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Characteristics of Professional Actors

Updated on January 25, 2014
Etiquette is very important on set.
Etiquette is very important on set. | Source

Important Etiquette

A successful production requires professionalism and it is always easy to spot an actor with the right attitude, even in low-budget or little theatre productions. Their strength of character and adherence to stage/set etiquette shines through.

The first basic characteristic of a professional actor is a courteous demeanor.

  • Treat others in the same friendly manner you would like to be treated.
  • Use phrases such as “please”, “thank you” and “excuse me.”
  • Address others with a respectful tone of voice.
  • Turn off pagers and cell phones.
  • Listen without interruption to the person speaking or performing.

How an actor treats the crew, technicians and other actors is a key indicator of his or her professionalism. A real pro knows that the show depends on everyone working together to succeed.

  • Treat crew and technicians with respect.
  • Move out of their way when they are working, because they are working to make you look good.
  • Remember that there are no “small roles” just actors who belittle the roles that don’t get as much time in front of the audience. Some “small roles” have stolen the show simply because the actor put everything he/she had into making the character real for the audience.

A professional actor is enthusiastic about the show, prompt and business-like while still being friendly.

  • Never make statements that will hurt the people around you, even in jest.
  • Avoid aggressive, provocative, or offensive language or behavior.
  • Accept critique from the director graciously.


It is important to attend rehearsals, even if it is only to walk through the part. The other actors depend on you, no matter how small your role. If you are late, wait quietly to one side until you are instructed to join the rehearsal. If you will be absent, let the director, assistant director or stage manager know as soon as possible. Because the cast and crew rely on each other to know their roles and responsibilities, missed rehearsals need to be made up.



Sometimes it is difficult to remain professional when personal problems arise, but it is the mark of a truly great actor who can keep their personal life from conflicting with performance goals, concentration and attendance. If personal difficulties occur, discuss them in private with the director so that proper action can be taken. Many sets and theatres adopt the motto, “Leave your luggage at the door.” This means, the moment you step into the theatre or on set, your personal life takes a back seat to the show so your focus is 100% where it needs to be.

Arrive Prepared to Take Direction

As a professional actor, it is extremely important to be prepared. Have the proper tools; script, pencil, eraser and lined paper or notepad. Write down all direction given to you, including blocking, expression, body posture, motivation and timing. It is frustrating and time-consuming for the director to have to remind you what he/she said previously and if it’s forgotten, the specific mood or atmosphere that was being created can be lost.


While it some times seem like a small issue, prompting can become a big deal. Never prompt someone who has forgotten their line or action. If you forget your lines, clearly say, “Line.” Do not look at the prompter when calling for a cue. Stay in character and wait until the director or stage manager tells you what you are supposed to say or do. Even during rehearsals, you must remain in character. Breaking into laughter or falling out of character will disrupt the atmosphere of the scene and pull other actors out of the moment.

Know Your Character

Even in a “small” production, a professional actor will take the time to write a background for the character, explore their motivation and even add inner dialogue to think during the scenes. These are all vital in bringing a character to life and compelling the audience’s belief. Learn your lines, blocking and these essential details well before opening night so that true creative growth can occur for the entire cast.

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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