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The Essentials

Advice from actors, directors and casting directors on how to become a successful actor after drama school

Finishing drama school is an exciting time in an actor’s life. You’ve learned the tricks of the trade, made lots of connections with other actors and are finally ready to start putting your new qualification to the test and land some roles.

However, it’s important to have a good understanding of the industry and to manage your expectations of how soon you’ll be cast. Everyone’s acting journey is different and not getting a role or agent the moment you’ve left drama school doesn’t make you a failure.

We asked directors, casting directors and experienced actors what advice they had for graduates to help get their acting career off to a successful start. Here’s what they shared:

Keep Up a Routine

At drama school, you had a schedule filled with classes, rehearsals and training to keep you busy. Now, though, it’s up to you to manage your own time and director Shimmy Marcus (SoulBoyHeadrush) warns graduates to be conscious of this: “The most important thing facing a graduate is the lack of structure, organisation, and discipline. They’ve gone from [about] 50 hours a week of training and doing it, to suddenly nothing.”

Try to create a routine that keeps you active and gives you plenty of time to develop your acting skills whilst auditioning. Shimmy advises, “Think of yourself as an athlete, constantly practising, constantly keeping fit and such, so you’re not just waiting for the phone to ring.”

Having a routine to follow will also have positive effects on your mental health as it will help distract your mind from lingering on auditions and when you’ll hear back from casting directors.

Practise Your Acting

An actor’s journey to master their craft is never-ending. Even though you’ve graduated, you can still learn a lot, so keep practising and seeking opportunities to develop new skills. This can take the form of acting classes and workshops or getting together with your actor friends to make showreels and practice scenes.

Shimmy Marcus suggests you, “Keep demoing scenes, shooting scenes with friends, even shooting self-tapes on a regular basis.”

Doing this will ensure you’re polished and ready when a real audition or self-tape request comes your way.

“The acting muscle can get very rusty between auditions,” Shimmy warns. “So, you have to find a way to keep practising that muscle.”

Make the Most of Every Opportunity

Over the course of your acting career, you’ll be offered jobs that you decide not to take. When you’re first starting out though, it’s a good idea to say yes to every opportunity just to get the experience. This is what actor Mark Bonnar (ShetlandOperation Mincemeat) suggests: “Choose every opportunity you can to do your craft, whether that is an audition or a reading or anything.”

Gaining this experience early on is a good way to get to grips with how the industry works and will help you identify the types of work you’d rather go for in the future. It will also be useful when you get an opportunity to audition for your ideal role as you’ll have used previous auditions to familiarise yourself with the process – which in turn, will help you be less nervous.

Be Yourself

With so many actors in the industry, it’s vital to embrace your individuality to stand out from the crowd. It may be tempting to research how high-profile actors found their way to stardom and try to replicate that, but actress Vicky McClure (Line of DutyTrigger Point) advises, “Continue to do it your way. Do not try and carbon copy what’s already been done.”

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look to other actors for inspiration during your career. Vicky says, “You can be inspired by people, and that’s brilliant.”

Just don’t lose sight of who you are as an actor.

Finally, casting director Andy Pryor CDG (Doctor Who, Life on Mars) shares: “Just keep at it. Keep working hard. Get prepared. Be as prepared as you can be.”

It isn’t easy to build a successful acting career but keep growing as an actor, keep putting yourself forward for auditions and keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry. Eventually, it’ll be your turn to land your dream role.

Take a look at our News & Advice section for more tips for graduates and industry news.

Image credit: Joanna Nicole Photography