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Wish You'd Known When You Started?

Siho Ellsmore

New York; Jewtopia, Wasps

I guess I would have liked to have known about the whole casting process. I wish I knew that being cast in something — more often than not — has nothing to do with your talent. It really is about who is best suited for the role, be it their look or personality, or whether or not you look like the director's ex-wife or ex-husband. Often a choice can be made for an arbitrary reason, like if you wore green that day. So if I could talk to my younger actor self, I would say, "Do not take it personally. You have talent, and eventually you will be cast in the 'right' role for you."

A book I highly recommend regarding this is called One Less Bitter Actor by Markus Flanagan. He really breaks down the casting process and provides personal stories that illustrate the often crazy reasons why one actor is cast over another. He helps keep things in perspective, which is something you can forget after another "failed" audition.

Igor Jijikine

Los Angeles and Las Vegas; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Alias

I wish I had taken more control over my own career and finances when I first started out. When I was touring with the Moscow Circus, my manager took all of my money and left me with nothing but the clothes on my back while we were in Las Vegas. I was too trusting, as I was young and new to the business. I would tell people just to keep track of everything and make sure that you're with someone who is reliable.

I would also say don't fight against your type. If there is a certain role that you can play well, go with it. You're much more likely to work within that character in the beginning, when you're starting out; then you can branch off into other characters once you make a name for yourself. You can lose out on a lot of great roles when you turn things down just because you don't want to be typecast.

Blake Robbins

Los Angeles; The Office, 24

There are so many things I know now that I wish I'd known then, but I wouldn't change anything about how things went. Things went exactly as they were meant to. (I wish I'd known that then.) Here are some other things I wish I knew then.

I wish I knew how grateful I'd be about not getting an agent for eight years after leaving acting school (I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts). The survival skills I learned during those years will sustain me the rest of my career.

I wish I'd learned to say "No, thank you" sooner, because now I feel like I'm having my career on my terms.

I wish I'd learned earlier that my life was worth pursuing more aggressively than my acting career. I've been a husband now for 13 years; we have two daughters and a son on the way. I can say with certainty that in 10 or 20 years, the fact that I was on this or that TV show or in such and such film will be irrelevant, but my family will be very relevant.

This last one I did know then, because a very wise, well-respected agent shared it with a group of us young actors. I think it's so good it bears repeating. He said: "It's a shame you will spend so much of your time and energy trying to get my attention while neglecting relationships with your peers. I already have 20 years' worth of relationships in this business. The person to the left or right of you is the person with whom you should invest your energy. This will be the person that, 20 years from now, will add value to your career."

I heard this just prior to leaving the American Academy and beginning my life as an actor. It's stayed with me all this time. It was part of my journey. We learn what we need to learn when we are ready to learn it — another thing I sort of wish I knew then.

-- Reported by Sarah Kuhn

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