Thanksgiving started as a holiday in America to thank God for the bountiful harvest of the year just gone and has moved into being a holiday about reconciliation, gratitude and hope – at least in its most idyllic sense. After the insanity of 2020, and its much-maligned reboot of 2021, this concept hit me a little harder than usual and made me wonder if we as actors are as grateful for our successes and the people that support us as we could be? In that spirit, and with the turkey legs and cranberry sauce fresh in my mind, I thought I would pen a few thoughts on how actors could practice the spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude in our everyday lives and take some of the hope and joy from our bountiful years into harder times. See what I did there? Everything is agriculture if you believe it. Let’s dive on in.
Just like the pilgrims of old, actors can take a day to be thankful for the wins we have scored and the people that have helped us get to where we are today. Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and gratitude. It’s also a great time to reach out to a few people and say ‘Hey – you’re great! Thanks!’
Your Support Network
The first people that deserve a round of applause, a bottle of wine in the mail, or just a hug and a Ted Lasso ‘appreciate ya’ next time you see them are the people in your support network. We all have a support network in varying ways, it might be a family member, or a friend, or a partner, or a coach, or a combination of all of the above! Through lockdown, my girlfriend (who is not an actor) read for me on a bunch of self-tapes, some for commercials and TV shows and some just for practice for me to stay sharp. Now she didn’t have to do that, but she wanted to help me out because she cares about me and wants me to be happy. I am a very lucky person to have her in my life and I am going to tell her that soon as I finish this article!
Acting looks from the outside like a solo activity. When you are up on stage or on screen it is always just you, surrounded by other actors. But for every actor up there, people around that actor have sacrificed. Parents have taken them to classes, partners have helped them with auditions, friends have listened to them rant about booking or not booking a gig, co-workers have covered for them when an audition has come up all of a sudden or delayed their own breaks so an actor could practice that monologue one last time. Now a lot of the time, all of these people in your support network are absolutely happy to give up these things or help out because they care about you, but what a wonderful time of the year to reach out to them and say ‘hey – you’re great, I appreciate you and what you do for me!’
Your Agent and/or Manager
The other key humans, who undoubtedly deserve some gratitude at this time of year, is your team! The people that are in your corner, hustling to get work and opportunities for you, your agent and/or manager! There is no relationship more important for an actor than the relationship you have with your agent. Without an agent, you are not going to book professional work, or at least, you are very unlikely to book professional work. They are your key, your door and your window into the mechanisms of the industry and although we may not see everything they do, they deserve a big thank you for all of their hard work on a regular basis. Why not take a quick moment to shoot them an email, a text or a carrier pigeon just to say thanks! Especially if they have slung you some great auditions this year. I know my agent is a big wine fan, so I make sure to send him a bottle with a card every year just to let him know that I care about him and the work he does for me! I hear from a lot of actors that they are not happy with their agent and want to upgrade, well before that happens, why not take a moment to be grateful for the work they have done for you so far, whatever it may be. Being grateful takes practice and this is a perfect opportunity to get in the habit!
Anyone Who Has Taken a Chance on You
For every actor that has booked a role, there are at least five people that have agreed that this actor is the right person for the role. Be it a casting director, casting assistant, director, producer, executive producer or theatre manager there’s a wide range of people who have watched your work and thought ‘y’know what? I am going to give this person a crack at it!’ These people who have put themselves out there and taken a risk to give you an opportunity deserve some gratitude in a big way! There is a casting director here in Sydney, Kristy McGregor and she took a chance on me early on in my career, without her, I wouldn’t have a career at all! She consistently puts me up for work and backs me to come in and do a great job. God, I appreciate her and the work she and her team at McGregors casting do! Legends across the board.
Think about every part you have booked or every person who has watched you perform and given you thoughtful insight about how you could improve, or has recommended you on to someone else. Actors are icebergs when it comes to these sorts of relationships. For every actor, on a stage or screen, there are tonnes of people who have helped them get there. Take a moment to think about all of these fantastic professionals who have put you where you are today, and if you can, drop them a note to say thank you!
Coaches and Teachers That Have Helped You
Actors rarely, if ever, just turn up on set and do a great job. Acting requires practice and dedication and hard lessons learned, habits broken, vulnerability explored and authenticity accessed. Put simply, it is really hard, and every actor needs help getting where they want to be. Coaches and teachers are so important. Most Oscar recipients will thank their high school drama teacher for their support, but you don’t have to wait for the Academy Awards! You can thank them right now! It may not be a high school teacher either, it could be someone who taught you at drama school, a private coach who helped you for an audition or an on set acting coach who helped out with a tricky moment. Whoever it might be, there is nothing to stop you from reaching out and letting them know that you appreciate them!
My high school drama teacher was a wonderful man named Mr H. When I was at school he’d let me hang out in the green room of the theatre instead of going to chemistry classes, he gave me plays to read, and, most importantly, when I was considering what to do after high school he told me to avoid a particular university as ‘There is only so much Ibsen and Checkov you can take before you want to throw yourself off a balcony’. Mr H was instrumental in me following my dreams of being an actor and his guidance meant a lot to me. I am going to reach out to him and say thanks! Whoever your Mr H is, let them know they did a great job helping you too!
Yeah, you didn’t see that coming, did you? The other person you should be grateful for and take a moment to be thankful for is yourself. Actors get so caught up in what they are not doing, what they haven’t done, who they haven’t met, what gigs they missed, who never called, and what projects never got off the ground that they don’t take the time to appreciate all of the things they HAVE done to get where they are! This is a really difficult job! Genuinely. Being an actor requires you to go through the same emotions in an afternoon that people go through maybe once in their lives, and do it over and over and over again! It requires training and sacrifice and long nights and longer days. It requires the work and effort of a lifetime and you should take a moment here to be grateful for yourself! No matter if this is your first day as an actor or your five millionth, every choice you have made in your life has led you here, to us, reading a little article on StageMilk about Thanksgiving and that is just bloody fantastic. You wouldn’t be the person you are today without making every single choice that has brought you here, there is no such thing as too early and there is no such thing as too late to start, you start when you start and if you follow your heart and work your backside off happiness will follow!
So take a moment here to be thankful to yourself, for being the awesome person that you are today, here reading this article, we sure are thankful to have you!
Finally, why not shoot some love our way! Ambitious? Sure. But you gotta admit we have some good stuff on this website am I right? This article, for instance; you are still reading it! This implies that it’s been a pretty solid read, so thanks to you for sticking with it! I am thankful to StageMilk for giving me a job and taking a chance on me at a really tricky time in my life, working for the team has given me so many opportunities and opened so many doors, and I will be forever grateful for that. So many actors have reached out over the years and said how our Shakespeare or auditioning or industry advice really helped them on their journey. Then, of course, there is the training we offer with the StageMilk Scene club, where we have helped thousands of actors get into drama school, find agents or book their first jobs! You can click the banner below to find out more if you are interested! All of these things wouldn’t be possible though if it wasn’t for StageMilk readers like you, so let me say thank you so much for reading this article, I appreciate you!
These are just a couple of ideas on how you can go about embracing Thanksgiving and bring that spirit of gratitude and hopefulness from the year just past into the future. By fostering good relationships, appreciating the people that help you get where you want to be, and by taking a moment to be kind to yourself and all of the choices that have led you here today, you can not only become a better actor but a better person as well. And isn’t that the true meaning of Thanksgiving, to grow and become something greater than you were? Well, that, and eating so much you feel like a zepplin ready to burst for a week! Good luck out there fellow actors and keep finding reasons to be grateful!