How can aspiring and struggling actors make ends meet while pursuing the career of their dreams? On Casting Frontier’s 19th episode of The Curve, Burgandi and Govind brainstorm ways in which talent can support themselves or bring in supplemental income between acting gigs. 

“You have to have a side hustle—or ten, living in LA,” Burgandi frankly insists. Govind agrees, saying, “A nine-to-five job isn’t as conducive, so you need a job with flexibility that pays the bills but doesn’t take too much emotional energy or baggage.” 

Flexibility is crucial as it allows actors to work off-hours, switch shifts with coworkers, or take temporary positions which gives them the freedom to go on auditions by day, attend classes as needed, and allow time for networking and healthy habits. It’s also helpful to have jobs that don’t require extra work hours after the actor goes home—like a teacher who needs to create new lesson plans and correct tests. But, then again, anything is possible if actors are blessed with a ton of energy!

These days, many actors take side gigs such as driving for Uber or Lyft, delivering food for Postmates or Instacart; they walk dogs, bartend, work in coffeehouses or juice bars, or of course, wait tables. 

Govind has supplemented his income by waiting tables, hosting, catering, as well as doing brand-ambassador work. Burgandi, has worked as a receptionist, answered phones, been a personal assistant, as well as worked a brand ambassador too. 

Virtually every actor you see on the big screen, on stage, or on television has a good long list of odd jobs that sustained them before their acting salaries were ample enough to pay the bills. Take for instance:

  • Comedy legend Whoopi Goldberg. Early on, she was a trained beautician, and she thought she’d try becoming a mortuary beautician. The story goes she heard one of the drawers creaking open. Turning to see what was causing the noise, Goldberg saw a person who should have been dead sit up and wave at her. “[My boss] jumped out and said, ‘That’s the worst thing that could ever happen to you here, and it won’t. So there’s nothing to be scared of.’ I was fine after that,” she recalled.
  • A ripped and tanned Channing Tatum stripped for $50 per night plus tips for eight months when he was 18 years old in a Florida nightclub. This led to modeling gigs which then led to acting jobs.
  • Hugh Jackman was a PE teacher in England, and he performed as a party clown for $50 per show.
  • Johnny Depp sold ballpoint pens over the phone—and only made one sale.
  • Lucy Liu worked five days a week as a secretary and an aerobics instructor on weekends.
  • The Notebook actress Rachael McAdams worked at McDonald’s for three years and directed kids’ theater.
  • The Color Purple actress Jennifer Hudson worked at Burger King and used to sing at the drive-thru window.
  • Matt LeBlanc and Harrison Ford were carpenters.
  • Demi Moore worked as a debt collector.
  • Vince Vaughn served as a lifeguard at the YMCA, and apparently, he was fired from the job.

Govind adds another line of work for actors to consider: “Another tip we’ve heard is [to seek work] in a similar area of what you’re doing. So if you go to an audition or go to a casting, maybe they’re looking for assistants or someone helping a session. And so if it’s in the same atmosphere, that can only help.” Additional benefits of this kind of employment include being able to go on auditions, build relationships in the entertainment industry, and demonstrate your reliability, work ethic, and personal skills. 

What kinds of jobs have you worked to make ends meet while pursuing your passion to act? Please share!

Casting Frontier’s YouTube series The Curve is hosted by Burgandi Phoenix and Govind Kumar. Stay ahead of the curve by learning more valuable tips and stories from an assortment of industry insiders each week.