I've been thinking lately about the goals we set up for ourselves as actors, and how often they shift. I started acting in college. Many of my peers had been going since high school, if not longer. I felt late to the game. Guys younger than me had been in Hollywood for years landing big roles. What hope was there for me? Then one day I found out Andre Braugher hadn't started until college. He was and is a successful, talented guy (like, best-in-his-class-at-Juilliard talented). I latched on to that, and other examples. If they did it, I could too.
Cut to NYC a few years later, and grad school. Was I putting an unnecessary delay on my career? Should I just take classes with a well-known teacher somewhere and start auditioning? Who else has an MFA? Turns out that's a long, reassuring list.
Cut to now, married, still trying to make inroads. I find myself looking to guys like Jeremy Renner or Jon Hamm (though he has a surprisingly long pre-Mad Men resume).
I was going to write a joke here: "How long before X is my new role model," wherein X=an actor who had their first major role in their 60s or 70s. Boy, that was a depressing Google search. I looked up "actors who started very late;" most answers were in their 30s. Though I did learn about Desperate Housewives' Kathryn Joosten, who didn't even take classes til she was 42.
So: how long before Kathryn Joosten is my new role model?
And that's just my own experience. There's probably someone in their 30s or 40s reading this who just decided they wanted to try making their acting dream a reality, thinking "what's this kid worried about? He's got a big head start." More importantly, these comparisons don't do anyone much good. It's just another way to limit yourself in an already discouraging business.
Another shifting goal is "success." Starting out, I defined it as a multi-million dollar backend deal on an action franchise. Now, it's something closer to "hey, I think that casting director finally knows my name." As a young hothead I scoffed at the idea of doing soaps. Now I'd step over my unconscious mother to sign on for a three-episode arc on one of the few that remain (in my defense, mom does tend to nod off).
It's important to have goals. I think it's more important to know that those goals do not define you. Being focused only on accomplishing one thing can blind you to the other things you've achieved.
I guess if all your plans went exactly like you wanted, that wouldn't be much fun would it? (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)