Angela White recalls that she was the kind of kid who would love to gather her family in the living room so they could do a sketch or dance.
“I’ve always danced,” said White. âYou know, I thought I was Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. That was always the dream. “
But when she moved from Compton to West Covina in seventh grade, she became the only black girl in her class. When she got to high school, she didn’t feel welcome to appear in theatrical productions. Instead, she worked behind the scenes and ended up studying drama and communication in college, but she lived as a kindergarten and first grader through her early 40s.
“I would read [to the kids]and I had all kinds of voices for the characters, âshe said.
In 2018 she decided to give herself the chance to follow her passion. White has since landed two ads – for a diabetes drug and the Theragun massager – that you may have seen during a commercial break on Hulu.
Shannon Sturges – a teacher, trainer, and co-owner of the Speiser / Sturges Acting Studio – said a 25-year-old once told her he was too old to begin his acting career.
That’s not true, she said.
People start their acting careers later in life for all sorts of reasons, she said. You can be distracted by life’s challenges. You may be afraid to face yourself out there. You may be deterred from watching friends’ acting.
“It seems like a breeze to want to be an actor,” said Sturges.
But there are always older characters in commercials, films, and TV shows – and the need for older people to play them.
If you want to change careers and dedicate yourself to acting, you need to invest the time to practice your craft and identify your brand. You will also need the tenacity to stick with the constant audition and the rejection that comes with it. The Times spoke to Sturges and two of her students, White and actor Ross Bridgman, for their advice to get started.
Sign up for an acting or engineering course
Bridgman, who is over 70 years old, served as a lawyer in Ohio for more than 40 years, so he knows how to grab a room’s attention.
He said that as a “younger guy, how much younger” he did musical theater. But he didn’t pursue it as a career because he fell in love and wanted financial stability for his future family.
As a hobby, he continued to appear in productions such as “Oliver!” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” and “Camelot”. He also joined a symphony choir.
Four years after his retirement in 2014, Bridgman enrolled in the Speiser / Sturges drama studio. After three days of engineering class, he realized he was serious about business.
“All sorts of things went through my head, but one thing was absolutely clear: I had to hang out with my actors,” he said.
At some point you have to get headshots, go to auditions, or find a talent agent, but it was the practice, said Bridgmen, that has since helped him get roles.
Understand your strengths
As in any industry, it’s easier to start earlier. But some actors who have been in the industry all their lives can get into a bubble, Sturges said; Having other life experiences can work in your favor.
She recommends using these experiences to brand yourself and stand out from others. If you were a lawyer, in the medical field, or in the military, include this on your resume. Bridgman has landed lawyer roles.
Plus, some actors who started earlier in life may become jaded after a while in the industry, Sturges said. They may not have achieved the level of awareness they want or think they shouldn’t audition for certain roles like everyone else. That leaves more options for someone with more energy who doesn’t start until later in life, Sturges said.
Don’t quit your day job unless you can
One of the benefits of starting acting later in life may be that you have been able to achieve some financial stability in your previous career.
Bridgman still lives in Ohio. If necessary, he can fly to Los Angeles for an acting performance.
When he speaks to younger colleagues, he says that many of them are changing course from acting to cameraman, producer or writer because it is not always acceptable to work for next to nothing and supplement their income with a service job.
âI’m just not in the same economic situation as I was when I graduated from college. That was Zippo money and Zippo prospects, apart from law school, âsaid Bridgman.
White is also financially not dependent on getting acting appearances. But if you’re not financially secure, don’t throw away your safety net, Sturges said.
“I let people say to me, ‘I’m fully involved. I quit my job and will live in my car,'” she said.
Instead of quitting your job, talk to your employer about your new job and see if there is a flexible schedule option, she said.
âPeople are often so supportive,â she said. âThe people who don’t support are usually people who didn’t follow their dreams. A person who follows their dreams is a threat to those who haven’t. ”
Understand the unpredictability of an acting career
Don’t expect to get roles right away, Sturges said. There is no set schedule or way to get an acting job.
As with anyone in the industry, there are a lot of auditions and rejections before getting a role. And there are no guarantees.
If you can enjoy the audition and the process, it’s easier to turn down, said Sturges.
White loved the four days she spent in Canada (before the COVID-19 pandemic) filming the prescription drug commercial. She got the star treatment – she was driven around, stayed in a hotel, and was made fit for the day of shooting.
But she also loves the hustle and bustle of auditioning for a role and getting a call back. It’s all part of the process.
âI just know that it happened once, it will happen again, and I’ll just move on. I won’t stop, âshe said.
Manage your expectations
What does it mean to “make it” as an actor? Depends on the person.
For White, it meant a couple of commercial roles as it confirmed her talent, reinvigorated her passion for acting, and fueled her motivation to pursue this career path.
Bridgman said he was content to get as many acting roles as possible after turning his passion into his hobby for many years. He’s also happy to be doing this in his 70s because it takes him out of his usual social circle.
Sturges said some of her older students were happy to get a role just because she granted a long-buried wish.
Do it for joy. If you are expecting to make money or get famous, don’t do it. Bridgman and Sturges said it was more about the process, the art, and the enjoyment.
Market your talent. Identify what skills and experience you have that are desirable, Sturges said.
Lean into a category. Typecasting is good in the beginning, said Sturges. You want a type, but then you want to be able to break out.
Build a community. Sturges, White, and Bridgman all recommend finding the right agent and building a support system of people who will team up behind you.
Do not give up. White said, as difficult as it is, don’t give up. The right opportunity will come if you just keep working towards it.