Let’s get this out of the way: No, you are not too old to start your acting career. Whatever age you are now, there are opportunities for you to perform onstage and onscreen. But that doesn’t mean they will come easily. You will have to be as prepared, if not more so, than your competition. Here’s how to get a leg up in the industry no matter what age you are (just maybe remember to stretch beforehand).
You cannot overprepare or overpractice.
“The competition has years on you, so when you get back in the water or get in the water for the first time, be ready to swim like an Olympic swimmer. Practice, practice, and practice as much as you can, because your opportunity will come and you want to make sure you hit the ball out of the park so that luck will be on your side.” —Douglas Taurel, producer and actor
Your pool may be smaller—so stand out in it.
“I think that sometimes, when people start out acting later in life, they may actually have a lot more opportunities than they would have had when they were 20. When you’re young, you’re competing with a large pool of 20-something actors. However, the older actors get, the smaller the pool gets. Actors either get discouraged or distracted and leave the industry or they become recognizable faces. A more mature ‘fresh face’ can be a welcome addition, and if you get good training to compete with these veterans, I think you can be successful.” —Joanne Baron, actor, and producer
Suppressing your dreams will not help.
“Congratulations on deciding you’re ready to pursue your desire to be an actor, regardless of age. If I had to guess, I’d say you didn’t grow up with connections to the industry or with a family that knew how to support your love of the arts. You don’t have a framed MFA or theater degree hanging in your home, and the idealism of your youth is dust in the wind at this point.
Yet here you are. Welcome home. Your dream to be an actor has been patiently waiting for you. Dreams are our lifebuoys and will persistently rise again regardless of how deep we push them under. Trust me, I know. I began my career as an actor when I was 33, even though I’d been carrying around the dream for as long as I can remember. The list of successful actors who pursued acting later in life is extensive, so know that you’re in good company and have already risen above those who still aren’t ready to make the leap.” —Jami Tennille, actor, acting coach, and screenwriter
You do need to keep up with the (digital) times.
“Put up Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. Always ask before contacting industry professionals via one of these networks. Some prefer this method of contact and others do not. Become searchable: When an industry pro Googles your name, what will they find? Your website, your social media presence, and your IMDb page, so they can see your work and call you.
“Making the transition from pre-Internet days to today may seem overwhelming, but is actually easier than the old ways of moving your career forward. The best thing to do is get advice—get someone who can show you how to do all this and you’ll be welcomed in the biz!” —Gwyn Gilliss, marketing coach for actors
Your age can be an advantage; use it.
“Your years of experience have given you something to say! The choices you’ve made have made you who you are and have given you a unique, personal point of view. Lessons learned from running a business, raising a family, or caring for a sick parent have given you an awareness that would be difficult to attain without having lived them. All this adds depth to your work as an actor.
“When you wonder if you’re too old, remember that Tony winner John Mahoney started acting at 37, then went on to have a great career in film and television. Two-time Emmy winner Kathryn Joosten started acting in community theater at the age of 42. Colonel Sanders created KFC at the age of 66, and Peter Roget published the first modern thesaurus at 73.” — Philip Hernández, audition coach and working actor
Manage your expectations.
“Easy answer for this one: It is never too late—especially if you do this because your soul needs to do it! Making your soul happy is a great reason to do anything. And if you don’t do it, your heart will die a little more every day.
“Take a look at any movie. Aren’t there grandparents and elder statesmen and teachers and over-the-hill spies? The world belongs to the young? I beg your pardon. I am 63, and life is amazing! I have lots of students who start in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. They usually tell me that they had always wanted to act when they were young, but someone had made them be ‘sensible’ instead. Later in life is when we finally wise up and stop being sensible.
“Obviously, you won’t be cast as the young romantic heartthrob, but there are many wonderful character roles to be had. For women, we are always stuck with fewer roles than men. And we get fewer meaty roles, for sure, as we age. That sucks! But there is work. And there is hope for that one great role still to be. June Squibb was nominated for the Academy Award for best supporting actress for ‘Nebraska’ at the tender age of 83. I rest my case!” —Cathryn Hartt, Dallas-based acting coach
Looking to get cast? Apply to casting calls for all ages on Backstage!