28. Am I a thespian or a film actor

I always wonder do you have to be a theatre actor to earn the title of thespian? So I googled the definition.


noun /ˈTHespēən/ 
thespians, plural
  1. An actor or actress

adjective /ˈTHespēən/ 

Of or relating to drama and the theater

  • thespian talents

So a thespian by definition relates to drama and the theatre…One can only assume this means that I am a thespian as I do dramatic pieces on stage and on screen. My favourite part was that dictionary.com also noted examples of ‘thespian’ used as a noun and the sentences they chose were “an aging thespian“; “an unemployed thespian lodger”. Oh dear…and so it is written.

Thespian + beer = genius

But I digress. Just last week at the @UKActorsTweetup I met a wonderful young female actor, a recent theatre graduate, who was puzzled by the big decision she had to make about whether to be a theatre actor or a film actor.  During our conversation I politely asked her ‘why choose?’  She hadn’t considered this.  And then I followed it up by explaining my personal journey since moving to London and why I didn’t necessarily think actors need to choose right away. Instead the path will open itself up if you allow yourself to be open to it. 

 So how did my path become clear (lets hope this insight might be helpful to you too)?

I moved from Australia waaaaay back in 2007 to pursue my career in acting full time.  At that point in my career I had done a number of television commercials, photographic work, a few student short films, a tiny part here or there for other films (mainly more featured extra roles than anything) and a bunch of theatre roles. Within a few short months of moving to London my film CV grew astronomically.  I was constantly doing films, be they student, independent or paid roles (though the paid ones were few and far between).  I was not doing any theatre at all.  Here I was in a city famous for ‘The West End’ and the only audition I could get here was for open calls for We Will Rock You where I lined up with a thousand other hopefuls at the Tottenham Court Rd based theatre.  I was miffed.  Over the next year I continued to monitor my success and began to notice that as my film CV grew, so did the number and quality of the film auditions I was going for.  Directors and Casting Directors viewed me as a film actor. 

Was I okay with it? Absolutely.  It’s all about taking a constant acting-stocktake on your progress.  Be vigilant. Know where your castings are coming from, which sites, which Casting Directors see you again and again, which directors call and email you regularly, who knows you, what sort of work do you seem to get, what roles do you get typecast in.

Should you really worry about being typecast? (perhaps a more suitable question for a whole other blog post – mental note to self) Don’t be worried.  You can always shift into other roles once people have developed confidence in your acting work and ability.  There is no such thing as only being able to play one type of character your whole life.  Unless of course you are a character actor who really only has one type of character role you play.

And can you move back into theatre later or vice versa? Absolutely! You can always move between the two, or be clever enough to do both simultaneously.  One way I achieved that last year was by joining an improv group and performing life long form improv shows to a paying audience. So I was essentially able to do both at the same time.

So in answer to my new thespian friend (<-- see what I did there) I believe that she need not decide right now but just let her upcoming experience guide her.  Exciting days ahead B.A.B.E.S.

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