As an actor should I lie about my age?

As an actor should I lie about my age_550
Photo Credit: adapted from Jonathan Morgan via cc
Do you want to make an actor squirm? Ask them their age!
You will see them avoid your eye contact, stammer, quicken of breath and then answer with something like ‘How old do you think I am’, ‘I’m as old as you want me to be’, ‘I usually play mid to late 20s’

But really in acting should you lie about your age?

This is a question which is often asked by actors, and is quite a difficult one to answer but I will try my best.
After a while, you have no idea how old you are because you’ve lied so many times, I always said I would never lie, but one time, when I didn’t it worked against me. So I figure you just keep them guessing.
Sandra Bullock
Just recently we read about a girl who was cast to play a teenager in the nation’s favourite soap but had lied about her real age at the castings. When she was announced in the press as the newest cast member the press discovered that she was not a 19 year old actress who was going to play a 14 year old, but actually a 25 year old actress who had lied.
The sad end to this tale and the moral to us all is that she was fired and the soap have decided to recast.
The first thing anyone in the casting world will see and judge your age upon is your headshot. Your headshot needs to reflect you as you are and to give the casting industry an idea of what kind of age range they can cast you in.
Make sure your headshot looks like you.
If you are going to be going for younger roles then have a fresh faced, minimal make-up or close shaved look. Never retouch the photograph to make you look younger than you are. Think about your playing age when you are dressing for the shoot and if you will be going for teengae roles then perhaps a change of outfit or hairstyle could be appropriate.
Chat to your photographer about the types of roles and the playing age you will be working in because they will often be able to suggest lighting and location which can help. Just make sure the photos look like you!
When we create our acting CV or resume we choose to leave off our actual age, after all it is up to the casting director to decide if we are young/old enough to play the role. Many actors who play teenage roles in tv shows are in their mid 20s. If you look 16/17 then it is probably a plus because a production crew will not have to get a work permit for you, or look at finding a chaperone etc.
As an actor it is going to be very rare that you are actually asked for your age – to be perfectly honest it often doesn’t matter. Your age is a number which has no bearing on how you can do your job, what is really important to everyone is that you are honest about your ‘playing age’ – this is the age range which you can convincingly play on stage or screen.
Think honestly about your playing age and then use that on your CV. Here in the UK when you join Spotlight you need to decide on your ‘playing age’ – you choose an age range from:
  • 16-20 Years
  • 21-25 Years
  • 26-30 Years
  • 31-35 Years
  • 36-40 Years
  • 41-45 Years
  • 46-50 Years
  • 51-55 Years
  • 56-60 Years
  • 61-65 Years
  • 66-70 Years
  • 71-75 Years
  • Over 75
Remember that you can tick two boxes but I wouldn’t advise choosing a broader range than that.
To find out what playing age range you should be then you probably need an outside eye. Take a quick straw poll survey when you are out and about. My advice would be to work in a pair, go out with a friend to somewhere busy, wear clothes and make-up which you would wear to a casting and get your friend to ask a wide range of strangers how old they think you are.
You can then do the same for your pal.
The answers will be surprising but they will give you a good idea of what kind of playing range you should be targeting.

What should I do if I am asked my age at an audition?

With actors, all our ages are out there for all to see – you can’t hide anything, really. And it’s kind of a relief. This is my age, this is what I look like without makeup on – who cares? That youth culture – that lying about your age – it’s all denial of death anyway.
Julianne Moore
The whole issue does get tricky when it is a casting director, or a producer at a casting, who is asking the question. What can you do if they ask you the all important question ‘How old are you really?’ – there is no point in getting defensive or in answering with the smart ‘How old do you think I am’ answer.
In this case I would think honesty would be the best policy.
Could that cost you the job?
Yes, quite possibly, but in today’s age of social media and online gossip you will be found out if you tell a great big porkie pie and it could land you in a lot of hot water further down the line.
Casting directors and directors will choose actors who look the part, and at some point in your career you will probably end up playing parts who are older or younger than you are.
at 27 I was on stage playing a 40 year old but at 30 I was playing an A Level student – go figure! That’s a character actor’s life for you.
Shaving a few years off your age doesn’t make you look or act any younger, it probably just makes you feel better in the short term. I have seen woman in their late 30’s auditioning to play 25 year olds and telling the casting director they are in their late 20s. This did not get them cast, it just made them look desperate, unprofessional and insecure.
If you get a call for a casting which makes you feel uncomfortable and you are worried about being asked how old you are at the casting then you need to speak to your agent and ask for their advice. Ask what they would recommend you say if you are asked. They might have already addressed this issue with the casting director. They may have already told the truth about you, or in some cases lied about your age – so you really need to know what to say!
At a casting with a casting director it is your job to ‘win the room’ not to ‘win the part’ – maybe your true age will stand against you this time but by being honest and up front you will most probably win the respect of the casting director and if you are great then they will remember you for something else – that’s their job!
Remember it is totally your choice what you say at a casting and it is probably against the law for a casting director to ask you how old you are. It is always up to you in that moment to decide what you want to say.
Would I lie about my age at a casting …. nope. I think it is always best to just be honest about who you are and where you are. The right actor somehow always gets the role.