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Act with Class, Please

Professional etiquette is critical for actors. It’s an essential component of hirability. Actors who don’t comport themselves professionally may find themselves unhirable no matter how talented and well-trained they are. This is true even for prominent actors, who may lose work to lesser-known actors who possess a great attitude and impeccable professionalism. Here are a few of the many ways an actor can demonstrate professional etiquette:

Be on time.   Actors who come late to rehearsal or work, keeping their co-workers and employers waiting, may soon find themselves without work to go to.

Be prepared.   Actors who arrive at work not knowing their lines or not having fully prepared their roles will discover there’s no place for such behavior among those who take acting seriously as a career.  I was recently in a feature film in New York with a very talented actor. He asked the director a question about every line in the script. Ultimately the director lost patience with him and said, “If you don’t like the script, why did you take the film?” Much to everyone’s surprise, the actor very publicly stated, “I didn’t really read the script.” Needless to say, this shocked everybody on set, and the actor quickly became alienated from everyone he was working with.

Be courteous. Understand the decorum required when working with directors, producers, and other actors. It’s best to be circumspect in the early stages of interacting with new co-workers, while you respectfully assess their communication style and their approach to work.

I was on a TV series and saw a co-star repeatedly attempt to initiate contact with one of the series regulars. It seemed he felt that by doing this, he was ingratiating himself with the regular and the production. On the same set, I observed another co-star who took all his cues about communication from the regular. This actor was circumspect and sensitive to the regular’s wishes, thereby keeping a boundary between them. He didn’t attempt to ingratiate himself but let his work speak for itself. When both roles recurred on another episode, only the more circumspect actor was cast again.

Stay focused on the work. As Sanford Meisner said, “Put your attention on your work, and everything else will fall into place.” Actors often discover the art of acting in an attempt to escape the reality of their lives. Fantasy and playing pretend allow you to enter another world. Unfortunately, many actors bring the conflicts and confusion of their family histories to the workplace. So have boundaries. Let your work be your greatest focus and priority. Stay out of conflicts and controversy. You are there to serve the production and tell the story, not to act out unresolved personal issues.

An established actor, comedian, producer, and teacher, Joanne Baron is currently starring opposite Halle Berry and Stellan Skarsgård in 'Frankie and Alice'. Other film credits include 'Spider-Man 2', 'Drag Me to Hell', 'School for Scoundrels', 'Real Genius', 'Perfume', and 'Allie and Me'. She is married to D.W. Brown, most recently author of 'You Can Act: A Complete Guide for Actors'' (Michael Wiese Productions, May 2009, paperback). Together they own the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Stud

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