In Part One of our interview with Theresa, we found out how she got into acting, what living person she would play if given the chance, Hint: Strike a Pose, and her favorite part of being an acting coach at TBell Actors Studio. In the second part of our interview Theresa opens up about scams young actors can be at risk of and so much more.
1. I’ve heard there are many scams out there for aspiring actors to steer clear of. What are some red flags to be aware of when seeking representation, getting auditions, and looking for opportunities?
This is a great question. The first red flag that comes to mind would be paying to audition or paying to get an agent. Agents earn their income from commissions on actor’s fees. No one should ever pay to audition or pay up front to an agent or manager. There are also a lot of people who promise jobs, etc., but actors first have to take classes at their organization at shockingly unreasonable prices. I also hear of people putting together different venues where actors pay a lot of money to perform in front of Hollywood casting directors, producers and agents. Often, these agents and casting directors are assistants of assistants and have absolutely no say in whether the actors get cast in anything. Or, they were casting directors decades ago and are currently not casing a thing. The legitimate people are often just too busy to do events like these. On occasion, someone legit can fit an event into their schedule. I don’t know that I’ve ever known anyone to get “discovered” at one of these workshops. Another red flag is an actor being asked to submit photos in bathing suits. The producers won’t have a script or shooting dates or even a director attached but they want to see actors in swimsuits. Also, being asked to meet at a location that is not a business. If the casting director, producer, agent, whomever, wants to role play with the actor and it involves anything sexual, run. The internet has made it fairly easy to research most people in the business. The Internet Movie Data Base, IMDB.com, has a listing of everyone and anyone with legitimate credits. If you can’t find people here, I would be suspicious.
2. Is it true that the only way to be successful is to move to LA? Can I be a successful actor if I live in Texas?
It depends on how one defines “success.” For many actors, it means making a living as an actor and nothing else. This is very doable in Texas. If it means bigger roles in bigger projects or becoming famous, that can happen on occasion, i.e., Matthew McConaughey, but there will be more opportunities in New York or LA. for that kind of success. The internet has made it possible for more opportunities for actors outside of the state but it has also increased the competition.
3. What would you to say to a prospective student or actor who asks you how they can become famous?
I struggle with this question because I don’t understand it. I am a very private person and would find fame exhausting and unpleasant. It also often has little or nothing to do with talent, which to me is far more mysterious, interesting and desirable. If fame is the main goal, do something outrageous, make sure its recorded and put it on YouTube. You’ll have your fifteen minutes. Luckily, most of the actors I coach, just want to do good work, be in decent projects, with amazing people, and not have to have two or three other jobs outside of acting.
4. When it comes to your acting career, what is one lesson that you wish you wouldn’t have had to learn the hard way?
I wish I had been more aware of what I had to offer as an actress and what roles would be available to me. I didn’t pay close enough attention attention to the whole supply and demand part of the business. I was also a very angry young woman and I’m sure I allowed that to filter a lot of my decisions.
5. Why were you angry?
I don’t tolerate inequality of any kind very well, but I am particularly sensitive to gender inequality. At the time I was acting, there was probably one female role for every twenty male roles. It made me constantly angry. I once read a study that was done on this discrepancy in movies. It found that while women are fifty percent of the population, throughout the history of cinema, they have had only ten percent of the dialogue. Ten percent. And, on average, women use three times as many words in any given day as men, so how does that make sense? In addition, the parts I auditioned for just weren’t that interesting. I don’t recall a role that I auditioned for that wasn’t a victim, idiot or accessory. I was, as were a lot of women, horribly objectified. None of these roles were particularly interesting, truthful or challenging, and ultimately, they were soul-crushing. That made for a constant state of frustration and aggravation. Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. It is a wonderful time to be a woman in film.
16. What do you think are some of the biggest acting “sins” that you should never commit when it comes to networking, taking a class, seeking representation, etc.?
Sin is such a harsh word. I prefer to think of mistakes an actor might make. Probably the worst thing an actor could do is show up for half the shoot and then decide, for whatever reason, to quit. That might be the only thing that will follow an actor for a really long time and could ruin a career. Other than that, just be decent. Be the kind of person other people want to be around. Be a team player. Know that you aren’t any more important than any of the other players on the team. Be respectful and responsible. Don’t be a predator. Luckily for all of us, most mistakes can be fixed if we do miss the mark on occasion.
17. What’s the one piece of advice you would give to an actor just starting in the business?
Find a great class and never stop studying! You are your instrument. Practice as much as you can.
18. What’s the most common mistake you see actors make?
Most of the actors I coach are entirely too hard on themselves. My goal at the studio is for everyone to leave knowing at least one thing they didn’t know when they arrived. When an actor gets to a point where I no longer any notes for them, they will no longer learn or grow. I try to encourage my actors to change their thinking when they receive a copious amount of notes and be grateful for all of the lessons that will only serve to grow them.
19. What do you think is the most important thing an actor needs to do to sustain a long career?
Not quit. Also, surround themselves with a strong team i.e. agent, manager, coach, friends, etc.
20. You started in this industry as an actor and accomplished quite a bit. Would you ever consider returning to acting? Why or why not?
I would return providing the project and role where really evocative.
21. How important is finding a good coach and staying in class?
Vital. I had the incredible opportunity to study with one of the greats, Roy London. After Roy died, I looked for a replacement. There simply wasn’t one. At the time I was at his studio, his Master class was full of not only working actors, but stars; among them, Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Gena Davis, Sharon Stone, Garry Shandling and others. There wasn’t another coach in town with that sort of roster.
22. What the best piece of advice you can give to seasoned actor who just can’t seem to break through?
Don’t quit. Also, to the extent that you can, find out what is preventing the breakthrough. Some things you may have no control over, certain ages or types just aren’t being cast at this time. If that is the case, don’t quit. These things change all of the time. I would also do all I can to make my own projects happen or get involved with people who are. If the challenge is something you do have control over, haircut, voice, lack of networking, then change it.