13 Best Cities for Actors to Break Into Showbiz

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Photo Source: “Oppenheimer” Credit: Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

From the dazzling lights of the Great White Way to the sun-kissed boulevards of Tinseltown, many places offer aspiring actors the perfect stage to launch their careers. And while it’s no secret that most actors find themselves drawn to L.A. or NYC, there are plenty of other great cities for actors in the United States—and even Canada. Here are the 13 best cities for aspiring actors to start on their path toward stardom.



Better Call Saul

“Better Call Saul” Credit: Greg Lewis/AMC/Sony Pictures Tel

With New Mexico’s film, TV, and digital media industry spending $2.2 billion over the 2020–2023 fiscal years, the state is an excellent market for big- and small- screen talent. Albuquerque-based actors receive tons of local support from the New Mexico Film Office and other organizations, and schools like the ABQ Actors’ Studio train those new to the business alongside seasoned performers, making this one of the best cities for aspiring actors. Famous locally shot productions include films such as Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Dexter Fletcher’s “Ghosted,” and TV shows such as Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad,” Gilligan and Peter Gould’s “Better Call Saul,” and the NBC medical drama “The Night Shift.”



“Atlanta” Credit: Guy D'Alema/FX

Georgia has the fastest-growing film industry in the nation, and Atlanta is at the heart of it. Massive incentives, expanding production studios, top-notch acting classes, and an international airport with easy access to California make Atlanta a major destination for actors. As the number of Atlanta-based independent and studio productions goes up each year, local actors are enjoying a plethora of work opportunities. The city’s such a hot spot that filmmaker Tyler Perry opened his sprawling 330-acre studio there in 2019. It’s also where many major projects were filmed, including multiple “Hunger Games” films, Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” and, of course, FX’s “Atlanta.”


Love and Death

“Love and Death” Credit: Jake Giles Netter/HBO Max

Austin is increasingly one of the top cities for actors. Climate, scenery, access to professional crew, and financial perks draw productions—and actors—to Austin and the surrounding areas. Local talent was used in the Academy Award–nominated film “Boyhood,” including its Austinite star Ellar Coltrane. Other local film and TV productions include the Coen brothers’ 2010 film “True Grit,” ABC’s anthology series “American Crime,” HBO’s limited series “Love and Death,” and the teen drama “Friday Night Lights.”



“CODA” Courtesy Apple TV+

New England hosts a light but steady stream of film, television, and commercial productions, primarily shot in and around Boston and Providence, Rhode Island. Massachusetts’ tax incentives have had a positive effect on the local film community. Projects filmed in Boston include the Apple TV+ limited series “Defending Jacob,” Matt Ruskin’s “Boston Strangler,” Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” J Blakeson’s “I Care a Lot,” and Sian Heder’s Oscar best picture winner “CODA.”


Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” Courtesy Columbia Pictures

Due to its minimal permitting regulations and relatively low cost of living—and filming—North Carolina has a steady stream of films shot in the state that highlight its relevance and viability in the industry. In particular, Charlotte holds great potential as a small-scale film town, with productions including Bart Layton’s “American Animals,” Clint Eastwood’s “Sully,” and Adam McKay’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Showtime’s hit series “Homeland” was also filmed in the area.


The Bear

“The Bear” Credit: Chuck Hodes/FX

It’s called the “third coast” for a reason; Chicago is a great city for actors of all backgrounds and is chock-full of theater, improv, film, TV, and commercial opportunities. Big-budget filmmakers have flocked to the Windy City for projects like Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” Nolan’s “The Dark Knight,” and Robert Schwentke’s “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” Interested in television? The wealth of locally shot TV shows include “The Bear,” “Station Eleven,” “Chicago Fire,” “Empire,” and “Shameless.”

