I often get asked questions by other actors about how to do things or what decisions to make in certain situations. I got one of these questions this week and I realized – That would make a great blog post! In fact many of these questions are great for posting, so from time to time, I may answer some of these questions here. Names and details will be changed/left vague because I don’t want to “out” my friends for being smart enough to ask when they need help. I've also added a bit to my answer to make it more relevant for all.
Here’s the question:
They are casting for a movie in X city, asking for 18-24 year olds to play highschool students. I am 25, but I play much much younger on screen. Should I still submit, or will that glaring number 25 make them just throw away my submission on first glance? I'm always a little unsure of these things. I don't want to lie, about my age, but I look younger in real life and play younger on screen. Any advice would be much appreciated.
This is a great question and one that gets asked frequently!
My advice? LIE! I'm not someone who ever likes to lie or tell others to lie, but we are in a business of lies (or at least stretching the truth a bit), and if you don't, someone else will and they will get the part. Casting directors aren't always turned off by a person's real age, but many can be, and why give them a reason NOT to hire you?
Have they asked you for your age? If not, then you don't have to lie, just don't offer up your age – take a page from the Military's book: "Don't ask, don't tell."
If they do ask, there is another way of getting around this that doesn't involve lying if you don’t look your age. If you have to fill out a form with your age, give them your playing age range. If you play 15-21, then put that on the form instead of writing 25. If it makes you feel better, you can even add the word “range” or “playing” next to age on the form so that it’s clear what you’re telling them. You can do the same thing if they ask you personally.
I hate lying myself, but I almost never play my own age, so this is a method that works well for me. I've never been questioned about it, because I always make sure that the age range I am giving is both one I can play and one that I look appropriate for.
Ultimately what they want/need to know when they ask for that age is whether or not you can "ACT" that age. The only time this becomes an issue is if you are a minor and lying about your age – that can get you into trouble, so don’t do it! Since you’re not a minor, you’re fine. You can “ACT” the age they are looking for and since you look that age anyway, they won't question it. Not only that, but think of it this way. There is no other job in life where they will ask you your age when you interview. In fact, it's technically illegal to ask someone for their age when hiring – the law views it as discriminatory. Don't try to fight it though, because for whatever reason the entertainment industry gets away with it. If you try to fight this, you’re “bucking the system” and it will only end badly for you, because YOU are not going to change the entire way the industry operates. You will only come across as someone who is difficult to work with. Sorry, that's just the way it is! If you’re feeling unsure or unsettled about all this, just remind yourself that you're giving them what they are really asking you for and that your "real" age is none of their damn business!
Some important caveats: Remember to be honest with yourself when choosing an age range. If you are 45 and they're looking for someone 25, you're probably kidding yourself and they will notice. Stretch the truth this far and that company may never audition you again. And your age range can be between 5-7 years, but any longer than that and it starts to look ridiculous. Also, if this is something you find yourself needing to do in order to have a great acting career, make sure that your "real" age isn't easy to find. Don't post it on websites, social media, or any other accessible area. And be consistent about it, pick a range and stick with it. Use this range on everything you fill out or submit. You can occasionally add or subtract a year as needed. Also, remember to update your range as you get older. If you aren't sure of your age range, start asking people how old they think you look. And if you know someone else is playing roles that differ from their "real" age, don't out them – it's just plain rude and unprofessional!
Next week… Auditioning – But Where do I go, What do I do, How?