Actors portray characters in live performances on stage as well as in movies, television, and commercials. Typically, they follow the instruction of directors and producers to achieve a specific performance goal. Actors can work in a variety of settings including theaters, television and movie studios, and theme parks.
Actors are responsible for:
- Memorizing lines from written scripts.
- Researching roles to form an idea for the portrayal of a specific character(s) that fits with the director’s vision.
- Maintaining punctuality and professionalism on set and in rehearsals.
- Working in costume and in environments with stage lighting.
- Working in inclement weather when sets are outdoors.
- The development of new skills to fit a particular role.
Actors are expected to play roles with accuracy and flexibility. The necessary skills include:
- The ability to memorize lines quickly.
- Being flexible with script changes.
- Taking and acting on constructive criticism and director’s notes.
- The ability to mimic accents and dialects as the character demands.
- The ability to sing and act in tandem.
- Good interpersonal skills when working with other actors.
Jobs for actors are typically based on auditions, but training such as a bachelor’s degree in theater or technical theater can help in receiving an invitation to audition. Prior work in stage theater and television will be expected depending on the nature of the roles the actor is auditioning for.
Salaries for Actors range between $38K to $81K, with the median being $57K.
Factors impacting the salary you receive as an Actor include:
- Degrees (High School or GED, Associates, Bachelors)
- Production or Complexity of the Role
- Level of performance - Exceeding Expectations
Interviews Are Unpredictable
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Actor Interview Questions
Question: Can you describe what influenced you to pursue a career as an actor?
Explanation: This is a general opening question which the interviewer will ask you to learn more about your background, uncover information they can use for additional questions, and to get the conversation started. The question prompts you to provide a brief narrative of the life events that led you to become an actor.
Example: “When I was young, one of my friends was involved in the local children’s theater group. They asked me to come along to one of the rehearsals. I was fascinated by the process behind creating a theater show, and I signed up for the group the next season. I continued to act in school and community theater until I entered college. I majored in theater and began getting roles in professional productions. I continued to enjoy acting in theater, TV, and some small movie productions. I love this career and can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.
Question: What do you feel is more important for an actor, talent, or training?
Explanation: The interviewer is seeking to understand your philosophy about acting. While talent is key to any profession, people who succeed work hard at their job. This is especially true in the acting profession. You should be able to describe how training has helped you to become a better actor and the amount of effort you put into your craft.
Example: “While talent is important, training and hard work are what set the successful actor apart from many others who try and fail in this profession. No matter how talented you are, training, practice, and hard work make you better. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. If you look at any notable actor’s career, they spend a lot of time in minor roles until they get their big break. The opportunity which resulted in them becoming a star was due to their hard work and persistence, not luck.”
Question: Which types of acting do you feel you are most suited to?
Explanation: By asking this question, the interviewer is seeking to understand what types of roles you like and the type of acting opportunities you prefer. The best way to answer this is to state that you prefer the type of roles and acting medium that the organization is interviewing for. People are successful at what they enjoy doing. If you’re a theater actor and have little interest in TV, then you should continue to audition for theater roles, and not bother with opportunities in television.
Example: “I believe I’m best suited to roles in theater productions, which provide me the opportunity to improvise and add my own flavor to the character. I prefer roles in which I am a leading player and either the protagonist or the antagonist of the story. I also enjoy roles in which I play opposite another strong character whose storyline is interwoven with my character’s.”
Question: How do you rehearse a scene if the other actors you need to interact with in the scene are not available?
Explanation: This is an operational question. Operational questions seek to understand how you go about completing a task or doing a job related to your profession. Operational questions are best answered directly and succinctly.
Example: “When the other actors I play against in a scene aren’t available, there are several methods I use to practice and rehearse the scene. Sometimes I asked my friends and family to step in for the other actors and to read their lines. Another effective method is the videotape myself playing the other actors' parts and then rehearse using the tape. Sometimes I just read my lines and practice by expressions and reactions as if the other actors were delivering their lines.”
Question: Where do you go to practice loud vocal exercises?
Explanation: This is another operational question which has a sub textural meaning. The interviewer wants to learn about your practice techniques. However, they also want to ensure that you take the time to practice and are familiar with the techniques common to actors. Your answer should reflect what you practice regularly and are familiar with the different techniques actors use to practice their craft.