Los Angeles

La La Land

“La La Land” Credit: Dale Robinette

While stage actors can make a name for themselves at theaters like REDCAT and Pasadena Playhouse, if seeing your face on the silver screen is your dream, then L.A. is the place to be. The city synonymous with cinema boasts some of the best film schools and production companies in the world. Aspiring actors can train at notable studios like 3-2-1 Acting Studios and Speiser Sturges Acting Studio, and find a community of like-minded people to support them on their path to stardom. Los Angeles has provided the backdrop for innumerable films and TV shows, from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” and Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” to Darren Star’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” and Doug Ellin’s “Entourage.”


Bad Boys for Life

“Bad Boys for Life” Courtesy Sony Pictures

The city where the heat is on has an established motion picture market and entertainment sales tax exemption that make it one of the best cities for film actors and producers. Iconic films “Scarface,” “The Birdcage,” “Goldfinger,” and Oscar winner “Moonlight” were shot in the Magic City, as were the TV shows “Dexter,” “Burn Notice,” “The Glades,” and “Miami Vice.” Miami is also a major commercial market, with many national ads and music videos shooting in the surrounding areas each month.

New Orleans

Mayfair Witches

“Mayfair Witches” Credit: Alfonso Bresciani/AMC

New Orleans is home to tons of talented film professionals, from filmmakers to professional crew to on-camera actors. Like many other booming film markets, Louisiana’s tax incentives, beautiful locations, and right-to-work labor laws make it an attractive destination for major networks and indies alike. Films shot in the city have received major acclaim; “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Django Unchained,” and “12 Years a Slave” were all filmed in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Locally shot TV series include the horror and supernatural productions “American Horror Story,” “The Originals,” “Mayfair Witches,” “We Have a Ghost,” and “Renfield”—so if you’re into the ghostly and spooky, NOLA might be the city for you.

New York City

And Just Like That...

“And Just Like That...” Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max

The theater capital of the world, NYC is home to Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway, with theaters like New World Stages, Theatre Row, SoHo Playhouse, Atlantic Theater Company, Ars Nova, 59E59, Dixon Place, HERE, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, and Under St. Marks. Auditions, readings, workshops, and classes abound at the city’s many fantastic acting schools and programs, including Juilliard, New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Pace University, the Stella Adler School of Acting, the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute, and HB Studio. It’s also a major production hub. “Goodfellas,” “Ghostbusters,” “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” and “Law & Order” are just a few of the iconic productions filmed in the Big Apple.




“Portlandia” Credit: Augusta Quirk/IFC

Casting directors and actors are abuzz about Portland, and with good reason: A thriving theater scene, a vibrant local culture, and an expanding film and television industry have created fabulous opportunities for Oregonian actors. Films and TV shows including Stephen Herek’s “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” Vallée’s “Wild,” Macon Blair’s “I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore,” the NBC fantasy series “Grimm,” and the hilarious, self-referential “Portlandia” were all filmed in and around the City of Roses.

San Francisco

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Los Angeles isn’t the only city in California (often called the best state for acting) where actors can advance their careers. San Francisco is home to multiple commercial and theatrical shoots each year, and it has the added advantage of an active theater scene. The Scene in San Francisco rebate program incentivizes filmmakers with dollar-for-dollar refunds on taxes, and has successfully drawn an increasing number of productions to the city. Some of the TV shows and movies shot in the Bay Area include HBO’s “Looking” and “Silicon Valley,” Netflix’s “Sense8,” Lana Wachowski’s “The Matrix Resurrections,” Ruben Fleischer’s “Venom,” Matt Reeves’ “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” Tim Burton’s “Big Eyes,” and Gareth Edwards’ “Godzilla.”


Workin’ Moms

“Workin’ Moms” Courtesy CBC Television

Dubbed “Hollywood North” (alongside Vancouver), Toronto is a major hub of film and television production, with recent record-breaking spending for screen production. Local actors have many training opportunities at their fingertips with the Toronto Film School and the Toronto Academy of Acting, both of which have onscreen-focused programs. The very long list of local productions has included popular TV series like “Workin’ Moms,” “Reign,” “Hannibal,” and “Orphan Black,” as well as major motion pictures like Guillermo del Toro’s “Crimson Peak,” Bryan Singer’s “X-Men,” and David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.”

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