How to Be an Actress

Three Methods:Develop Your TalentPrepare to AuditionLand the Roles

Do you dream of being an actress or even a famous actress like Andrea Thompson, Emma Roberts, or Jennifer Lawrence? Acting is one of the most highly esteemed professions, but it's also one of the most difficult to pursue. Successful actresses possess much more than natural talent: they're driven, unflappable and highly self confident. If this sounds like you, read on for pointers on how to launch your career on the stage or silver screen.

Method 1
Develop Your Talent

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    Enroll in acting classes. Acting classes will help you discover your strengths as an actress. Some actresses excel at drama, while others are natural comedians. You might discover that performing Shakespeare is your calling, or that musical theatre is for you. In any case, acting classes teach you to develop and inhabit your character, work with other actors and take direction.
    • Improvisation classes are a good place to start. Many people immediately think of comedy when they hear the word "improv," but improvisation classes actually teach essential skills for dramatic acting, too. Improvisational acting trains you to pay attention to cues and respond quickly. You'll learn to naturally react to others' prompts and silence your inner critic.
    • Acting workshops will help you understand the craft of acting from a different angle, through "scene studies." Typically, you'll be assigned a few parts in from a few scenes, which you'll practice over an entire semester. You'll participate in class discussions about the meaning of the scene and the intentions of the screenwriter or playwright. Finally, you'll be subject to critiques, and you'll be able to put the skills that you learn into practice right away.
    • When you advance past basic acting classes, you'll have the option to take specialized classes for film or stage acting, which require different skills. Experiment with both to figure out which suits you best.
    • You may enroll in an acting program at a university and pursue a degree in acting, but if you're not ready to commit to an intensive program yet, try taking a few classes at your local community college or theater arts school.
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    Explore acting techniques. There are numerous approaches to acting, each of which offer insight and training into accessing and portraying emotion.
    • The Stanislavski Method is a step-by-step method to building character, and includes script analysis. Stanslavski-trained actresses include Stella Adler and Marilyn Monroe.
    • The Meisner Technique focuses on action-based character development and actor response. Meisner actresses include Tina Fey, Jessica Walter and Naomi Watts.
    • Method Acting involves adopting the behaviors and mindset of your character, and immersing yourself in your character for the duration of the production. Method actresses include Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman and Tippi Hedren.
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    Study female roles. Once you’ve identified your strengths as an actress and the type of career you’d like to pursue, study the greats. If you want to work in the film industry, watch movies with stars like Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Judi Dench. If sketch comedy is your goal, catch up on shows like Saturday Night Live. And if you’d like to be a stage actress, visit your local theatre and take in plays regularly.
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    People watch. Your daily interactions offer great training. Studying emotional responses to various situations helps you develop your emotional range, while studying facial expressions, speech patterns and body language gives you ideas and tools for creating character and for performance.
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    Develop your unique skill and talents. You never know when there’s going to be a casting call for an actress who speaks French, plays the piano, juggles or does back-flips. It’s good to have an arsenal of unique talents with which you can distinguish yourself. Likewise, you might find that you can use them to give a character depth and dimension.
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    Read up on acting. There many fantastic books that offer invaluable advice for aspiring and working actors. These books include:
    • The Intent to Live, by Larry Moss
    • Audition, by Michael Shurtleff
    • An Actor Prepares, by Constantin Stanislavski

Method 2
Prepare to Audition

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    Memorize several monologues. Always have two to five monologues ready to perform. You never know when a call is going to come up, and it’s best to be prepared rather than cramming at the last minute.
    • Make sure that the monologues are distinct. If one is dramatic, the other should be comedic. Likewise, it’s good to have one modern work and one classic or Shakespearean monologue.
    • You'll stand out more if you choose unique monologues. Look through books and films for monologues that will allow you to showcase your special talent; chances are, they won't be the same ones the casting director has seen a hundred times before.
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    Get headshots. You need them to get an agent, as well as to audition at open casting calls.
    • Work with a professional photographer who specializes in acting and performance headshots, and make sure that he or she will provide make-up and hair styling.
    • Know your type. Roles are written for certain looks and types, and you should have photos that meet these casting criteria. If your look and acting-age is “high school cheerleader,” include that look in your photo package. Likewise, if you’d make a great vampire, suburban mom or mob-wife, have photos taken that capture that aspect of your look and acting-age.
    • Get electronic copies of your headshots. Some agencies may ask you to email your resume and headshots.
    • Make sure your printed headshots are the same size as your resume. If you plan on printing your resume on standard 8 1/2" x 11" paper, your headshot should be the same size. It looks more professional this way.
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    Get a demo reel. A demo reel is footage that showcases your acting work. Make sure your plays are filmed, and prearrange with directors to use the work in your reel. The site has great tips on how to cater your demo reel to each casting director.
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    Find a talent agent. It's important to get a franchised, licensed agent. Many people who are not agents will claim to be. Real agents are licensed by the state, and generally receive 10% of your earnings.
    • A great way to meet an agent is to attend a casting workshop. A casting workshop is an opportunity for actors to audition in front of a number of agents and casting directors. You do have to pay to participate, but it’s a fantastic way to get your name and face out there. Do an online search for casting workshops in your area.
    • The Call Sheet, which can be accessed at, has a list of reputable talent agents. The SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) website,, also has lists of agents.
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    Get your SAG-AFTRA card, or your Actors Equity Card.
    • SAG-AFTRA is the screen actors’ labor union. SAG-AFTRA can get you higher paying (and higher profile gigs), provides health insurance and makes sure that your work is not misused. It also opens the door to more audition opportunities, as agents have access to union calls.
    • Actors’ Equity is the stage actors’ union. Again, it provides health insurance, and ensures fair wages and decent working conditions for stage actors. Equity actors also get to participate in workshops and seminars, and again have access to a greater number of auditions.

