Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Actor

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

Occupation: Actor

Overview: This is one of the few professions that is so familiar that it needs little defining. Actors play the roles of various characters. While telling the character’s story, many actors strive to entertain, inform, challenge, or emotionally move audiences. Actors can work in television, movies, or the theater.

Necessary Training: While there is no formal education required for this career, it’s a cut-throat and oversaturated business, meaning it’s a good idea to gain any advantage one can. To this end, budding actors may take acting classes or attend drama schools to attain necessary skills.

While talent is needed, this is an industry where who you know is extraordinarily important. So aspiring actors will spend a good amount of time networking and trying to catch the eye of an agent. And because no one starts at the top, actors need to be willing to cut their teeth on lower-entry-level jobs such as acting in commercials, doing voiceovers, or working as extras.

It’s also important to remember that on-screen work is only part of the job. Actors will spend much of their time rehearsing lines, researching their characters, practicing their skills, and even working out to maintain the physique that is often necessary for success in this field. And having multiple talents can help an actor get gigs, so they may spend time honing other skills, such as singing, dancing, or script writing.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: Charm, good listening skills, making people laugh, multitasking, photographic memory, promotion, reading people, strong breath control, writing

Helpful Character Traits:

POSITIVE: Adaptable, adventurous, ambitious, bold, charming, confident, cooperative, creative, curious, enthusiastic, extroverted, flamboyant, focused, friendly, funny, generous, observant, passionate, patient, pensive, persistent, persuasive, private, quirky, resourceful, responsible, sensual, socially aware, spontaneous, spunky, studious, supportive, talented, uninhibited, whimsical, witty

NEGATIVE: Evasive, extravagant, impulsive, materialistic, melodramatic, mischievous, obsessive, perfectionist

Sources of Friction: Working with pretentious or self-involved co-workers, too many actors competing for too few roles, losing a role to a rival, blowing an important casting call, creative differences among co-workers, working with a difficult or unrealistic director, being typecast, sexual (and other kinds of) harassment, not winning an award one thinks one deserved, poor contracts, getting fleeced by an agent, addictions, getting romantically involved with another cast member, not being taken seriously in the business, being blackballed by influencers, being asked to do something in a role that one finds morally reprehensible, having no privacy, clashes with paparazzi, being stalked, being slandered by a rival or a money-grubbing fan, being misrepresented in the media due to one’s personal beliefs, skeletons in the closet coming to light and threatening one’s career, challenging work schedules causing problems at home, having to choose between pursuing a career or having a family, wondering if a potential love interest can be trusted, fame driving a wedge between oneself and former friends

People They Might Interact With: Other actors, directors, producers, agents, makeup artists, stylists, a personal assistant, a personal trainer, members of the crew (camera operators, writers, set designers, electricians, etc.)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Self-Actualization: Actors who get pigeonholed into certain roles or kinds of acting may begin to feel stifled, believing that they’re unable to reach their full potential.
  • Esteem and Recognition: If an actor’s career doesn’t gain traction, he can begin to doubt himself or his abilities.
  • Love and Belonging: Actors work difficult hours and spend a lot of time traveling, which can cause doubt and jealousy to fester. Successful actors may have reason to doubt the sincerity or intentions of anyone who expresses romantic interest.
  • Safety and Security: A number of factors in this career contribute to addiction and substance abuse, as well as unhealthy dietary practices. This can lead to safety and security concerns for the actor’s physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Physiological Needs: An actor’s physiological needs can be impacted if any unhealthy physical or mental practices go untreated and begin to escalate. Stalkers can also impact this need.

Common Work-Related Settings: Airplane, airport, alley, beach, big city street, black-tie event, cheap motel, green room, hotel room, mansion, marina, newsroom, performing arts theater, public restroom, recording studio, small town street, subway train, subway tunnel, taxi, waiting room

Twisting the Fictional Stereotype: So many stories have been written about actors that stereotypes do abound: the vapid bombshell that’s only good for sex appeal; the absent-minded method actor; the corrupt agent; the perfectionistic director; the washed-up actor so desperate to stay in the business that they’ll take any role.

To avoid stereotypes, examine the character as a whole and make sure they’re well-rounded and unique. What are their positive attributes and negative flaws? Where do they draw their moral lines? What motivation is driving them to this profession? Considering these factors and making sure there’s something different about them is the key to setting your actor apart from the common portrayals.

Visit the other Occupations in our collection HERE.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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