a sponge for knowledge, for emotions, for history and for performance. It will make all the difference when you get ready to audition for drama schools!
Of course, there are actors that have broken this mould, but this gives you an idea of the trajectory and age guidelines of the vast majority of working actors out there in the world.
How Do I Get Back into Acting after a Break?
This is a great question and it is one we get quite a lot from older actors. The answer is you start and start right now. Click this link, join the StageMilk Scene Club and give it a go! Understandably getting back into something that you haven’t done for years can be really scary. Hell, I spend so much time writing, producing and directing acting that when I go back to it personally I am like ‘how do I do this again!?’ So I completely understand! However, there really is no time like the present; life is too short to sit around in a state of fear thinking shoulda woulda coulda. No; be brave and give acting a go! Not to be successful at it, not to be told by people on the internet that you are great at it, but simply because it is fun!
Because it is a joy to learn a page of text and bring those words to life. To take the writings of someone long dead, or currently alive on the other side of the world, and present those words to an audience, be it stage or screen, that believes those very words to be coming from your mouth, to be your thoughts on life, the universe and everything. It is a real privilege, a joy and a gift. So the answer is you start by starting. A great way to get back into it is to start by learning a monologue. We have a range of monologues for older actors on Stagemilk. We also have a guide for how you can film it and perform it. If you would really like to work with other people like you from around the world, who want a similar thing, then try the StageMilk Scene Club!
We have a great article on getting back into acting after a break. But long story short, you get back into it, by starting. One small step in front of the other. Today. Now. Go!
Am I Too Old to Be an Actor?
No, of course not! If you are asking me, am I too old to play Hamlet? Well. maybe. The play clearly says he is someone’s son and his mother is alive and hooking up with his uncle. So that means you have to be an age appropriate for that to happen right? But just because you might be too old for Hamlet might mean you’re the perfect age to play King Lear! So have no fear! Am I too old to be on Netflix? Probably. There might be a great role for you in a show coming up soon! But unless you are a fantastic actor, with a bunch of credits to your name, a professional agent who can fight for you, and get you the opportunity to audition and you absolutely crush the audition when you get it – it is unlikely.
Which brings us perfectly to the question of why do you want to be an actor? Like I said before, acting is a terrible way to get famous, but it is a great way to tell stories and express yourself. If you’re interested in that, and don’t care about the outcome of your effort, and you just want to do it because you’re passionate about it, then fantastic! You are on the right track!
There are roles for actors of every age, gender and ethnicity. Yes there are more roles for middle aged white men than anyone else, but the good news is that this is changing and changing fast! So no you are not too old or too young to be an actor. You are exactly the right age.
The real thing is are you brave enough to start? Starting is always the hardest part and nothing will happen until you do start, so why not hop to it!
The right time to start acting is the exact time that it is right this second. The right age to start acting is the age you are today. There is no time like the present, there is no moment like this one. Don’t live your life in the ifs, buts and maybes of a misspent youth or a fearful future, there is only now my friends. Grab your creativity by the throat and give yourself the opportunity to fail at something you love. Not for the acclaim, not for the award nights, not for the money but for the sheer pleasure of the craft. Go forth and conquer my friends! And if you need help, if you need a community, if you need guidance on your journey, however old you are, join us at the StageMilk Scene Club below.