The series regular on a TV show. It's why you're doing all that cardio, taking all those classes, and desperately trying to get your agent to get you in rooms. Being a series regular on a show brings with it fame, fortune, and the chance to work as an actor five days a week for six, 13, or 22 weeks. It's just about as good as it gets in our business. And yet, while most actors are sacrificing life and limb to be there, most actors don't really have a full sense of what they're chasing.
Trying to be a series regular is like campaigning for president. You know you want the job, but you can't really have a sense of what it's like until you're there. Well, having been to one of our industry's mountaintops and seen the promised land, we're here to tell you what to expect. Here are five things to do when you book that coveted series regular role.
1. Pull back the curtain. Figure out as soon as you can that the fantasy you were chasing is not reality. Yes, the money is great. Yes, you have your own trailer. But at some point it all becomes wallpaper. At some point, during episode three, after 12 hours of shooting, you'll think to yourself, “Man, it would be nice to be at home.” At a certain point, it becomes work. And when it happens, it can be a let down. You were expecting nothing but bliss, but what you got was also real life. Focus on and be grateful for the fact that you get to act more than most people on that planet. When it's all said and done, that's better than your fat contract, your amazing catering, and your name in lights. The quicker you make it about the work, the better.
2. Live like you're poor. In the blink of an eye, you moved up to much higher tax bracket. You're making tens of thousands of dollars each week and there may be an impulse—and sometimes an expectation—that you're going to live large. This is a mistake that so many actors make. In a blink of that same eye, the show gets cancelled, and you don't make a substantial paycheck for a year or two. Three-hundred thousand dollars gets cut in half after paying the agent, manager, lawyer, and taxes, and the rest of it can easily get sucked into the high-flying lifestyle you'd created for yourself while you were on the show. Rule of thumb: Don't make big purchases that involve long-term payments until after season three. Invest ten percent of your money, reward yourself within a budget, and live simply. And whatever you do, do not hand off your finances to a business manager or accountant and ignore the details. You must be in control of your finances.
3. Don't believe the hype. You have a nice trailer with wi-fi and a big screen. You have a costumer who holds an umbrella over you in the rain. You have your own make-up artist and hair stylist who make sure you look just so. It's enough to make a person feel pretty special. You need to know that you're not special. Of course, you're special for other reasons, but not because you booked this TV show and the crew is fawning over you. You have a trailer because your work is emotional and you need space in which to prepare. The wardrobe person is holding the umbrella because his job is to protect your clothes, and it is the hair and make-up departments' job to make you look the way you look. While the crew members are often wildly caring of actors, they'd offer the same care to the actor you tested against, had they been cast. An inflated sense of yourself and your accomplishments disconnects you from humanity and gets in the way of doing good work.
4. Be nice to EVERYONE on set. Each actor who steps onto your set is a guest in your home. It's on you to make each of them feel welcome. They may only be a guest star to your lead, but if you create an environment in which they can do good work, your performance will be better. The show will be better. They may be anxious about being there. It's on you to welcome them, invite them to be a part of the creative process as much as is appropriate, and challenge them to be great. You were a guest star once, and believe us, you will be again. And when you're a guest star on a show led by someone who was a guest on your show, it all comes back around. Your crew members are your family for the time you're together under one roof. Treat them well, and they'll do everything for you. They're all working incredibly hard for the show. You get bigger paychecks and brighter spotlights, but that only means you need to set an example. Remember that you're a team and everyone has something huge to contribute.
5. Don't date your co-star. Unless you absolutely have to, that is. Yes, they're insanely good looking, and yes, you spend 15 hours a day, five days a week with them. But if at all possible, consider them off limits from the start. When two series regulars on a TV show start dating, the personal repercussions (even the good ones) always affect the work, and most of time it gets messy. There are plenty of fish in the sea—and in L.A. plenty of those fish are also insanely good-looking actors. Keep it clean and keep the work first. It’s not worth it to bring the tension to the set.
Booking a series regular role on a TV show is one of the greatest achievements in an actor's career. To make it last and go smoothly, you have to know what it is and what it isn't. When you appreciate the job, find your gratitude, and focus on the work, you'll have an incredible ride and save a few bucks to last until the next one!
Risa Bramon Garcia (renowned casting director, director, producer, and teacher) and Steve Braun (teacher, actor, communication consultant) are partnered in The Bramon Garcia Braun Studio, dedicated revolutionary acting and auditioning training. New career changing classes and workshops are here for the fall! Career and audition coaching and taping are in full swing. For more go to www.bramongarciabraun.com.