An Actor’s Craft: Doing the Work

Through my experience auditioning and working as an actor in New York, Los Angeles and North Carolina, I have learned four cardinal rules governing the entertainment industry:

  • Having talent does not necessarily mean you will work.  Ever.
  • Hard work may pay off.  Or maybe not.
  • Sometimes there is loyalty in the business.  Most of the time there is not.
  • There is no such thing as fair.

Being an actor involves dealing with a lot of forces which are out of your control.  What can you do?  Be realistic about yourself.  There are a lot of people out there who want to be actors, but only ONE of you.  Know who you are.  Know what your type is.  Corner the market you fit into and do not try to be something you are not.  What makes you different and unique?  It is the uniqueness that is you which will set you apart from the hundreds of other actors auditioning for the same role. 

Once you determine where you fit in the industry, engage in the work. 

It is our goal as actors to be able to insert ourselves into the given circumstances of any script, listen to our partners and respond from our truthful point of view.  The inner objects and dialogue we give to the words of a script provide our brain with pictures and words that make our character’s thinking truly human. 

We are always thinking.  The thoughts we voice are only a part of our thought process.   We often do not say what is really in our minds because that is contrary to achieving our goal.  Think about the physical actions and facial expressions you might instinctively make if you are thinking, “I am so not qualified for this job.  In fact, you would be making a mistake if you hired me.”  While, at the same time, you are actually saying, “I really think I am the best person for this job and would be an asset to your company.”

Subtext, or the character’s thoughts, is an unspoken communication between two people.  As such, it should always be phrased as “you” when addressing your thoughts to another person.  A character’s subtext is what they are thinking when not speaking, and what they are thinking that they cannot say because it will make them seem wrong, vulgar, insecure, mean, crazy, stupid, etc.  The “you” helps to make the inner monologue, subtext, interactive and produce behavior.  Behavior is especially important on film.

When you personalize your inner monologue, make sure it makes sense with your scene’s objective, substitution, personalized obstacles and inner objects.  The inner monologue should be so private and personal it creates a sense of a secret.  This adds to the audience’s experience by making them feel somehow in on the emotions and thoughts beyond the written word.

Heather Snow Clark is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio, currently working and teaching the art of acting to beginning and professional actors in North Carolina.  Ms. Clark teaches classes in Meisner and Strasberg techniques, audition technique, cold reading, acting in commercials, dialects, and more.  See her website at for detailed class information.

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