By Marci Liroff

410929439_f2b867589c_oPhoto credit: skalas2

So your child wants to be an actor? Really? Please think about this long and hard. Let me share my perspective as someone who has worked with children for the last 35 years as a casting director and acting coach.

Whenever I meet a child actor I always ask them how they got into acting—what makes them want to be an actor? “Well, my mom and I were at the mall and this lady came up to us and said, ‘You should be a model! Let’s get some headshots of you! Then we got my pictures taken and now I’m an actor!” This response always breaks my heart: “There was this convention in town and I went with my parents and they picked me! My parents paid a few thousand dollars and I met a bunch of agents and now I’m an actor.” Or this classic one: “I really don’t remember how I got started or why. It’s ok I guess.” Or my least favorite, “I want to be famous!”

Here’s what I actually want to hear: “I asked my mom if she could get me involved in acting because I just love it. She said no, but I kept asking her every year and she finally said yes. I’ve been in plays at school and just can’t wait to start my new acting class.” Or, “Because I have to. I need to tell stories.” A wise little girl told me, “I just love to zip out of me and zip into another character.” These are the kids that make it. These are the kids who are there for the right reason.

Anne Henry, co-founder of BizParentz Foundation and the mother of a young actress herself, says, “When kids are asked why they want to act, I like to hear things like ‘I love to create characters and tell stories. I love to make people laugh.’ Or ‘If I couldn’t be a professional actor, I’d still be performing somewhere—at my school, in a class, or in community theatre.’ I’m looking for some sort of answer that tells me that the child likes the day-to-day job of acting.

Rather than ask kids why they want to act, I like to ask them about their favorite acting experience and why it was great. Their answer will tell you a lot, and tends to negate any canned answers they learned from their parents.

On the flip side, I cringe when a child says, ‘I want to make money’ or ‘I want to be on the Disney Channel.’ When I get that kind of answer, I know that they don’t love the art. That answer tells me that they bought into the fame myth or they haven’t actually done any acting. If this is their perspective, they are unlikely to have the stamina for the real job—they just want the result (fame), not career itself (acting). They probably don’t understand that fame for a child is usually not very fun, and not very likely.

When I talk to the parents of committed successful professional actors, they say things like ‘My child has been reading, making up stories, and performing their whole life. They begged me to let them audition for the play, get them into an acting class.’ Wise parents will talk about doing everything they could in their local community, and watching their child have success and accolades from lots of different sources before they enter the professional arena.”

Talk to your child before and during their journey into acting to make sure they’re here for the right reasons.

If you started as a child actor, how and why did you get into it? Parents – please share as well!

Glad you’re here!






  1. Marci, this makes me so happy to read. Samantha has been “officially” acting since she was about 7 (3rd grade), but has always had a passion (and talent) for telling stories, stretching her imagination, entertaining and singing.

    She is now 11 and is currently appearing in her 15th production. She has attended a youth summer conservatory program at a regional theatre here in the Midwest, and takes private voice and dance lessons. She cries at the close of every production and, without fail, follows the tears with, “I cannot wait for my next show!”

    She is currently performing in Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (directed by someone you may well know, Bob Harbin) as Susan Waverly, and recently received an Encore Award (local Tony-esque award) for her portrayal of Annie this summer (“Best Performer 18 and Under in a Musical). She also picked up two nominations in adult categories (Best Female Singer and Best Female Actress in a Musical).

    We’re trying to be “wise parents.” 🙂

    Samantha still has work to do to get better (she knows and embraces it), but it is clear that she wants to pursue acting into adulthood. We are there to support, encourage and advise as long as she continues to show the passion for it and the desire to grow.

    I try to detach – in fact sometimes I am probably overly critical to compensate for being her parent – to keep things in perspective, but I can say the kid is very talented, and based on your feedback, has the core set of values needed to be successful.

    Much love to you, Marci!


  1. […] my article “When Is The Right Time For Your Child To Become An Actor”, I examined the notion of making sure your child wants to act for the right reasons. Whenever I […]

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