Like most actors, I spend a lot of time wondering why I didn’t get picked to audition or didn’t get picked for a callback or didn’t get picked for the role. I may reflect on what I could have done differently at each point and it usually ends up with me deciding my face has a lot to do with it. Yes, my face. The first thing people see when they look at my headshot, when I walk into the audition room, or when they see a taped audition.
There’s no way around it. Your face does a lot of the heavy lifting in your acting career and can fuel your momentum or drive people away, depending on who’s seeing it. Sometimes the same people can see it at different times and have different reactions to it. One moment it’s right for a role and the next moment it’s lost its appeal. Same face both times.
I’ll be honest. I have wished I could swap faces at times. Not necessarily a younger face. I already have a baby face, I’m often told. Maybe a more interesting looking face would be nice. Then I wonder if I would be stuck with that borrowed face forever and that seemed frightening. Odds are, I would grow tired of that face, too.
What’s helped me learn to appreciate my own face is looking at a lot of other faces. That’s not to say mine is better in some way. Quite the opposite. I find looking at faces to be similar to looking at works of art in a museum. Each face seems hand-crafted and instantly triggers feelings and thoughts for me. I find myself quietly observing a little too long as I imagine how I would cast that stranger based on his or her face alone.
Try this exercise. Go somewhere you can get a good look at faces without creeping anybody out. Sit down and just observe. Look for people who aren’t talking. Just existing. Look for 10 seconds, then look away. Staring could get you thrown out of Starbucks.
Don’t get caught up in what each person is wearing. Concentrate on the face alone. Consider what roles you might see them in. If you’re reading this in a public place, break away for a moment and check out some strangers. Seriously, do it now!
Okay, what did you notice? Maybe you saw someone whose face reminded you on someone you already know and don’t like. Maybe you saw someone whose face looked old for his or her age. Maybe you saw a face that was strangely altered by plastic surgery or an accident. Each one of these people, perfectly flawed in their own way, has people responding to their faces positively and negatively every day. The same is happening to you before, during, and after auditions.
So what’s the point of all this special facial attention? It’s a good reminder as we start 2015 to remember both opportunity and rejection are so often out of our control as actors. We’re not going to reinvent our look to be right for every role that comes along. So settle in, love the face that’s taking you places, and remain confident the right people (i.e., agents, casting, directors, etc.) will love it at the right times as well.