Make the Most of Your Skills

November 5, 2011

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” –Arthur Ashe

Don’t ever underestimate what you bring to the table in this industry. The various hobbies, interests, and skills you’ve gathered throughout your life may very well enhance your chances of working as an actor.

Take, for instance, Richard Farnsworth, who portrayed the sheriff in Misery and starred in The Straight Story. He was working as a stable hand at a polo field when he was offered a job as a stuntman in films like the Marx Brothers’ classic, A Day at the Races. He appeared in horse racing scenes without being credited in several movies including Gone with the Wind, which launched him into stunt work doubling for stars like Roy Rogers and Gary Cooper. After over 30 years in the business, he moved into acting where his warmth and ease won him an Academy Award nomination for his role in Comes a Horseman.

Danny Trejo was a child drug addict, a criminal, and  in and out of jail for 11 years. In San Quentin State Prison, he became the California prison boxing champion in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. In 1985 Trejo was offered the role of a boxer in the prison escape drama Runaway Train. “Can you act like a convict?” he was asked. “I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, I’d been in prison most of my life.” Since then, Danny has become a prolific actor in films such as Machete and Desperado, as well as making TV guest appearances on top-rated shows like Breaking Bad.

Channing Tatum parlayed his work as an exotic dancer in Tampa Florida into a leading role in the dance movie phenomenon Step Up. The Olympic swimmer Johnny Weissmuller starred as Tarzan the Ape Man due to his formidable body and prowess in the water. And the recently deceased Bubba Smith started his career as a bone-crushing defensive end, and ended it as the beloved Moses Hightower in six Police Academy movies.

Whether you’re a chess enthusiast, computer programmer, post modern painter, or ping pong dorm champion, chances are your skill will dovetail nicely with a cool film or TV project out there.  But make sure to keep your resume up to date, because if casting directors aren’t aware of your prodigious skills, they ain’t gonna know to call you in for the job!