Example: “As an actor, I find it necessary to practice my techniques daily. My practice includes facial expressions, movement, emoting, and vocal exercises. When practicing loud vocal exercises, I prefer to go to a remote area and use my loudest voice. I find it helpful if I’m in a space that reflects my voice so I can get a feeling of how I sound or the type of impact I am making.”
Question: How do you react when you receive a negative review about a performance?
Explanation: Acting is one of the few professions in which the participants receive immediate feedback. This can come from the director, producer, other actors, or critics. Unfortunately, not all the reviews are positive. The key to answering this question correctly is to turn a negative into a positive. You should be able to describe how you take a negative review and use it to help improve your acting ability.
Example: “When I receive a negative review about my performance, the first thing I do is either listen to the reviewer or read a written review several times. If given the opportunity, I question the reviewer to learn more about the basis for their review, what I did wrong, what they liked, and what they feel I could improve on. I don’t let negative reviews get me down. I use the information in the review to examine my acting methodologies and identify areas I can improve on.”
Question: How do you maintain confidentiality about plot twists and other developments in TV productions before they air?
Explanation: As an actor in a TV series or any production which has plot twists and turns or is serialized, the need for confidentiality is critical. You don’t want to give away any of the essential storyline or ruin the ending for the audience. Actors have to have a strong moral compass and the ability to maintain confidentiality about the productions they are in.
Example: “Although it is sometimes tempting to discuss the productions I am in with my friends and family, I always resist the urge to do this. I understand the need for confidentiality in our industry, especially if I’m in a production that is serialized or has several plot twists or a surprise ending. Even when prompted to do this by my friends or industry writers, I avoid the temptation. My motivation is to preserve the integrity of the production for the audience.”
Question: What steps do you take to understand the importance of your character to the story fully?
Explanation: For an actor to be successful, they need to understand the character they are playing in great detail. This includes the character’s background, motivation, preferences, and style. You also need to understand how they react to the other characters in the production. Your answer should address how you go about doing this and the methods you use to get into character.
Example: “As an actor, I need to fully understand everything I can about the character I am portraying. I take a great deal of time to read the script to understand the character’s background, motivation, how they relate to the other characters in the story, and other items I can use to help me to understand better who they are and how I should portray them. I also have long conversations with the director, writers, and other actors about this. Once I fully understand the character, I take time to portray them even while not on the set or production. Sometimes I will assume the character’s traits for days at a time.”
Question: Who do you consider to be your acting role model whose career you would like to emulate, and why?
Explanation: By identifying a role model, you’re providing the interviewer with a great deal of insight into who you are, the type acting you prefer, and your style, which will be reflected in the characters you portray. Your answer should align with the role for which you are interviewing. You can pick a role model who has done similar productions, played the same type of characters, or who has a style similar to your own.
Example: “My acting role model is Kevin Costner. I have always admired his ability to own a role and accurately portray the characters in the productions he is in. I have done a lot of research about him and have learned that he puts a great deal of effort into character study, rehearsals, acting practice, and contributing to the overall quality of the projects he is in. I admire his discipline as an actor and his work ethic, both of which I strive to emulate.”
Question: What techniques do you use to create a believable character?
Explanation: This question is similar to one the interviewer asked you earlier about your acting methodology. Interviewers will often ask similar questions at different points during the interview to calibrate your answers and make sure that you are consistent. As long as you’re answering the questions truthfully and directly, there should be no issue with this.
Example: “In order to create believable characters, I first take the time to understand who the character is, and learn about their background, motivations, and how they interact with other characters in the production. Once I understand this, I take a great deal of time to practice being that character and acting as they would. I sometimes stay in character for extended periods while not on set to get a feel for how they would react to different situations. Once I get on set, all this preparation becomes apparent.”
Additional Actor Interview Questions
Describe your last experience on stage.
What was your longest-running role on stage?
Do you have experience acting in television or film?
What is the first thing you do to research and approach a role?
What experience do you have in developing accents for specific roles?
How do you mitigate disagreements between yourself and directors? With other actors?
Are you flexible enough to work on short notice as a stand-in? How quickly can you assume a new role?
List some of your accomplishments in the field of acting.
What is your experience in musical theater?
Describe your most challenging role to date.
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A word of warning when using question lists.
Question lists offer a convenient way to start practicing for your interview. Unfortunately, they do little to recreate actual interview pressure. In a real interview you’ll never know what’s coming, and that’s what makes interviews so stressful.
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