The Series Regular on a TV show. It’s why you’re doing all that cardio, taking all those acting classes, and desperately trying to get your agent to get you in rooms. Being a series regular on a show brings with it fame, fortune, and the chance to work as an actor five days a week for 6, 13, or 22 weeks. It’s just about as good as it gets in our business. And yet, while most actors are sacrificing life and limb to get there, most actors don’t really have a full sense of what they’re chasing. Trying to be a series regular on a TV show is like campaigning for president. You know you want the job but you can’t possibly have a sense of what it’s like until you’re there. Well, having visited one of our industry’s mountain tops, looked over and seen the promised land, we’re here to tell you what to expect. Here are five things to do when you book the TV show.
1. Pull back the Wizard’s curtain. Figure out as soon as you can that the fantasy you were chasing is not reality. Yes the money is great, yes you have your own trailer, yes they’re asking you if you’d prefer fish or chicken today, but at some point it all becomes wallpaper. At some point, during episode three, after 12 hours of shooting, you’ll think to yourself, “Man, it would be nice to be at home.” At a certain point it becomes work. Hard to imagine, but even the most Holy of Holies for an actor turns into another job at some point. And when it happens, it can be a let down. You were expecting nothing but bliss, but what you got was also real life. You’re best served to focus on the work (as opposed to the job). Focus on and be grateful for the fact that you get to act more than most people on that planet.
When it’s all said and done, that’s better than your fat contract, your amazing catering, and your name in lights. The quicker you make it about the work, the better.
2. Live like you’re poor. In the blink of an eye you moved up to much higher tax bracket. You’re making tens of thousands of dollars each week and there may be an impulse (and sometimes an expectation) that you’re going to live large. This is a mistake that so many actors make. In a blink of that same eye the show gets cancelled and you don’t make a substantial paycheck for a year or two. $300, 000 gets cut in half after paying the agent, manager, lawyer, and taxes, and the rest of it can easily get sucked into the high-flying lifestyle you’d created for yourself while you were on the show. Rule of thumb: Don’t make big purchases that involve longterm payments until after season three. Invest ten percent of your money, reward yourself within a budget, and live simply. And whatever you do, do not (repeat: DO NOT) hand off your finances to a business manager or accountant and ignore the details. You must be in control of your finances.
3.Don’t believe the hype. You have a nice trailer with wifi and a big screen. You have a costumer who holds an umbrella over you in the rain. You have your own make-up artist and hair stylist who make sure you look just so. It’s enough to make a person feel pretty special. You need to know that you’re not special. Of course, you’re special for other reasons, but not because you booked this TV show and the crew is fawning over you. You have a trailer because your work is emotional and you need space in which to prepare. The wardrobe person is holding the umbrella because his job is to protect your clothes, and it is the hair and make-up departments’ job to make you look the way you look. While the crew members are often wildly caring of actors, they’d offer the same care to the actor you tested against, had she been cast. Never be better than the work. An inflated sense of yourself and your accomplishments disconnects you from humanity and gets in the way of doing good work.
4. Be nice to every guest star. And co-star and background performer and stunt actor, and crew member, etc. Each actor who steps onto your set is a guest in your home. It’s on you to make each of them feel welcome. They may only be a guest star to your lead but if you create an environment in which they can do good work, your performance will be better. The show will be better. They may be anxious about being there. It’s on you to welcome them, invite them to be a part of the creative process as much as is appropriate, and challenge them to be great. You are part of a community of actors. Behave accordingly. You were a guest star once and believe us, you will be again. And when you’re a guest star on a show lead by someone who was a guest on your show, it all comes back around.
Your crew members are your family for the time you’re together under one roof. They’re all working incredibly hard for the show. You get bigger paychecks and brighter spotlights, but that only means you need to set an example. Treat them well and they’ll do everything for you. Remember that you’re a team and everyone has something huge to contribute. It takes a village…
5. Don’t date your co-star. Unless you absolutely have to, that is. Yes, they’re insanely good looking and yes, you spend 15 hours a day with them, five days a week, but if at all possible, consider them off limits from the start. When two series regulars on a TV show start dating, the personal repercussions (even the good ones) always affect the work and most of time it gets messy. There are plenty of fish in the sea (and in LA plenty of those fish are also insanely good-looking actors). Keep it clean and keep the work first. Don’t bring tension to the set for a roll in the hay or even a relationship that lasts till season two.
Booking a series regular role on a TV show is one of the greatest achievements in an actor’s career. To make it last and go smoothly, you have to know what it is and what it isn’t. Once you understand the reality of the job, find your gratitude and generosity, and focus on the work first and foremost, you’ll have an incredible ride… and a few bucks to last ’til the next one!