Are you an actor looking for an agent in New York City? The same talent agencies may have popped up for you: William Morris Endeavor (WME), Agency for the Performing Arts (APA), and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), to name a few. But does the top tier feel elusive for an actor in your position? Here’s the deal: The biggest agencies will almost never take a chance on an unknown. And, while starting at the top would obviously be great, smaller agencies offer more hands-on attention and plenty of room to grow.
New York especially is brimming with agents, managers, and, of course, opinions—and trying to cut through to the best agencies can be a challenge. We compiled first-person accounts, reviews, and industry knowledge to create this list of agencies actors can trust. Here are the agencies where the newest actors get their start. These are the folks who have the connections to get you on a pilot or represent you when your small musical becomes a surprise hit and moves Off-Broadway—or beyond! Each one of these agencies offers something different, covering all the bases for talent at any stage of their career.
Here are some places to start looking in your quest to land an agent.
The breakdown: A boutique agency with strong connections in Broadway, Hollywood, and digital media, A3 Artists maintains a seamless connection between its NYC and Los Angeles offices, and both feature a relaxed atmosphere.
A3 is a proven agency that’s been in the business for over 40 years. Since its acquisition by Robert Attermann, Brian Cho, and Adam Bold in 2018, the agency has expanded past its strong reputation for helping talent in film, television, theatrical, commercial, and voiceover to “disrupting traditional media for good.”
Its New York office handles talent with diverse roles in film and on television, including Robin Lord Taylor (“Gotham,” represented by Samantha Stoller), Jenn Murray (“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” represented by Jamie Pillet), Sherilyn Fenn (“Twin Peaks: The Return,” represented by Richard Fisher), and Milly Shapiro (“Hereditary,” represented by Victoria Kress). Up-and-coming talent include Josh Segarra (“Arrow,” Broadway’s “On Your Feet!” represented by Paul Reisman), Alexa Swinton (“Emergence,” represented by Victoria Kress), and Sepideh Moafi (“The L Word: Generation Q,” represented by Justin Baxter).
And A3 is on the hunt for fresh talent. “Almost every night of the week, somebody [from the agency is] out at the theater,” agent Richard Fisher told us. “And certainly we see showcases—school showcases—all year long.” Fisher emphasized that you “go with your gut” when choosing an agency. He said when meeting with an agent, talent should “walk out and say, ‘I really like those people,’ or ‘They are not for me’.... Continue on with the meetings or just say, ‘Great group of people, but this is not the place for me.’ ”
“Do your homework on the history and the background of the agency and who you might be meeting,” he continued. “That’s it, because the rest is simple. You’re just going to come in and have a chat, and we’ll go from there.”
The breakdown: Avalon Artists is a great fit for New York theatrical talent working on and Off-Broadway, as well as film and television actors looking to expand their opportunities from coast to coast.
Avalon Artists was started in 2005 and has since boasted “hands-on, personalized attention.” It’s a full-service agency with offices on both coasts, but its major focus is representing theatrical talent in New York. Owner and lead agent Craig Holzberg splits his time between both coasts. This gives his clients an edge, with lots of opportunities in the New York theater world, as well as auditions in L.A. For instance, Ito Aghayere (“Carol’s Second Act”) was on Broadway in “Bernhardt/Hamlet.” Avalon also contributed to “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” In New York, regional, and on tour, it provided talent for “Be More Chill” (Tiffany Mann), “Hamilton,” and “Come From Away.”
Avalon does more than just Broadway theater, too; opportunities abound throughout the New York theater world. For instance, Avalon also represents Joe Chisholm and Traci Elaine Lee, who were both in the edgy “Safeword.” at the Off-Broadway American Theatre of Actors. Holzberg frequently hosts workshops in NYC for actors to get immediate feedback on their monologues and portfolios.
The breakdown: Buchwald has big-name recognition, with offices in New York and L.A., and offers representation across mediums.
Buchwald got its start in the 1970s, first representing radio talent. It now represents commercial, broadcast, film, theater, television, literary, feature film packaging, personal appearance, syndication (radio, television, and digital), branding/digital, and emerging talent.
Big names who’ve spent time with the agency include Angela Lansbury (“Murder, She Wrote”), Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”), Robert Forster (“Jackie Brown”), and Howard Stern.
Buchwald can now boast up-and-coming talent such as Kennedy McMann (“Nancy Drew,” represented by Katie Britton), Alex Landi (“Insatiable,” represented by Sheri Talkovsky), and Ames McNamara (“The Conners,” represented by Leslie Zaslower). The agency also works with talent in featured and supporting roles on television, including Rey Lucas (“The First,” represented by Cassandra Tay), Angelica Ross (“Pose,” “American Horror Story,” represented by Sheri Talkovsky), and Kate Villanova (“Chicago Fire,” represented by Katie Britton).
The breakdown: Carson Kolker is a smaller agency that’s great for young talent looking for roles on Broadway or in film and television.
Although it has only a few agents, CKO maintains a strong bicoastal presence. The agency is owned by Barry Kolker, who transitioned from acting into working as an agent early on in his career.
CKO focuses on representing young talent, both for the stage and the screen. The agency has represented Emmy-nominated Ja’Siah Young (“Raising Dion”), Ayla Schwartz (Broadway’s “Frozen”), and Jawan M. Jackson (Broadway’s “Ain’t Too Proud”).
