What’s Life Like As An Actor: Career, Money, Family

Have you ever wondered what's life like as an actor? Being an actor sounds all fancy and exciting. However, being an actor isn't for everyone.

One morning, I decided to go to my favorite secluded Hawaiian beach far away from the tourists to think about new post ideas for the next several months. It's not enough to just write. A good blogger should also sketch out an editorial calendar with relevant topics at the appropriate times.

While peacefully tanning my cheeks with nobody around, a strikingly handsome man approached me carrying a toddler. What do you know. It was the actor Ian Anthony Dale, who is a regular on the TV show, Hawaii 5-0.

He said “hello” and put his blanket down next to me. I looked to my left and I looked to my right. Nobody around. I felt like the guy excited to have the entire movie theatre to himself, when in come some stragglers who decide to sit right next to him. 

I didn't mind. Not often do you get to enjoy the beach with an actor you recognize. We got to talking about kids, flying with kids (he's taken his boy on 27 flights already), raising our children in Honolulu, and establishing roots. Ian said he grew up in Minnesota, and didn't have the diverse environment as his son does here. Ian is half white, half Asian.  

He said he'd love to raise his son in Honolulu. But he currently splits his time between Honolulu and LA. He's hesitant to permanently make a home base in Hawaii because he said, “I have to go where the work is.” Hawaii is a long ways away from where most of the TV shows and movies are made.

What's Life Like As An Actor

As an actor, you never know whether your character will get killed off or whether the show you're on will be discontinued. That must feel a little disconcerting, especially if you aren't a big name celebrity.  

It was nice getting a glimpse into a working actor's life. The only two things that would be discomforting to me would be the fame and the uncertainty of work.

Being financially independent is about having the certainty to do what you want, when you want with nobody bothering you for anything.

It's too bad I didn't have my boy with me when I saw Ian. We could have gotten to know each other better and let our kids play together. He's 41. I'm 42 and we both love Hawaii.

What's life like as an actor?

Famous Actors Share What It's Like Being An Actor

1. “Everyone’s left their families, their homes, their friends, their jobs to pursue a dream where they know that the percentage of them achieving that dream is never, and they do it anyway […] You’re lucky to get an audition. Then you get it, you get there, you walk into a room full of guys that look just like you. You realize that you’re not the only one that wore the cowboy hat. Then you can hear the other guy in the other room auditioning, and now you’re thinking about not doing it like him.” —Ryan Gosling in Seduced and Abandoned, 2014

2. “I don't think you can really be an effective actor if you're not curious about people and events. And if you're interested in things, you want to go deeper and you want to know more. At least, the thing [that's always] ignited my own excitement about working is to know more about somebody: What made them do this? What in God's name went wrong?” —Meryl Streep, in a 2010 speech at the University of Texas

3. “It’s like when people talk about the difficulty of making a movie, and I’m like, send your son to Iraq, that’s difficult. It’s just a movie. It’s like, relax. I don’t play that precious nonsense. Your son got shot in the face. That’s difficult. Making a movie is a luxury. It’s a gift, it’s an opportunity, but most importantly, it’s a gift.” —Denzel Washington, in a 2016 Hollywood Reporter roundtable 

4. “To be in a profession where you’re constantly judged, critiqued, scrutinized, however you want to classify it, I’ve always been very, I think, rather adept at self-observation.” —Julia Roberts to Charlie Rose in 2000

5. “You look back and you find yourself being thought of in a certain way [for roles], and I think that’s the good fortune of working, where people start going, ‘Oh, you would be great for this!' But then, the part I hate about it is that how people see you can become very narrow at a certain point. And so, it becomes a fight for you to sort of be thought of in a different light, or also fighting your own fear about wondering if you can do something beyond what you’ve done already.” —Mahershala Ali, to The Hollywood Reporter in 2016

6. “The industry is very fickle, and you just do what you can and know that all this stuff doesn't mean anything. I mean, obviously, appreciate the opportunities and work hard, but there's so much more to life. This industry is a tough one to crack.” —Hilary Duff in Between the Lines in 2015

7. “Everything you do as an actor ends up taking you somewhere else. All of the emotions that you have to go through whether it’s loving a girl or laughing outrageously in something hilarious. Everything I’ve ever done in a film, it requires this getting to some sort of emotional reality that is contrary to the actual setting that you’re in.” —Tom Hanks, on Backstage TV in 2016

8. “As an actor, there’s a lot of control that we lose and we immediately don’t have the moment you start a project. You can give the best of yourself and have done the most amazing research, and then the director takes it into an editing room for nine months with his editor, and it might be a completely different thing. So if you think of it that way, the actor is the one element in a project that has the least amount of power.” —Zoe Saldana to Backstage TV in 2016

The Majority Will Never Be Successful Actors

The sad part of acting is that for most actors the reality is a life that involves very little acting. Can you imagine going to work where very little you did was actually the work you wanted to do?

When you’re not acting it can be tough as you are typically holding down menial jobs and struggling to survive. It can be physically and emotionally draining. You’re not creatively or finically satisfied.

If you’re fortunate to be working as an actor usually life is pretty good. It’s mostly well paid work, when on film or TV, and the people you work with are mostly passionate and friendly.

Most actors live a combination of both lives, which can also be tough. The oscillation can be draining.

The vast majority of actors never become “stars.” In fact, the vast majority of actors – more than 90 percent – are not even able to find enough work to provide for themselves. There are always far, far too many actors competing for too few roles.

I wish everyone good luck if they want to pursue acting. Know that there are no overnight successes. Be willing to hustle, take on side jobs, and keep on believing in your dreams.

Good things come to those who keep at it, no matter what.

Related posts about career:

How To Make Six Figures At Almost Any Age

The Top 0.1% Income Earners Of The World

About the Author: Sam worked in investing banking for 13 years at GS and CS. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics from The College of William & Mary and got his MBA from UC Berkeley. In 2012, Sam was able to retire at the age of 34 largely due to his investments that now generate roughly $250,000 a year in passive income, most recently helped by real estate crowdfunding.

He spends most of his time playing tennis and taking care of his family. Financial Samurai was started in 2009 and is one of the most trusted personal finance sites on the web with over 1.5 million pageviews a month.

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