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Secret Agent Man

How You Should Be Looking At Your Acting Career

How You Should Be Looking At Your Acting Career
Photo Source: Robert Wilson

I have a friend who needs to lose weight. He went through a bad patch and now his heart is lugging around an extra 30 pounds. Yours truly happens to be in great shape for a guy on the wrong side of 40 so I gave him a few tips. Some were based on the slow-carb approach to eating and a few were based on common sense, like keep your eyes closed when you go by the pastry case at Starbucks.

After following my advice for a month, my friend dropped 20 pounds and was starting to look much better. I was thrilled but he was disappointed because he still had 10 more pounds to go.

That’s called finding the negative in a positive.

Sadly, this is something actors do all the time. It’s a horrible and annoying way to live. My theory is that creative people have a defective gene which forces them to ignore the good and focus on the bad. This kind of behavior is so common that I think actors should start listing it on their résumés under Special Skills. It could read something like this: Fluent in Spanish, excellent swimmer, really good at finding the negative in a positive.

You think I’m kidding? Here’s a conversation I had just the other day with one of my clients, an established actor in his 30s:

“Good news. You have an audition tomorrow morning for ‘Castle.’ ”

“That’s great. How many pages?”


“Oh God, that’s so much.”

These are the kind of responses that make my blood boil. From an agent’s perspective, more material means a bigger part with more chances to make an impression. And that’s a good thing, right?

It gets worse during pilot season. As the stakes get higher, common sense goes right out the window. Why celebrate an even money win when you were hoping to score a million-dollar jackpot?

Pilot season is a time when every little accomplishment should be cheered as a major one, but actors never see it that way. They’re too focused on booking a pilot that goes to series and becomes the next big thing. That would be great but it’s a long shot, and I would argue there’s a more positive and realistic way to look at your career.

For example, if you test for a series regular role but the part ends up going to another actor, there are two possible responses. First, you can disappear into a major funk because that was the one role that would’ve made you famous and it’s highly unlikely another will ever come along. Or second, you can realize that the simple act of testing has elevated you from the pack and now other casting directors will want to see you for their pilots. And on top of that, you have a brand-new quote that I negotiated through the roof and will come in handy next time you test.

Which response do you think is healthier?

Trust me. This business is tough enough, so there’s no need to make it any tougher. Focus on the positive. Learn from the negative. And when in doubt, remember the immortal words of Groucho Marx: “Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day—today—and I’m going to be happy in it.”

Like this advice? Check out more from Secret Agent Man!

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