What does it feel like to be a television actor?
By: Shiri Appleby
Audio Version: [audio:http://www.sappleby.com/word/audio/111230-toopolite.mp3 ]
I have been acting since I was three or four years old. I started out doing commercials and guest stars on TV shows and I did a lot of print work, but I’d say that my career really started taking off when I was 19 years old, when I was doing it on my own and I was cast on a television show called Roswell that found a lot of success and that was a really interesting experience to go from a working actor to an actor with even the smallest amount of recognition or fame, and I think it changes things in terms of how you live your life, how people relate to you, your friendships, and your relationships. It’s always a weird thing when you feel like you’ve been hit by a lucky stick.
Since then my career has taken off because people were able to identify me and look at me with a history attached to me, even if it’s experiences that they went through when they watched me on television for the first time. This can be a great thing because I built up a fan base and they want to watch me or it can be something that I am fighting against in terms of how people perceive me.
Being an actor is very comparable to being an entrepreneur or a small business owner, in the sense that you are your own boss and you are responsible for the success and the future of your company so for being an actor, you are responsible for the way you look, you are responsible for keeping your body in shape, you are responsible for being easy to work with and coming to work knowing your lines and creating a good reputation and being very active within your agency and letting people know how driven you are. You can hire agents or managers to represent you, and publicists to get you out there, but you are still President of your corporation or your business, and you tell everybody how you want to interact within the industry.
Everyday life of the actor is two-fold. When you are working, you show up whenever they tell you, you sit through hair and makeup. If you are a woman it is sometime between an hour and two hours. You go to wardrobe, get your clothes and you put them in your trailer. You go to set and rehearse your scenes with the director and the other actors. You go to the camera man and the DP, spend time lighting the scenes, and you spend the next few hours shooting it. If you are in every scene of the day, you probably are shooting between 4 and 8 scenes a day, and work between 12 and 16 hours with a half-hour break for lunch. In between that time, you might be doing wardrobe fitting for the next episode or another scene, or you might be doing a table read at lunch for the upcoming episodes. If you have a long break in your day, they may take you to ADR, which is additional sound recording and you might be redoing your lines for an episode that is about to air. Or you might be on the phone talking to journalists publicizing your show. Or you might just be in your trailer taking a nap.
If you are not working, that’s where being an actor is quite difficult. The fact of the matter is that you don’t have a lot of control over whether you’ll get a job, so you have to do many things to keep yourself busy and motivated and ready for that when the phone does ring and you have an audition or you get a job, you’re ready. I usually wake up pretty early. I like to go to the gym for at least an hour a day. Come home. Make lunch. I like to read a lot. I like to watch movies. I like to write a lot. I like to do things that keep me feeling very creative and very inspired, so I don’t feel desperate for the phone to ring or desperate for a job to come up. I think that is the tricky part of being an actor is the parts when you are unemployed. I always say that when I get a job, I would do it for free, but they are paying me, it’s for all the time that I wasn’t working.
Shiri Appleby started acting at the age of three in a Raisin Bran commercial and has steadily been working since :). You may have seen her on Roswell or Life Unexpected. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA and tries to get to NYC as often as possible.
The article was originally published on the website www.toopolite.com, and is kindly reposted here with Ms Shiri Appleby’s permission.