Advice for Beginning Actors – Part 6 – Do you have to live in New York or Los Angeles?

Special thanks to the actors who have taken time out of their busy schedules to graciously provide advice for new actors for Wannabe Pride, including Regen Wilson, Chris Pentzell, David DeBoy, Ken Arnold, Mercedes Rose, Gabriel Voss, Brittany Baratz, Laura Hunter, Lance Carter, Stephon Fuller, and Rachel F. Hirsch.

Do you think it is vital to live in New York and/or Los Angeles to make it as an actor?

I think it’s vital to live in NYC or L.A. if you want to be a STAR. If you want to be a working actor, you can do that most anywhere. So you need to figure what “making it” means to you. I don’t need to be famous. But I do want to be respected for the work I do. – David Deboy (email) (website)

No, but it can help.  However, the Baltimore-Washington, DC, area is probably the third-best place to be an actor, which is something very few people know.  In addition to the films and television shows which visit, there’s also a significant amount of commercials.  When you also consider DC is the documentary capital of the country as well as home to dozens of government agencies and contractors shooting industrials AND the third-largest regional theatre market in the U.S…you can see the opportunity for growth here.  And since there’s less competition than LA or NY there’s also more work to be had.  Whether it PAYS as well is another matter entirely due to the fact that casting directors are used to having a glut of perfectly acceptable non-union talent so why pay union scale wages?

 – Regen Wilson (website)

It depends on what “making it” is to you.  I know a lot of actors who have moved away from LA to a decent sized city (e.g. Spokane, WA or Austin, TX) and they suddenly found themselves with more auditions and, more importantly, more actual work.- Chris Pentzell (email)

No. It is becoming easier to just send in auditions via the internet. The last 3 big roles I’ve gotten have all been sent via email/casting web sites auditions. Obviously there is more opportunity in those markets and it helps to be there if needed quickly but is it an absolute. No. You can be an actor anywhere. – Ken Arnold ( STUDIO BOH)

Well, since I do NOT live in either of those places I would say I think…no. I have made a very nice little living for myself not living in a large market. Do I think it is easier to do it in NYC or LA? Sure. Maybe. I like being a medium size fish in a small bowl.-  Mercedes Rose (Imdb)  (website)

Yes. While there is a lot of really good work in markets outside NY and LA, living in LA, I can now see that casting directors here never look outside the city for talent. Since the biggest roles in the biggest stuff is cast from here, you can only go so far elsewhere. – Gabriel Voss (website, imdb, facebook, twitter)

If you want to make acting your full-time career, then you need to be where the action is. New York and LA are not the only vibrant acting communities. You can also check out Washington, D.C./Baltimore/Philly, or Chicago. New York and LA have the highest concentration of opportunities. It can make it easier to find work, but there are also more people looking for work. I think you’ve “made it” if you are creating art and happy. You could do that in a community theater or with a student film.- Brittany Baratz (website, twitter, Knuffle Bunny National Tour)

– I think everyone needs to define “success” for themselves. It depends on the level you want to reach. If you want to be on television, your best shot is living in LA. Shows shoot all over the place, but most lead roles are still cast here. If you want to be on Broadway, you need to be in New York for the same reason. You can work occasionally as an actor in other markets, but I don’t think you can make a living doing it. I’ve lived in both New York and LA, I went to NYU Tisch for college to train as an actor and then moved to LA to pursue my film/tv career.- Laura Hunter (email, website, twitter, facebook, youtube, contributor to NonSociety.com)

 Not at all. I got my start in the Baltimore/Washington. I was working there non-stop, making some good money. More than I am now actually living in LA. As long as you know (or don’t want to get famous), you’ll be fine. I know plenty of actors all around the country who make their living acting. – Lance Carter website, twitter, Facebook)

The instability. My husband and I have the hardest time planning our life because I never know when some amazing opportunity might come up. You have to be willing to completely change directions at a moments notice. 

Absolutely not. It’s all about what your goals are. Yes, if you want to be on Broadway then New York is the place for you. And if you want to be a movie or sitcom star than most likely you need to be in LA. But if what you want is to be a professional actor you just need to find a town that has a few professional theater companies. With a little research you’ll find that there are plenty of options.

            I started my professional acting career in Birmingham, AL. My goal is Broadway, so the move to New York was important. But I still know many incredibly talented people who stayed and have constant work because of it. (Believe it or not, you sometimes avail yourself to more work opportunities in a smaller environment because their are fewer actors). – Rachel F. Hirsch twitter, website, acting website, website)

Professionally?  To qualify for P&H consistently over the course of a career?  Yes, for the most part.  There are exceptions of course.
Stephon Fuller (twitter, blog, website)