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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters

I see a number of posts from people in the business…actors, casting directors, drama coaches, et al, who preach that you’re never too old to begin an acting career. Their advice is right on; however, I chuckle because the people they are talking to are those who have worried about starting too late because they are already well into their 20s and 30s, and sometimes in their…horror of horrors…40s!

There was a great character actor who I had the pleasure of meeting on more than one occasion. In the early 1970s, I worked for a major airline at the Hollywood/Burbank Airport in Burbank, California. A passenger who came through a few times was a young fellow whose name was Burt Mustin. When I met Mr. Mustin, he was around 86 years old. You may not recall the name, but if you lived in that era, I guarantee you would remember his face. Mr. Mustin had several guest appearances on shows such as All In The Family, Petticoat Junction, My Three Sons, Bewitched, Gunsmoke, and many more. In all, Mr. Mustin appeared in approximately 150 film and television productions. One would think that at his age and with that many productions on his resumé, his acting career spanned many decades. Good guess, but you would be dead wrong. Burt Mustin’s professional acting career did not begin until age 67.

Burt Mustin’s background is an inspiration to me because there are several similarities in our lives. Both of us had been amateur actors, we worked in radio, and we were musicians, all of which laid the foundation for our later careers. The big difference between us was that I was significantly younger than him when I was first represented by a talent agency. I was a kid of 64.

I am amused when I hear young people bemoan starting a new career so late in life…even at the ripe old age of 35. As for me, I found that not only do I absolutely love the craft of acting, I find that it keeps me energized. While people look longingly at the prospect of finally retiring, I look longingly at keeping my acting career alive for as long as I can. I feel as long as I can handle the long hours on set and be able to memorize my lines, I will keep doing what I enjoy.

So, how old was Burt Mustin when he retired? His last gig was at age 92 in 1976. He passed away in January 1977 just before his 93rd birthday.

I guess at age 79 I still have enough time to add many more credits to my IMDb.

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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters

“Keep on keeping on.” We can thank Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for that phrase he uttered in a 1964 speech…a phrase many consider redundant and perhaps hackneyed several decades later, and yet still has a lot of meaning for the struggling actor. I have heard many actors talk about giving up because they feel their training and the ton of auditions have led to little or no recognition from Casting Directors, let alone bookings. I also know many actors who have persevered and have been successful.

My experience has shown that even at my advanced age, good things happen if you persevere. However, it wasn’t always that way. When I put away my microphone as a broadcaster nineteen years ago and moved to Texas, I found that I needed to be active to feel alive and useful. I thought about going back to my first love, which was acting, but thought that age 60 was way too old to start again. However, to quote another hackneyed phrase, I decided to throw caution to the wind. I continued training and joined others much younger than me in workshops and classes. There were times that nothing seemed to be going my way and I was ready to just give up on my love of acting, but I loved the craft so much that I decided to keep going.

The first few years brought little success; maybe an occasional role as an extra (which should never be added to your resumé), however, I continued training and managed to land an agent in Austin. During the past twelve years, I have booked co-star roles in five network series, to include a role in an NBC pilot that was to be a recurring character. There have been supporting roles in a couple of indies and a few short films and, after moving to Florida five years ago, a lead role in a Hallmark film and, post-pandemic, a co-star role in a series for the Disney channel. Eighteen years ago, I found it difficult to get an agent. Today I am represented by agents in Orlando, Austin, New York, Honolulu, and London.

I am 79 years-old and have no thoughts of leaving the business that I love so much. I will continue to audition, and I will continue to accept rejection until that next booking again happens.

I will keep on keeping on.

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  • Writer's pictureRay Watters

In my last blog, I covered the importance of preparation and learning your lines. I was covering preparation both in auditions and on the set; however, I want to be more specific in this blog.

I want to address just the cold read audition.

For some actors, the words “cold read” conjures up nightmarish thoughts of dread. However, as strange as it may sound, I actually enjoy the experience. And…no, I am not a masochist. I actually find the audition cold read to be an opportunity to show off my acting chops.

I have experienced a number of cold reads and have found a process that works for me…a process that others have successfully used as well.

Always…always show at your audition at least 20 minutes in advance of your scheduled time, unless instructions state different (Remember…showing up at your scheduled time is considered late!). When you sign in, you will usually be given that part of the script (sides) to look at prior to your audition. Take that time to read over your sides and highlight your lines.

Determine who your character is and what is he trying to accomplish. What are his wants…his needs? What is blocking him from getting what he wants? Make a choice on how you will portray the character.

Do not try to memorize the sides in that short time. In memorizing your lines, you will be more concerned about remembering your lines rather than developing the character. However, do memorize the first and last line. That is important! When you deliver that first line, eye contact with the reader is essential, as is your reaction to the reader’s response. Looking at your script while the reader is responding may result in you not getting a callback. Having your head in the script the entire time is a guarantee of not getting a callback.

Before you give your first line, place your thumb on your second line. That way, after the reader has responded with their line, you can quickly glance at your line. With some practice, you will learn to quickly glance at your line and give that line while looking directly at the reader. I cannot stress enough the importance of having eye contact with the reader!

Earlier I mentioned making choices on how to portray the character. You may think this would be difficult because you haven’t had access to the script to learn more about the story and the character…and you would be right! This is where you have the opportunity to show off your Oscar winning talent!

Make a choice on how you think the character should be portrayed and go for it! If you give a generic performance because you are afraid you will play it wrong, you will probably not get the booking. Take a chance…take risks!

Possibly your choice on how the character is portrayed will be totally wrong. It may be opposite of who the character is supposed to be…and that’s OK! The Director may tell you to do it a different way. This is your opportunity to show your ability to follow directions and show the Director how professional you will be on set and be able to take direction.

Rather than dreading the cold read audition, consider it an opportunity to show your acting ability, which includes your ability to take direction.

Have fun!

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