‘Goosebumps’ Star Caleel Harris on How to Become a Working Kid + Teen Actor

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Photo Source: Stephanie Diani

The following Notes From the Field essay is written by 14-year-old actor Caleel Harris, one of the stars on Hulu’s “Castle Rock” and in “Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween,” now in theaters.

As a young actor in this industry, many people have questions about how I got to where I am. The most frequent of them all is, “What is your advice to other aspiring young actors in this industry?” 

That is one of my favorite questions, mostly because when I was just starting out, I was asking the exact same question. I was lucky enough to cross paths with many established actors, directors, writers, and creators—and every time I did, each had their own unique answers to that specific question. 

My personal answer is that you have to make sure this is what you want to do. This goes for more than just actors; this is for any line of work. The film industry is very tough, and you have to be the one to make sure you are ready to make the commitment. 

Once you are ready to commit, take your time. For young actors especially, the most valuable asset you have in your arsenal is time. I know many people who seem to think that every mistake they make is the end of the world. I was always taught that there is no such thing as mistakes, only lessons. In the words of the great Oprah Winfrey: “There is no such thing as failure. Mistakes happen in your life to bring into focus more clearly who you really are.” 

READ: 5 Ways For Teen Actors To Find Success

Another reality of this industry is that it will be difficult. You will go through your trials and your tribulations, but you have to persevere through them. The haters and trolls and naysayers will come, and you have to learn to ignore them. If you get discouraged by opinions easily, then this line of work might not be for you. Having a thick skin as an actor of any age is a must. You will hear “no” much more often than “yes.” Just learn to take others’ criticism and transform it into something positive and something that will work in your favor.  

One of the principles that I live by is to always have a learner’s mentality. I know that I am just at the beginning of my career and I have so much to learn. I’m fortunate enough to be able to be in the presence of people who have succeeded in what I’m trying to accomplish. Always know that there is more to learn, because nobody knows everything.  

Arguably the most important bit of advice of all, however, is to always stay loyal to the craft. Never betray the craft, or it will betray you. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of long nights, little to no sleep. If you take the time to nurture your craft and to perfect it, I promise you: Your fruits will come to harvest.

Ready to get to work? Check out Backstage’s film audition listings!