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acting

Jim Anderson

Actor living in New York City

Why did I become an actor? I find that I ask myself that question… a lot. I asked it when I packed up my life to move to New York so that I wouldn’t have to drive cross country for auditions anymore. I still ask it when I have to juggle schedule commitments including bad shows that might pay me, good shows that can’t (sometimes bad shows that can’t), and the other work that keeps a roof over my head.

But I don’t ask that question when I’m on stage in front of a camera, connecting to a scene partner because in those moments, I know the answer. I never became an actor. I just am one. It’s not simply what I do—it’s a part of me. It’s an absolute need to step into someone else’s skin: a fictional character, an imagined persona, someone who fundamentally isn’t me, but who lives within the scope of my personality and imagination.

Acting is kind of a funny animal when you look at it closely. It’s a profession that demands everything of you: all of your time, more than all of your money and every ounce of love and patience you can muster. It’s both an art and a business – two concepts that work together about as effectively as a glove on your foot. And the business of acting runs so counter to the art of acting that it beggars belief. But somehow the two are inextricably linked. And the art itself is impossibly difficult. But for those of us who find ourselves called to this profession, these not-so-little insanities are simply the facts of our lives. Because we live for the reward, and I don’t mean applause, recognition or pay. You can’t count on any of those things, and people who stray into this world seeking them soon find themselves in other professions.

The reward I’m talking about is the feeling you get when you work. It’s that moment of eye contact with someone on stage, when you know that who you see there is not the same person you interact with at the bar. And they know the same thing about you. It’s the feeling of transcending yourself. It’s like the feeling you get when you’re reading a book that really pulls you in. But greater, deeper.

When you read, you sympathize with the characters, you feel emotion on their behalf. It’s addictive, enthralling and joyous. For actors, it’s not enough. We have to take the next step. We can’t simply feel for the characters; we have to take action for them. We have to tell their stories by living them (just a little bit) in the presence of others. And the joy that comes from doing so is palpable. It makes all the pain and risk and hard work worth it.