Beyond Your Default
The first hurdle to becoming a successful actor is realizing that your job is not merely to be obedient and just fit in to some preformed mold of what an actor should be. You are an artist, which means you must first discover, feed and refine your unique voice, what shines from you that is unlike anyone else, and apply that to the audition or work.
Rather than pleasing others or trying to conform to external generic stereotypes, a vital early step in an artist’s career is realizing you must bring to the light and refine what is your unique default talent.
This default talent, your unique “super power,” if you will, is the thing that “pops” about you. Once cultivated, it is on tap for you and takes no digging around to find. It is the easiest tool to reach for in your performer’s “bag of tricks.” It is “that thing you do” that makes the audience laugh or cry or applaud. It gets you the nod from those that cast.
I see the first stage in an acting career as revealing and refining this default superpower. You become known as the “wacky comedian,” or the “dramatic lead,” or the “trusted authority figure,” “versatile character actor,” “sincere but strong innocent youth,” “off kilter parent,” “powerful high status adversary,” or “crazy matron,” etc. When this kind of archetypal role comes up, they think of you.
Your unique default comes to define how others see you and your work and how you see yourself and your capability. It fulfills your present and sets the path for your creative and professional future. It is a defining and guiding archetypal image. But it doesn’t have to be the only one.
It is joyful work to find what really pops about your talent, but as your career gains momentum, this default image can become so ingrained in others’ minds as well as your own that you begin to think of yourself as only capable of this default. As auditions and work increasingly conform to your “superpower,” it can come to eclipse other creative/casting avenues, as it is financially reinforced.
Though it may be the source of your success it may eventually prove a limiting obstacle to further professional and artistic growth.
This polished gem of your default talent may end up feeling like a looming shadow that blocks the light from other creative possibilities, a kind of boundary wall for an artist to surmount. It can become all you believe yourself capable of– a self fulfilling limitation.
Fortunately, for voice actors, we have greater latitude and opportunity in pushing our creative boundaries and growing our careers beyond a single form of success. It helps that we are not as confined by our physical appearance for our casting.
I myself have been surprised to find myself cast in roles I never would have thought possible when I began my voice acting career. As I grew more confident with experience and notoriety from what came easily to me, I continued exploring new things of interest that filled me, that watered what were only sprouts of my artistic capacity. To my surprise, I started expanding beyond the “default” of what began and sustained my career.
This inner growth was also a direct result of the expanding, changing and deepening relationships in my life. My wife and I had started a family and I found that this was a great challenge that also yielded a strengthening of my voice and my creative possibilities.
Also, I began pursuing other hobbies and interests- my family history, writing, macro photography and music. I came to see how growing my life beyond my acting career could strengthen and deepen my abilities and energize my professional possibilities.
There is no shame in sticking with the One Thing that works. Anyone lucky enough to find and refine their strongest artistic talent and earn income with that should rightly be greatful and run with it. But keep in mind that success through your default doesn’t have to be the end of your creative or professional journey, if you are so inclined to push further.
As a professional artist, you have much more within yourself than anyone thought possible, including you.
I have found and seen in others that expanded avenues of creative and professional fulfillment are open to those willing to push beyond the comfort of their default and the success it brings.