As a rule, the more versatile an actor is, the more opportunities they receive. A fruit vendor that only sells bananas would most likely increase his income if he sold other fruits as well. You certainly can get work with an accent, but it will limit the jobs you can get. There are only a few movie stars that have done quite well with an accent, such as Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Sofia Vergara, Holly Hunter, and Charo to name a few. These actors started their careers off with their own accents. For them, it wasn’t necessary to “lose” their accents because they quickly established their careers with their accents. The odds are that most actors with accents won’t be as lucky as this group of stars, so it makes sense to “lose” your accent in the beginning of your career to afford you more opportunities. I’m not saying hide it forever; you can still continue to audition for parts that have your native accent.
In general, it helps to be able to learn to speak without accents or regionalisms (such as a Southern, Boston, New York, or Midwest American regional accent). Anna Torv and John Noble, the two leading actors on the J.J. Abrams series "Fringe", are both from Australia, yet they speak with neutral American accents on the show. Since they haven’t made a career out of using their native accent like the actors I mentioned above, it was important to them to speak without an accent to increase their job opportunities, and it's a good thing they did, or they wouldn’t have starred on this cult classic series.
For those of you who want to learn to speak without an accent, there are many speech coaches that specialize in this area. There are also a number of online sites that can also help you learn to speak with any regionalisms.
If you have trouble learning other dialects, or if you are just passionate enough about your own heritage and do not wish to explore neutral accents, I say good for you, nothing wrong with that, and now you know the limitations you are faced with. Just remember: If you choose to move forward with your accent, diction is the important thing to remember. If you have an accent, we must understand everything you say! The casting director or director will appreciate it, as well as the author whose words you are saying!
Remember, just because you have learned to speak without an accent, doesn't mean you must live the rest of your life without it. Use it at home, use it with your friends, but leave it at home when auditioning for roles that don’t require one.
John Essay has been a theatrical manager and producer for nearly 25 years. His company, Essay Management, represents actors, writers and directors in all areas of the entertainment industry. He also created www.TheActorsGuideToEverything.com, a website reflecting the culmination of all that he has learned in the last 25 years as a personal manager.