Whether you came to New York to study or start working straight away, launching your acting career as a foreigner comes with some unique challenges. When I first moved to New York City from London, I didn’t really give it any consideration at all. I just leaped at an exciting opportunity. I was very surprised by how long it took me to carve out a life that felt like my own and build a foundation from which I could start my career. Here’s what I figured out over those first few years.
1. Get to know the city.
New York can be overwhelming. One way of conquering that is to explore as much of the city as you can. Find the neighborhoods that you connect with, the ones that feel like you could be at home there. Find the coffee shops that you want to work from and the bars you want to drink at. Figure out where the audition studios are and where the Equity building is, along with all the other places you’ll be heading to often.
Where are the nearest places for printing headshots and résumés? Where is the nearest place with Wi-Fi in case you’re out in the city and want to work between auditions? Which subway lines are the ones you’re going to be using the most? I’m assuming that you already have somewhere to live but if you don’t, take these things into consideration when you’re choosing a place.
2. Find your communities.
You’ll discover your people all over the place! One of the many wonderful things about New York is that there are loads of foreigners here, so it won’t take you long to meet fellow newbies and transplants. Find theater companies run by people from your country or other fellow foreigners. See their shows, audition for them, offer to help them with their next production, or fundraising event.
Find the companies that are doing the kind of work you want to do and get involved with them too. Your communities should be made up of different types of people who inspire you in different ways. Also, take classes. We should all be continuing our development as actors, but taking classes can help widen your network and give you a better understanding of who’s who in the industry and how it works as well. The more information you can gather, the better equipped you’ll be to take NYC by storm.
3. Use your foreignness to your advantage.
Accents and languages are incredibly valuable in this industry, so embrace your niche! Make sure you have examples on your reels of you working in your own language and in your native accent. Then research agents who represent foreign actors and casting directors who work on international projects and reach out to them with your materials.
4. Work on your American accent.
Although you want to take advantage of your niche, having the skill to audition in an American accent will broaden the type of work you can do. If you came to New York to train, you more than likely studied General American dialect in your voice and speech classes. But if you didn’t, it could be worth investing in a few sessions with a dialect or accent reduction coach to build your confidence and precision for future auditions.
5. Become well versed in American culture.
This is the market you want to work in, so get to know it! Watch American TV shows and films, go see American theater, follow the local and national news, and say yes to new experiences that you might not have in other parts of the world or even the country. You’re living somewhere new, so take advantage of it. You’ll start to fill the cultural gaps in your knowledge as well as see fun new things and feel a part of what’s happening here day-to-day.
6. Find ways to stay connected to your own culture.
You can find anything and everything in New York, so find the places that remind you of where you came from. Places where you can buy your favorite treats from home or watch sports from your country. Invite some of your friends to share your favorite traditional dishes. It might sound crazy, but these little things helped me stay connected to home.
With these tips, you can develop a strong foundation for starting your new life and career in New York City.
Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!
The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.