For an actor to create and sustain a career, it’s important to know exactly who they are in the eyes of the industry, not who they want to be. Every day I work with actors helping them to figure that out, by developing their brand and pinpointing their specific type. The first question I always ask is, “What is your age range?” How the actor responds tells so much about their professionalism. Last week, I worked with a guy who told me he played 27–35. I was silent for quite a while trying to figure out how to respond when I just blurted out, “But aren’t you, like, 45?”
“I'm 47 but everybody says I look 27.”
“Really? Do they?”
I’m not saying that everyone is that delusional, and definitely not as delusional as I am. Seriously, every time I look in the mirror I see that 28-year-old guy who had it all going on. However, when I step out into the real world, I have to be realistic about who I am and that includes being honest about my age range.
Agents, casting directors, and directors want to work with professional actors—those that know who they are and what they have to offer. Answering the question “What is your age range?” with “I don't know, you tell me,” or “I can play anywhere from 15–40” is not the response of a professional actor. In fact, that can be very off-putting to a potential employer.
Here are four considerations when determining your specific age range:
1. An actor’s age range is no more than five years.
Most importantly, your real age must be within that five-year span. The only exceptions are kids who only get a two-year range because they change so quickly and senior actors (75+) who are usually all clumped together in the “older actor” category.
READ: How to Become an Actor
2. Age up.
Why does everyone want to be so young? There are people of all ages in film and television, yet everyone wants to play younger. A person exudes a sense of maturity in the way he carries himself, and age can clearly be read in his eyes, no matter how young his face appears. If you’re saying that you’re 16 and you’re actually 24, when you come in for an audition and you’re sitting next to a true 16-year-old, the CD is going to look at you and say, “Wow it’s been a rough 16 years” or worse, “Who do you think you’re fooling?” Is that really the impression you want to make?
And yes, there will always be every generation’s version of “Glee” or “90210” where actors are playing high school age when they're actually in their 30s…but that’s not the norm.
3. Where are you going (not where you’ve been)?
So many actors get stuck in the past: that year they booked a couple nationals, when they got that movie role and three guest stars, the period their hair looked amazing, etc. A working actor looks forward by creating a career arc with attainable goals getting bigger and bigger. If you’re in your 30s still holding on to the 20-something-girl, you’re cutting yourself off from all of the powerful female roles you should be working towards. Look to the next age category. How can you prepare yourself for those roles? That is a far better path to success than staying back competing against the younger actors just because you don’t want to face being older.
4. Embrace it. Own it. Present it.
Once you’re able to accept your real age, and that it’s part of your five-year age range, the next step is to present that particular age at all times. That means any time you have your acting hat on (auditions, meetings, etc.), you must dress appropriately for your age group. This will eliminate the whole “everyone tells me something different” dilemma because you will always be presenting the same image to everyone. Watch television. Watch movies. Look for the actors in your same realistic age category and note how they dress and how they wear their hair. If you want to play on the team, you need to wear the correct uniform.
Now it’s your turn. Remember, be honest and realistic. So, what is your age range?
*This post was originally published on June 20, 2016. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.