Jack of All Trades, Master of ______ ?
Is it just me or do actors have to do a little bit of everything nowadays? I’m not talking about the traditional “triple threat” of singing, dancing, and acting (God knows I’m only good at one of those). I mean the different kinds of acting – commercials, voiceover, theater, film, hosting, teleprompter, ear prompter, modeling (the kind that requires acting skills), corporate/industrial videos, etc.
Don LaFontaine made a career out of voiceovers (“In a world…”). Ryan Seacrest has a career hosting. Paul Marcarelli made a career on Verizon commercials (“Can you hear me now?”) and Stephanie Courtney has done the same as “Flo” for Progressive. And so on and so forth.
All of the actors I know, myself included, run the gamut, doing everything, trying to piece together a living by juggling all of the above. Of course there are two ways to view the situation. We could complain that we ought to be able to just stick to one genre of acting and focus on that. If you like stage, stick to stage; if you like commercials, then just commercials. Or, we could view it as a means to stretch ourselves as actors in ways one-genre acting would not permit.
And I’m not just saying that as a “glass half full” approach. I think it might actually be true.
Last week, I filmed a hosting gig in which I was explaining advances in lunar exploration to middle school kids. I had a blast (I do love all things cosmos) and the combination of using a teleprompter, walking into and out of frame for each segment, and “interacting” with a green screen (eventually to be replaced with things like the moon, rockets, and other scientists with whom I “chat”), all while trying to maintain an energy level necessary to get middle schoolers’ attention, made me bring my “A” game.
Let’s be honest. I don’t want to be the next Ryan Seacrest. I want to be the next Matt Damon. Would I have responded to the posting if I didn’t have bills to pay and need to keep my technical acting skills sharp? No. But then I wouldn’t have had the phenomenal experience I had filming those 3 spots.
I would love to work exclusively on feature films because that’s what I’m most passionate about. But if I had DiCaprio’s cache and could swing that, I’d be missing out on the experiences like the hosting one from last week and wouldn’t be challenging myself like I did.
Yes, I worry that when casting folks see my resume and all the different kinds of acting I’ve done that they won’t take me seriously in any given category. But I’ve picked up things from stage that have helped me in film and from commercials that have helped in my print work. I’m not sure I would have learned what I have otherwise.
Cheers to the jugglers!
Do you ever feel like a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none? Would you rather have it the other way - master of something but helpless otherwise? Are you able to connect the benefits of one kind of work to another? I'd love to hear your stories.
(photos courtesy of Getty Images and Sharin Nelson [for the record, the green screen pic isn't from the hosting gig, it's from another green screen thing I did last week, but you get the idea])
-- Gabriel Voss