Kolker told us that he looks “for talented kids/teens with a lot of personality who have a passion for performing and whose parent or guardian is able to make the commitment.” Beyond Kolker, the agency employs several agents whose rosters include adult talent working in television, film, theater, and commercial.
The breakdown: Gersh is a big agency with lots of resources and talent, but it remains just small enough to give great attention to up-and-coming performers, including Broadway actors seeking Hollywood roles.
Gersh represents an impressive roster of Broadway talent, such as Norm Lewis, Ramin Karimloo, and Samantha Massell. Many aspiring actors use the agency as a stepping stone to Hollywood success—just ask former clients Adam Driver, Melanie Lynskey, Victoria Pedretti, and Brendan Fraser. While these clients have parted ways with the agency, that just means that its large pool of agents can better keep a steady portfolio of up-and-coming talent waiting for their breakthrough roles.
Gersh is a great choice if you are working in NYC theater and looking for Hollywood connections. But it’s also perfect if you have some industry experience, a strong reel, and solid connections, and just need something a little bigger.
The breakdown: A large agency with a growing name in the industry, Innovative Artists remains resolutely focused on service and staying the right size. Its large roster is a mix of big stars and working talent, and Innovative wants to keep it that way.
Innovative is a large agency that offers robust, full service for film, television, theater, voiceover, commercial, and more. The agency has represented talent including Linda Hamilton (“Terminator: Dark Fate”), Colin Ford (“Captain Marvel”), Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”), and Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”). Even long-established talent Richard Dreyfuss (“The Goodbye Girl,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus”) recently transitioned to Innovative.
Innovative has also repped talent working in downtown theater, such as the edgy show “Daddy” by Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play,” “Euphoria”).
The breakdown: A workhorse boutique that is happy to work with talent pursuing original roles Off-Broadway and downtown, the KMR Talent Agency helps actors land recurring and regular work on series and pilots.
KMR boasts that it’s one of the country’s leading talent agencies—and it’s got the receipts to prove it. Started in 1957, the agency expanded into NYC in 2002 while it was still Kazarian/Spencer & Associates. (The name switched after one partner left and two more joined, so don’t get tripped up when you see the older name in articles or on the web.) Since arriving in NYC, it developed a reputation for signing talent working their way through Off-Broadway and downtown theater spaces.
KMR is a solid choice for actors who don’t want to be pressured into film and television projects and miss out on juicy roles in New York theater spaces. Still, KMR’s agents are good at placing talent in pilots that launch them into regular and recurring roles—if clients and former clients Javier Muñoz (“Hamilton”), Joanna Adler (“American Crime Story,” "Blacklist”), Joy Osmanski (“Stargirl”), and Caleb Foote (“The Kids Are Alright,” “Made for Love”) are any indication.
The agency is known for its town halls, diversity department, and focus on social awareness. President Mark Measures said, “My ultimate goal is that I don’t want the department to exist. I want everybody to just see actors as actors, so that someday we can eliminate the department.”
The breakdown: A global agency with loads of music talent, Paradigm has name recognition, many resources, and a track record of working with talent destined for big things.
Paradigm is a global full-service agency that represents talent for television, live music, motion pictures, theater, digital, book publishing, content finance, and brand partnerships. It’s a recognized name, at a similar level to Gersh, with a niche working with music talent—including those crossing over into television and film.
It represents key talent making names for themselves in breakout roles in film and on television: Jacob Batalon (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”), Austin Crute (“Daybreak,” “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”), Olivia Holt (“Cloak and Dagger), Emily Hampshire (“Schitt’s Creek,” “The Rig”), and Jason Ralph (“The Magicians”). Paradigm has strong connections to theater, as well, and can help actors cross over.
Overall, Paradigm may not be as inaccessible as WMA or CAA, but it can still seem tantalizingly out of reach for talent just starting out. However, with a referral through a manager, an acting coach, or someone similar, a “second-tier” agency like Paradigm is not out of reach. And as our Secret Agent Man writes: “As you start searching for the right agent, don’t be afraid to aim high.... There’s nothing wrong with approaching an agent who’s just out of reach. You never know. The entertainment industry favors those who take chances.”
The breakdown: A boutique agency in NYC with strong roots in Chicago, Stewart has a great track record of working with talent in New York theaters, both on and Off-Broadway. It also places talent in film and on television.
Stewart Talent is a boutique agency formed in 2004 that offers service for television, film, theater, voiceover, commercial, print, industrial, theatrical directors, and stylists. Stewart began as one of the oldest talent agencies in the Midwest, where it enjoys a wonderful reputation.
The agency’s New York office in Midtown has become an important player in Broadway and Off-Broadway. Tony winners Rondi Reed and Deanna Dunagan (“August: Osage County”) have worked with the agency, as have Carol Kane (“The Dead Don’t Die,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Betty Buckley (“Hello, Dolly!”). The agency is also good at scoring up-and-coming actors roles in television series, as it did for Yadira Guevara-Prip (“See”) and Happy Anderson (“The Tick”).
President Donald Birge emphasizes that what he is seeking more than anything is “actors in it for the long haul and committed to this as a career.”
“I want them to be successful, and, more importantly, I want them to feel fulfilled,” he said. “They’re artists more than anything. I want them to be able to exercise their artistry.”
Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s New York City audition listings!