The acting profession is hopelessly oversubscribed, and it seems the individual actor has little or no control over his ability to construct a body of work. The challenge for all actors is to make themselves heard amid the cacophony. However, the damning perception is that individual actors are interchangeable, that one is much like another, and not individual at all: that all actor's contributions to a production will be roughly the same, and so, in casting terms, it is a question of finding the actor with the “right shaped eyebrows”, and many actors have to stake their futures and their happiness on such a margin. The implication here is that the most dedicated and skilled actor will not necessarily work the most, he may lose out to the lesser actor with “the right colour hair”. Acting is not necessarily a meritocracy if you're measuring reward for merit in terms of quantity of work, and it is this which causes so many to quit the business, or to become hacks and hold contempt for it, and on the flip side, it is also the reason acting is oversubscribed in the first place with many joining the ranks believing that acting requires not skill but the ability to “look cute”. Only the other day I was having a conversation with someone who sneered that acting was “merely a lifestyle choice”. It does not help that our leading actors continue to denigrate the work in order to cope with their own self-loathing, we rarely hear filmmakers or playwrights talk about their own work in the same way.
So how can the dedicated actor seize more control over his work, and show that all actors are not the same? Well, one way is through education, ie: to educate about the difference between good acting and hackwork, to be able to cleanly explain what good acting is and show examples, drawing attention to great work when we see it and explaining why it is great as oppose to fluff, and hopefully then, others may see the actor's work in a different light. And actors must take it upon themselves to do this education, other people cannot be expected to do it. However, in order to do it, the actor must first define his aesthetic in simple terms (that is, his ideal), and establish analytical tools and critical language in order to transfer his ideas to others. Crucially however, the actor must be able to put his own aesthetic into practice, he must be able to walk the walk aswell as talk the talk. If you're preaching forceful, true acting, then you cannot be a wet blanket upon the stage. And this ability to demonstrate our aesthetic means we will be able to educate with conviction.
To be an actor requires great strength of character which is developed over time, and after many harsh lessons. Most are crushed by the demands of the life, they cannot even survive let alone flourish. The notion that acting is a “lifestyle choice”, that acting requires little more than “being cute”, must be dispelled, and good actors must be supported concretely, and publicly. Good actors are immensely hardworking and operate at the coalface of art. It takes enormous discipline and mental strength to act well, which is developed by the very nature of the work, ie - the actor must deliver the goods with precision when under intense pressure, the eyes of the public are upon him, and if he fails, he fails publicly. The actor does not have the luxury of standing back from the canvas or writing another draft. Again, many cannot cope with this pressure. Acting is a hyper-competitive profession, the pressure of the work mirrors the pressure of the life, the good actor is energized by pressure. The good actor has a pared down ego, and will always serve the needs of the production as a whole, as oppose to serving himself, for he has been humbled by the screaming demands of his craft. The good actor is an ethical actor, a moral actor, and one of integrity, and all of those qualities are engendered in his work. The good actor loves, above all else, the truth, and strives never to compromise it but to embody it.
Most of the actors I've known down the years have fallen away for various reasons. Whilst none of us is old, of my own group only a few of us are still standing. It is a great accomplishment to not only survive but to improve year in year out as an actor, to not become a cynical hack, but to continue to strive for and serve your ideals, every single day requires determination and constant self-improvement, questions are continually being asked of the actor, and once one set of questions has been answered another set arises. In the end, to improve as an actor, the demands must make you stronger, and not bitter. It is hard to explain to someone who is not an actor the joys of this continual struggle and the effect it has upon you, I suppose you'll just have to take my word for it. But one thing is certain though: I will always love, cherish and support the actor who strives to be good.