Navigating the acting industry has taught me a lot these past 30 years. One thing that I see time and time again is the lack of education actors have on handling stardom. Nobody really spells out how to handle the fame and the status that comes with it.
That’s why in this post I wanted to help actors overcome this challenge. I outline where the problem arises and how we as an industry can ensure actors know what to do with themselves once they reach a certain level of success.
In the golden years of Hollywood, the studios provided more services that catered to the wellbeing of actors.
After someone signed a contract, the studio would direct you to a department dedicated to nurturing your career. You’d learn everything from dancing to singing to walking. You’d learn how to act like a star. Studios also protected actors from bad publicity and helped secure good exposure. Back then, being educated on how to handle stardom was taken care of.
As time went on, actors became more independent and broke away from this studio system. Don’t get me wrong, this was a good thing: actors eventually became unionized, which we all now know the benefits of.
But what got lost in transition, however, was how to handle stardom or how to behave as a successful actor.
“It is not the responsibility of an agent or manager to teach you about your profession or how to become a star. And right now, it’s nobody’s responsibility—that’s the whole problem.”
It is not the responsibility of an agent or manager to teach you about your profession or how to become a star. And right now, it’s nobody’s responsibility—that’s the whole problem.
I’d argue that acting schools are the best places to teach subjects like handling stardom (along with the business of acting as a whole). Unfortunately, since acting teachers can only teach what they know, topics like this one are excluded from curriculums altogether.
The result is today, everyone in the industry is stuck with actors who don’t know how to handle their status.
Anyone who’s been in the business for a couple of years still doesn’t know what they’re doing: their behavior is all based on trial and error. They count on luck and instincts to figure it out on their own.
When you start making a certain amount of money, the issue only gets worse: no agent or manager will want to risk telling you something you don’t want to hear. Only if you’re lucky will you have someone on your team who will give it to you straight.
The best way to solve this problem is to focus on where it begins: at acting schools. With that said, however, I’d still like to share some tips on handling fame (I’ll also cover this topic more in Mastering the Business of Acting’s second upcoming season).
Be a professional, be on time, know your lines, and respect other artists.
If you are on the call sheet in the first or second positions, you sort of dictate the mood and atmosphere of the entire set. So come in well-prepared and with positive energy. Don’t be a diva. Most importantly, show generosity and graciousness.
Understand that you still have a job to do at premieres. Sometimes actors forget that their representatives should be at the events with them. They’re the ones who got you the jobs and worked the deals after all. Premieres are simply perks of the job.
Do press on the red carpet if it’s required of you, but when it’s time to mingle with producers and other cast members, you have to take time to celebrate with your representatives. Introduce them to the important players in the room. As you climb the ladder of success, you want your people to have the same or more success as you so they can then open more doors for you.
Too many times, actors go into self-center mode and their first instinct is to think, “This is all mine.” They can forget who got them there. Even if you’re planning to let your people go someday, that premiere still belongs to the team.
For example, Jim Parsons from the Big Bang Theory thanked his agency three years in a row after winning the Emmy. Before winning his fourth Emmy, he had switched agencies and so he couldn’t thank his new reps because it would’ve felt wrong. That’s proper etiquette.
Motivate Your People
When you reach a certain point of stardom, there’s so much money to be made and better jobs to be had; there’s always going to be one person on your team who you simply cannot replace, usually a manager. It doesn’t take much to motivate them to find better projects and make more money for you. The sky is truly the limit, but it all depends on how well you motivate your team to keep going.
An actor can sometimes behave like their team is overly compensated because of the success coming their way. Yet the reality is this: whatever amount your reps get from your work is all theirs. Actors can forget that 90% of the time their reps are working for them for free.
Don’t let the human tendency to show pettiness and greed blind you from seeing the bigger picture and potentially ruin your current and future relationships within the industry.
“The sky is truly the limit, but it all depends on how well you motivate your team–your agent, your manager, and others–to keep going”
It’s easy to say your reps are responsible for how you behave and handle yourself on set, with producers, with PR, or at premieres, or with your money. But the truth is, that is all your responsibility. Learning to handle fame is something every actor should prepare for, regardless of where your career is at today.
If you’re an acting student, demand your schools start teaching this. If you’re already a working actor, prepare yourself for the future by having an open dialogue with your agent and manager on this subject.
For the folks who are already at that level, start asking yourself some questions: Are you doing your job? Is your behavior acceptable? Can you improve it? Are people walking on eggshells around you? If any of the answers to these questions are yes, I suggest you take about two weeks and figure out how to improve your business for the sake of your career.
It’s time actors become familiar with fame. It’s one of the key ingredients to having a successful, sustainable acting career.