Becoming a Great Actor

Observing what makes a great professional actor is much like looking at what makes a great house. We observe his talent before anything else like a great coat of paint or bright red door. But when a crew of carpenters look at a house, they will see very different things than a office worker on a Sunday stroll through the neighborhood. The carpenters will note the placement of windows; the shingling on the roof; and, if it is visible, the cracks of the foundation. A director, producer, or fellow actor view an actor the same way.

If an actor has that bright red door shining for all the world to see, many people will stop, look, and maybe even go in (assuming it’s an open house event, this author does not condone breaking and entering), but once the people have entered it may be a different story.

Any actor that has a poor work ethic, he will quickly find his way out of the industry as quickly as he entered. Acting is a job in every sense of the word, if not more so. Many shows, on a community or university level, will require the actors to also be on the set or lighting crew. This means this actor will show up to the theatre, spend 3-6 hours working on building the set or hanging lights, then go change and return a half hour later, if he is lucky, to rehearse. And rehearsing, as any actor will tell you, is far more tiring than the time spent building the set.

Also, a good attitude will get you miles further as an actor than a good body. Smiling as you walk into an audition, showing respect to not only the people you are auditioning for, but the other actors as well will show that you take yourself seriously as a professional. Acting is one of the few professions where at any level you can be called a professional. It has nothing to do with whether or not you get a paycheck, but how you conduct yourself.

Being a professional actor also takes homework. I know that may saddened many readers, but it’s true. The purpose of a rehearsal is to show the director what you have discovered at home. Only by continuing to read the script, even after memorizing your lines, can you begin your homework. But it does not stop there, looking at the circumstances of your character and finding real world examples to guide you in your process is extremely productive. But above all, listen. Taking notes when a director talks to you above what could be improved, what needs to be cut, etc. and then going home and spending time find the answers to the directors concerns will allow the director to continue to work with you and develop a great character.

Finally, to answer the question head on, yes. There has to be a spark of talent to become a great actor, but without the other qualities to build yourself into a professional actor, you will end up just a bright red door laying in an empty lot.