I’ve been accused of using too many sports analogies when talking about acting. Well, I’m a guy who likes sports. It’s what we do. Watching the Winter Olympics I marveled at how many non-Winter Olympics analogies were used by the announcers. It’s pretty hard to equate bobsledding to baseball, but they managed.
So now that spring is hitting it’s one of my favorite times of the year: spring training. Once a year I get to pretend the Orioles have a shot at being good and this is it. Watching some pre-season games I had a thought about the guys I was watching play: every one of those guys, with only incredibly rare exceptions, dominated every level of play they’ve been in before making it to a professional roster.
This is something I don’t think we appreciate enough. The guy who is in single-A ball (the lowest rung of still being attached to a professional team) was the star of his high school baseball team. Then he went to college where again he was a major star. Upon turning pro he was now in the company of many men all of whom were the best their whole lives on their respective teams. Despite all that, this guy may not ever make it to Camden Yards to get to play a single inning. The talent level of every one of the guys who wears a professional jersey is so high that even if you’re “the best” in Iowa it doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good enough to play with them.
Actors face a similar (but slightly different) system. Many of us start out acting in school. Think back, were you one of the top actors? Did you have trouble getting cast? Did you end up being the tree? If you didn’t get consistent work even at the lowest levels how do you expect to compete with the actors who’ve been at the top of their class everywhere they went?
This isn’t a perfect analogy as their are casting considerations. Even in high school I was a character actor so I didn’t get the huge glamorous parts of the romantic leads. That said I worked pretty consistently through high school and college and only had trouble getting cast in a college where they went out of their way to give first crack to their drama students (which I was not). I still got parts (good ones too) but it was tougher.
So you played Hamlet, Romeo and every other lead part in high school and college so you decide to come out to LA and be professional. Well guess what, so did the vast majority of the people you meet in LA who want to be actors. This is not the middle of Nebraska where there are three people competing for the role of Officer Krupke this is the “Superbowl of Acting” as an actor friend likes to say. If you can’t compete in the lower levels you stand no chance here.