How Ethics Play a Role in Your Acting Career

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The dictionary says ethics are “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.” In this social media-driven, instant result-oriented world, ethics may seem old-fashioned or like they have little importance. We live in a culture obsessed with the worship of money, fame, and power, a way of life that can make it easy to feel the need to obtain these things by any means necessary.

As an actor, you have to ask yourself how this all applies to your career. Do you see ethics playing a role in your life and your pursuit of acting success? Or will you do whatever you deem necessary to “make it”?

To become an actor, you need to learn how to act. Are you willing to make the commitment and sacrifices necessary to learn your trade and develop skills or are you rushing to results without working on development? If it’s the latter, actors may find themselves at an ethical crossroads: misrepresenting who they’ve trained with or how long they’ve trained to appear more skilled than they are. Some may even claim to have been teachers or to have the expertise to teach despite not having the training to do so.

Actors who pursue fame but don’t develop skills or create competence most often achieve little or short-lived success.

READ: The Actions We Take Today Will Determine the Future of This Industry

After an actor has trained, they are still confronted with an ethical dilemma in regards to creating their résumé and claiming credits or skills they may not possess. In the age of IMDb and the internet, credits are easy to check and getting caught in a lie can land an actor on the bad side of casting directors and other professionals.

Lying about special skills can be even more problematic. You may think you can learn the skill in the time between getting the part and the actual shoot but if you don’t, you can cost the production thousands of dollars. Or, in the case of claiming you’re familiar with firearms or stunt work, you could put others in danger.

Once you’ve booked the part, ethics come up again on set. Do you continue showing up on time and prepared because ethically, that’s what you believe you should do? Or now that you’ve landed a lead/starring role, do you feel safe enough to show up late and unprepared?

Every individual has to live by his or her own moral code and ask themselves tough questions when making career and life choices. Always be sure to ask yourself: “Is this something I can be proud of? Live with? Will it ultimately build my life and career or undermine it?” Good old-fashioned values of honesty, integrity, and respect may still be the actor’s best insurance for a long and prosperous career. Some things just should not and may not ever go out of style.

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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.

Author Headshot
Joanne Baron
Joanne Baron is an actor, producer, and the artistic director of the Joanne Baron/D.W. Brown Studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
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Author Headshot
D.W. Brown
D.W. Brown is an actor, writer, director, and studio co-owner and head teacher of the Baron Brown Studio in Santa Monica, California. Brown is also the author of the acclaimed acting guide “You Can Act” and a second book, “2500 Years of Wisdom: Sayings of the Great Masters.”
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