All of the leading actors I work with are (and always were) on a specific career path. From the inception of their training they were on a mission. I've known many truly skilled artists who quit this business just one year out of drama (trauma?) school. While they may have had a dump truck-ful of ability, they had just a thimbleful of belief in themselves. Put these actors up against those who may have a thimbleful of ability but a dump truck-ful of belief. The latter will always succeed. The former will fail. Turn on any reality TV show. Blind ambition goes a long way.
Do I endorse this way of life? No. But can we learn from it? Yes. You must have talent for your talent. If you think you deserve love and success, you do. If you don't think you deserve love and success, then you don't. That will be your truth and ultimately, your reality. It's that simple.
In your life and your work, what position are you playing -- extra, bit player, supporting player, or lead? Those roles are in keeping with the personal and professional risks taken. You cast yourself, so adopt an "I dare you not to cast me!" ethos.
The over-socialization of the individual makes one "manageable" and easily manipulated. Cast it off. Act to seek your own good opinion. Nobody invites you to play quarterback; it's a decision. Decisions equal destiny, so make your decisions with precision. Big players make big plays.
If you want to be a lead, then make that choice. It's yours to make. Risk clarity. Commit to your work. Train continually. Make dynamic choices rather than the "safe" or "appropriate" choice. Remember that charming is disarming, but be OK with not always being liked by everyone. Preparation is everything, so work on your voice and speech every day. Study theater and film history. Doing the minimum never brings about the maximum. Develop a personal, passionate, precise, political, and provocative point of view. Take a stand. Fight for what you truly want in this life. Don't settle. Soon you won't remember any other way of being.
Make a compelling contribution to this life and this art. See where it takes you.
A lead actor leads the way.
Tom Todoroff is a producer, director, actor, writer, and athlete. He trained with Michael Shurtleff for 15 years. He has trained and coached actors for more than 30 years. In addition to a two-year conservatory in NYC, Todoroff has 10 studios worldwide.