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Casting Advice

An Actor's Most Guarded Secret

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An Actor's Most Guarded Secret
Every summer my partner and I spend many of our weekends at an all-male, gay, campground in the mountains of Pennsylvania. (For family in the know, it's the one with the big green wooden gate and the bunny under the pine tree. 'Nuff said.)

Ok, so what have my too-close-for-comfort encounters with randy bears and wolves in the woods have to do with actors? There's an unspoken truth; one closely guarded common secret held secure both by many actors and nearly all gay men. Their true age.

Whenever the other half and I go to this particular campground (or any gay gathering), we're always asked, "How long have you two been together?"

Knowing that my sidekick protects his age with more secrecy than his ATM pin number, I created a reply that would respect his privacy and give a true answer as to how long we've been together: "Four presidents long." This often causes much intended confusion for the inquirer because we've been graced, for now, with looking younger than our numerical existence on this spinning ball of turf and tides.

Once the questioner matches math to history then comes their shock that amuses both me and my partner. "When did you guys meet? When you were thirteen?!" To which the beau quickly quips back with, "No -- we met in the womb." And that usually quells further inquiry to what is really desired by the questioner; our ages.

Actors often get similar round-a-bout questions in auditions by the hiring personnel who hold an interest for discovering an artist's age.

The most common coy ploy is by directors and casting asking the actor when they graduated college. If and when I do ask that question of younger actors, I do so in order to recall if I saw the actor in their graduating showcase. When some other directors do it they may be asking just for sake of conversation. But occasionally it's asked by some casting persons to determine age. (So you "older" actors may want to take the year you graduated college off of your resume.)

Once a casting decision maker knows your age, then you're often pegged for playing within that age -- give or take five years. Only on rare occasions will someone overlook the actual numerical that equals your years of existence.

Long ago one of my audition assistants, also a friend and actress, freely told me her age. I was floored. I thought she was ten years younger than what she had reveled. I continue not to think of her equaling the number of her birthdays celebrated. I also remain steadfast against revealing her age to anyone; especially to my partner who now represents her.

As I covered extensively in my book, there are times when an actor will be asked directly what their age is. The answer to give, if any at all?

Well, one of my main advisories is to reply with, "What age would you like me to be?" Normally that ends the inquiry. If it doesn't, then you can use humor to deflect by giving a reply similar to, "The only other person who knows is my mother and we made a deal. She doesn't remind me of my age, I don't disclose hers." If that doesn't work then be firm, but polite, with, "Some things about my life I keep private."

There are several other options to answering inquiries of age, but just like my own number of birthdays survived, some things I don't give up freely.


Paul Russell's career as a casting director, director, acting teacher and former actor has spanned nearly thirty years. He has worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. He is the author of "ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor." For more information, please visit www.PaulRussell.net.

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