Why people want it
It’s no surprise why people want to become actors. You get to hang out on a fun set all day, pretend to be chased by zombies, get dangled in front of green screens, and be watched by millions. And it’s not just the A-listers who are having all the fun. Even relatively unknown “character” actors can have successful careers as “that guy who was in that thing.” If you were the type of kid who loved starring in school plays, it makes sense why you would rather pretend to talk to investigators on Law & Order than make spreadsheets.
Everyone knows aspiring actors wait tables and work odd jobs until they “make it” in the industry. However, what they don’t tell you is that, even after snagging that coveted role on a major TV show, you’ll probably still have to keep waiting tables! The average working actor only makes $50,000 a year, with the vast majority making less than $1,000 from acting jobs alone. And that’s barely enough to cover a month of L.A. rent.
Earlier this year, Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens was in the news when a fan took a picture of him bagging groceries at Trader Joe’s. The viral story ignited the hashtag #ActorsWithDayJobs, which uncovered the unspoken world of actors who “made it” but still need side hustles. “I bartended for 15yrs while pursuing my acting career,” Bosch actor DaJuan Johnson tweeted. “Many of those nights I was literally on the TV while taking orders from customers. They would say ‘Hey, isn’t that you?’ I’d say, ‘Yup, would you like a glass of wine w/ your steak?'”
Thanks to streaming services, actors are paid a lot less than they used to be. Thirty years ago, an actor could get by on a few gigs a year, but today, if you want to become a full-time movie star, you pretty much have to be Jennifer Lawrence.