Perhaps not what you think!
For some of us, the image that comes to mind of an actor is not an entirely pleasant one. You might picture a self-absorbed, overly expressive narcissist who doesn’t just enter a room but swamps it with their physical, verbal and emotional self. Those people do exist in the world of acting, but in my experience, they are relatively few and far between, and they tend to drift away quite early in the journey toward becoming a good actor. Acting takes a lot of hard, quiet work, with little or no recognition, and narcissists can generally get their fuel more easily elsewhere.
So that leaves the rest of us. Happily in my experience, the most dedicated and best actors I have known are kind, humble, hardworking and thoughtful people. They can be shy, introverted and quiet. There are actors that work more from emotions, and others who work from a more intellectual approach. In short, actors come in all types, and it’s hard to pin down a specific personality type that suits the work. This means that being an actor is really for everybody who wants to give it a try. There is a place for all of us in this wonderful craft, and by giving it a go, you will naturally gravitate toward the side of the work that makes you the most happy and best reflects your abilities.
There are some qualities that do tend to show up repeatedly among the actors I have known, and here are a few of them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and for every truth there are several exceptions, but here goes. No doubt you will see yourself in one or more of these!
Every actor is a unique and complex mix of qualities, including some of the ones above and many others. There are as many different kinds of actors as there are non-actors, and you should feel very comfortable finding your own place in this wonderful mix of humanity. In fact, we are all actors already! Some of the roles we play are family member, the self we show at work, the self we show to good friends, the self we show to our parents, and so forth. A professional actor just learns how to grab control of the levers of the craft of acting and use them in a way that creates entertainment and tells a story.
I had fun building this partial list of actor attributes. What would you add to it?
Robert David Duncan, award-winning director, actor, writer and producer with a passionate interest in art, storytelling and the whole amazing journey called life. Founder of Fat Punk Productions and Festival Director of the Miniature Film Festival.