This week someone sent me a fantastic question. It’s so fantastic, I have spent some time reflecting on it before coming up with answer. I think I’m ready now to share my response.
“What made you decide to become an actor?”
The challenge in answering that question is there is not one pivotal moment when I suddenly realized I wanted to act. I mean, act professionally. A lot of us get opportunities to act in school or in church. I’m sure those experiences for me in Lisbon, New York were laying the groundwork for what was to come though.
The truth is, back then I think I wanted to be famous. I liked the attention. I was a relatively shy kid, especially starting college at St. Lawrence University. Acting felt like a way to find security in a character that wasn’t me. I wish I had a more noble reason, but I don’t.
I didn’t pursue acting after college. Instead, I made the decision to work in radio, then in TV news. In those roles, I felt like I was acting, playing the role of a radio salesman, a sports announcer, a news producer, a weatherman, etc. I never saw myself staying in those positions long. Each one felt like a “performance” that would run its course before I moved on to something else.
When the cable news station I was working for in Houston shut down in 2004, I was suddenly out of work and free to make a decision regarding my acting aspirations. I had not forgotten my dream; I had just set it aside or made it a low priority for many years. I made small attempts to return to nurturing it but never fully committed to turning the dream into a reality.
Now I encounter people regularly who say they have wanted to act for years. My first response is, what are you doing about it? Acting, like any profession, isn’t something we fall into. It’s something we decide to do. I don’t know any actor who accidentally walked onto a set and starting involuntarily delivering a monologue. It’s a choice, one that may take years to make.
If you’re one of those people who believes you want to act but keep telling yourself life is always getting in the way, decide today exactly what you want from this type of work. I no longer seek the fame I did twenty years ago. I prefer to immerse myself in a role that’s part of a larger story with substance and value. I enjoy bringing a character to life. I feel at my physical, mental, and emotional best when I am on set and working. Your reasons will be different, but take the time to figure out what’s driving you to want to act. Then once you know, you’ll find making decisions regarding your desires will become a lot easier.