In The Off Camera Show with interviewer Sam Jones, accomplished actor Don Cheadle discusses his convictions about the real work of actors. First of all, he states, “Well I think a lot of times that people think that you have to have a job to work on acting–which you don’t.” While acting often requires a partner, he makes clear there are still a number of things actors can do when they’re alone and don’t have a part. For example, the House of Lies star notes actors can read plays, work on monologues, and analyze scripts. He continues, “You can very often read scenes with people that you don’t have to be performing for people. That’s all a part of the work to me.”

During his high school years in Denver Colorado, Cheadle played saxophone in the jazz band, sang in Choirs, and took theater arts classes. His well-trained teacher encouraged his growth as he performed in musicals, plays, and mime shows. But the multi-talented high schooler also pursued playing in various bands outside school, and acted in local theater projects. Indeed, he received scholarships to pursue either music or acting. While he was initially conflicted about which subject to pursue, he selected the latter. And in turn, he graduated from California Institute of the Arts with a BFA in Acting.

Cheadle landed small roles in television like the hit show Fame before building his career in films. He was named Best Supporting Actor by the Los Angeles Film Critics for his breakout performance in Devil in a Blue Dress opposite Denzel Washington. Cheadle’s impressive filmography includes both starring and co-producing Crash which went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture, and the critically acclaimed role as the hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rowanda. Also, Cheadle co-wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the low-budget film Miles Ahead about the jazz legend Miles Davis.

When aspiring actors approach Cheadle, he asks them:

“Do you want to be an actor, or do you want to be a star or a celebrity? Are you acting right now? Are you in anything? Are you in plays? Are you auditioning for plays? Do you read plays? Are you reading scripts?…That’s all working. That’s all doing acting work. Now, yes, maybe you’re not on a TV show or somebody hasn’t put you in a film but if you think that’s the only way acting happens, it’s probably going to be one or two things are going to happen: You’re never going to get that shot or you’re going to get that shot and then very quickly they’re going to see you’re this deep and you have nothing to bring to the game.”

Indeed, when he first wanted to become an actor, he says he’d watch TV and see roles that he could imagine himself playing in the future. And his priority became to find out what acting is about.

So if you’re not currently cast in a project, but you’re studying the craft, fine tuning a monologue, perhaps reciting poetry, working on material with friends, and auditioning all you can, then you’re certainly on the right track. You are acting.