Method 3
Land the Roles

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    Find auditions. If you have an agent, he or she will find auditions for you. If you don't, look at and other actors' websites for auditions in your area.
    • Aim to audition as often as you can. Even when you don't get the role, it's great practice.
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    Choose what to read. Prepare to read a monologue that seems in sync with the role you're auditioning for. Remember that you should have several monologues prepared in case you are asked to read more than one.
    • Dress appropriately for the role. If you're reading the part of a businesswoman, wear a suit and dress shoes.
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    Prepare for a cold read. You may be given material that you're asked to read without practicing first. You can prepare for this beforehand by reading a variety of screenplays and monologues. Practice with a friend to simulate the experience of reading in front of an audience.
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    Develop a tough skin. Auditioning is about being judged, and, very often, rejected. Sometimes you’ll do a great job, but you weren’t what they were looking for. Other times, you just might flub your lines. Learn to shake it off and keep going. And remember, even if they don’t hire you, casting directors are sympathetic to how hard it is to audition.
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    Keep trying. Auditioning will be a part of your acting career from beginning to end. Treat it as part of your job. As you begin to take roles, use what you learned the next time you audition. It may be years before you're able to make a living as an actress, but be persistent. As you polish your skills and learn more about your craft, more opportunities will be open to you.


  • Use your quirks to your advantage. Just because you're not drop-dead gorgeous doesn't mean you don't have the perfect face for all kinds of roles and characters.
  • Because acting work can be inconsistent, it’s good to have a 'day job' that you can fall back on. Make sure that your day job is flexible so that you can accommodate auditions, which are usually in the middle of week. Good jobs for actress include waiting tables and working in retail. For a steadier but still-flexible career, you can train to be a hair-stylist, transcriptionist or personal trainer.
  • Connect with fellow actresses. Yes, they are competition, but they can also be a helping hand. Your peers will be great auditions coaches, and often are more than happy to recommend someone whose work they respect.
  • Ironically, your audition isn't a movie. Directors aren't usually total jerks, and most other actresses aren't going to laugh in your face when you get rejected. Eventually, you'll know what to expect.
  • Get yourself into the character's shoes.
  • If you would like to become an actor/actress than start by performing on stage.
  • Do you best, and remember your lines.
  • Part of working in entertainment is being able to create of emotion and energy, as if flipping a light switch.
  • Don't get nervous! Practice well before auditions.
  • Acting is all about telling a story with movement and actions. Pretend that you are telling a story with expressions. Being natural and expressing yourself really helps too.
  • If you're on stage and you have to look into the crowd, don't look into their faces. Stare into an imaginary point in front of you and don't focus your eyes on them.
  • Before acting the role of a character, even a minor one, think about the character's personality, and how it affects things like interactions with others and body language. For example, if you were playing the role of a snobbish character, you would walk with a confident and smooth stride, looking down your nose at people with a slight curl of the lip to indicate a sneer of disgust. When you would interact with others, you would act like you are superior to the person in every way. You would speak in clipped tones, never being the one who started the conversation, and if questioned, use one word replies to make appear as if the person isn't worth your time. When the person you are interacting with speaks, let your eyes wander around the room and let your eyelids sag, to indicate boredom. Add some character and personality to your character.


  • Many people, including photographers and agents, have no problem exploiting your hopes and dreams for their own gain. Make sure that anyone you work with is legitimate and has references. Never pay cash up front, and don’t agree to take nude photos.
  • An acting career doesn’t guarantee fame, so if you're committing yourself to acting, it must be for the love of the craft.

Things You'll Need

  • Head shots
  • A resume including your experience, skills and height-weight stats.
  • A demo reel

Good Luck... You'll need it!

Article Info

Categories: Acting | Performing Arts