Acting: Is it Something You Want to Do?


Malin Denton

James Denton


Lights, camera, action! Acting, an art form dating all the way back to 535 BC, is one of the most interesting careers. It’s not hard to become an actor, but it is hard to become a professional actor. Professional acting has an extremely low employment rate, so actors are in high demand.  

James Denton, a professional actor, has been acting for 30 years both professionally and unprofessionally. His most well known shows include Desperate Housewives, The Good Witch, NCIS: New Orleans, and Devious Maids. Movies he’s been in include Face Off, That Old Feeling, and Grace Unplugged. The beginning of his career was “boring, very quiet, and just community theater.” To begin acting, it’s important to start in theater and work your way up. It may start slow, but that’s the process of getting noticed. 

An extremely important part of acting is having an agent. An acting agent is someone who will negotiate your contracts for you. A manager on the other hand, is only really important for the beginning of your career. They mostly do public relations work and are useful for their contacts list. A manager will usually take about 15% of your pay and an agent will take about 10%. “Never, ever pay either of them anything up front. If they request it, they are scam artists.” Denton states. “Agents and managers don’t get paid until you do.”

Another very important part of acting is the acting school you attend. Prestigious acting schools include Yale, Julliard, NYU, USC, and UCLA. “Experience trumps everything. If you are auditioning and getting cast, put the classes on the back burner. I wanted to take some classes early in my career, but I worked so much I would have had to turn down a play to take a class, which I thought was counter-productive. If you are having a dry spell, get into a classroom. You will always learn something to take away, and it’s good to just be acting somewhere.” Denton says. 

The hardest part about being an actor is the insecurity. You never know when or what your next job is going to be, or if you’ll even get cast in anything. The pay is extremely inconsistent. Another hard thing is the travel. You could be working anywhere in the world.

Some additional advice from Denton for Chanhassen students who want to get into acting: “Just get on stage. Work begets work. People will see you, and you will gain valuable experience. I am certain that my six years and sixteen plays in Chicago were worth more than any classroom work. Just get on a stage. Somewhere.”