It’s a decades-old question: should actors move to New York City or Los Angeles for their career? Luckily, with self-taping and quick redeye flights, it’s easier to live and work in both places—but when choosing a home base, it can help to get some professional input on the decision. Backstage talked to seven NYC-based CDs on how they feel the coasts are different, the same, if where you live as an actor matters, and why they chose to stay on the East Coast.
“I think the training in New York has always been better and I think it’s easier to get started in New York. I think L.A. is a place you go to when you’re invited and to shoot. You move to New York to be an actor, you move to L.A. to be a movie star. I think that’s how people think about it. Most young actors getting out of school who are trained in the theater and maybe have a little bit of film and TV training, they typically move to NYC now and don’t venture out to L.A. until it does call them. It’s easier to get through New York. There are so many more actors in Los Angeles and we know that because we can look at the submissions and where they’re coming from. I just did a pilot and there were 4,700 submissions for a character. There were 900 submissions coming out of New York and the balance coming out of L.A. so you tell me where it’s easier to get in the room.” —Mark Saks, “Madame Secretary”
“I think really your lifestyle and what makes you feel like yourself, your creative self, whatever that is determines where you should be. There’s work both places. They’re viable real places. Are you comfortable in your car are you comfortable walking around? I think it’s making a life choice first of where you want to be and work and then commit to that and try to find your happy place.” —Laura Rosenthal, “A Quiet Place”
“There are many CDs in our office and we’re going back and forth all the time for different projects. We have an L.A. office and a New York office and there really isn’t a difference. Everyone’s auditioning the same. There are so many New York actors in L.A. and L.A. actors in New York so it’s more that there might be people who are not used to auditioning for a musical if it’s people who just don’t do that. That’s where you notice a difference but it’s really not about New York versus L.A. I think every actor needs a lesson in how to self-tape. It’s so wonderful to be able to get these self-tapes and these auditions and I’ve watched so many people get hired because they can’t be in the room but yet they get to be a participant now. But as far as a coastal difference, no.” —Bernie Telsey, “Mary Poppins Returns”
“It doesn’t matter; it’s just the budget of a film if we’re fortunate enough to open up to actors wherever they are versus so often I have to cast people out of New York. We’re lucky that we have such good actors here, but it’s more fun to be able to cast anybody from anywhere.” —Avy Kaufman, “Suspiria”
“I know it sounds funny but for “GLOW,” to find those unique actors I needed, it’s easier for me to find great unique actors, theater actors, in New York because that’s what we breed here. L.A., not so much. In L.A., there is an infinite number of actors. You can see actors until the end of time in L.A. which makes the process harder than it is in New York. There’s not a lot of theater where you can say I saw this person and this person, you have to start from scratch, do a lot of pre-reads, read people. A lot of times people just read for me and then I determine if we’re going to move them on to next step. We wanted to cast people who aren’t super well known on purpose. I wanted to cast it realistically.” —Jen Euston, “GLOW”
“There’s so much work in New York these days on camera or back in the day if you wanted to be in theater you had to be here and if you wanted to do film and TV you had to be there. It’s so not the case in any way anymore that it’s about where you want to be. And then you can go from there. I think as far as the difference being an actor in New York versus L.A. it’s changed so much, but now with self-tapes and all of that, it’s probably pretty similar. There’s always going to be more actors in L.A.” —Jodi Angstreich, “Sweetbitter”
“I stayed in New York and I started out in the theater, and theater is always a huge influence in casting in New York and L.A. just does not have that. There are specific people who are actors who stay in New York and live in New York and I’m not saying that they all work in theater but a lot of the people that come out, that are in projects that are New York–based are. A New York actor has almost always done some form of New York theater and a lot goes into that. That is just a different muscle and you either have that muscle or you don’t and you can develop that muscle. In Los Angeles unfortunately, there are some avenues to do theater, but it's very different from New York. —Cindy Tolan, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!