Between the years of 1982 and 1990 I worked as an actor. To maintain a steady income most of my work was as an extra, but I did have a few major roles in commercials as well. Because I was raising my children at the time, this was the perfect job for me. For the most part I was able to be at home to take care of my family’s daily needs. On average I worked once or twice a month and each job would last between one and five days. The pay for each job would depend upon the length of time, and for which production company I worked. I made as little as $50 per day and as much as $300 per day. I was able to accept such an unsteady income since my husband was the major bread winner in our household.
On a scale of one to ten, I would rate my job as an actor at a seven. For the most part every job involved having to get to know a new director. Since some directors are known to be a bit quirky, it is always better to know how to conduct yourself in their presence. If I could change anything about the field of acting, I would reserve one day before taping for a “meet and greet.” This way everyone is more relaxed and ready to work on the day of taping.
Many people dream of being an actor because everything about it seems so glamorous. The truth of it is, the glamorous part only comes once in a while. It is not very glamorous to eagerly go on auditions only to get rejected over and over again. It does have a tendency to beat you down and take a big chunk out of your self-esteem. For instance, it is not abnormal for a producer to blurt out “fix your teeth and lose some weight!” This has happened to me; and although I am not proud of it, I did both. On the other hand, when that perfect role lands in your lap, you are on top of the world. There is a feeling of elation and pride in the fact that you are the chosen one. Out of hundreds of actors, someone has decided that you are the best person for the role. I suppose, with the right person, that feeling can sometimes out-weigh the negative effects of numerous rejections.
I got started in the acting business by making an impulse decision. One morning I read in the newspaper that there was going to be an open casting call in my town. At the time I was living in New Orleans and that was the first time I had ever heard of any casting calls in my area. I had assumed that movies and commercials were only filmed in California. On a whim, I gathered up all of my nerves and went to the casting call. It turned out that the call was for extras in a commercial for a Ford car dealership. I’m not sure how many people were there but it seemed like hundreds. They split us up into groups of twenty, gave everyone a number, and had someone take pictures of us. After that we were directed to enthusiastically jump up with our hands in the air and yell something to the effect of “we love our Fords!” We had to do that several times, and then we played the waiting game. We sat for hours as a table full of producers and such shuffled through our Polaroid pictures and mumbled incoherently. In the end, my number was called and I was asked to fill out some paper work. They told me to show up the next week and be ready to work. On the day of the shoot, a whole group of us were directed to jump up and yell our little lines. It took us an hour or so to get as many takes as the director wanted. It was pretty exciting and a lot of fun. I came home with a fifty dollar check and the “acting bug.”
The thing that I had to learn the hard way in my acting career was that I was good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, and smart enough for me. In the end, it did not matter what every casting director thought about me. There was always going to be others who thought that I was perfect just the way I was; and if not, it was their loss. Unfortunately, that lesson took a few years to settle in. It takes a little maturity and a lot of self- confidence. If I could give advice to an up and coming actor, I would tell them to trust their instincts, be proud of who they are, and not to sweat the small stuff.