Faceless Hollywood. You may have never heard of it, but you sure do know of it. It’s made up of actors that are quietly living the dream. Only, that dream may not look like what Hollywood dreams are typically made of.
It’s their own version of the dream. No paparazzi. Few red carpets and in many cases, no red carpets. Some of these actors have a statue or a golden globe on the mantle, but it’s definitely the exception.
Faceless Hollywood is more about the craft than the fanfare. It’s a place where actors just get to be actors.
They work and make a good living doing what they love, all while avoiding the politics that pollute the higher levels of the studio system. The actors that make up faceless Hollywood are not marquee actors by any means, yet they get to star along the biggest names in the industry and work on the biggest projects around.
Most of them are highly talented and could definitely climb to the upper echelons of the industry if they chose to but it’s not what they are after. In fact, you might catch them on the set of Twilight one day and the next day they’re trying to a finish a scene at The Grove before security notices.
We’re not talking about extras or 1 liners either. These are actors with real credits and satisfying roles. Like Jill Flint who is currently starring as Dr. Alexander on NBC’s The Night Shift, or Danny Trejo who has been in more projects than most actors will ever even read for.
What these actors all have in common is that they have a real passion and love for what they do. They don’t take a role to buy another beach house. When they play a role they breathe life into it because they love what they do.
It’s refreshing to see that in our business these days, isn’t it? During a time when reality TV reigns dominant over scripted shows and when it seems that everyone is setting out to become Instagram famous just to have a shot at the next season of Bad Girls Club, it’s nice to see actors who are passionate about their craft succeed.
Their roads to getting there are as varied as the roles they play.
Take Danny Trejo for example. For over 30 years he has been on television and has appeared in as many as 5 feature films in a single year. Though you might know him as the star of the action flick Machete, he never set out to be an actor.
He fell into it by accident. Danny was fresh out of San Quentin prison and newly sober when he got a call from a fellow recovering addict, who happened to be an actor. They had both served time together and Danny was summoned to help keep him sober on set. While there Danny was offered a role as a speaking extra and he fell in love with it. He was fascinated by the hustle and bustle of being on set.
“It made me feel alive” he says. From then on, Danny went all in. He auditioned for anything and everything. “I figured that it was a numbers game. If I went on enough auditions, I knew I would get a certain number of castings and be able to feed my family without going back to the streets” he said in an interview.
“A lot of people say that you have to take a lot of rejection to be an actor. I never noticed it. I just kept going. I love the game. It’s a thrill for me, going into an audition and not knowing what’s going to happen. And it paid off!...When I got Machete, I thought I was dreaming. I never thought that coming from where I’m from I would ever do a franchise film. I was happy just getting a co-star role in a couple of episodes every year.”
Danny Trejo happens to a very gritty looking Latino man with long hair and tattoos. The roles he plays may not suit you well, but if you take a look at his career, you notice something that has become a recurring theme over the last few releases.
He created a category of one. When Hollywood needs a gritty latino, he’s the one they call. And he stays very busy, since there are more roles of this kind than he could possibly handle.
Jill Flint has credits such as the Incredible Spider Man and Cadillac Records. Looking through her credits you will see roles of 3 episodes, 4 episodes, second leads and minor speaking roles. You then see 51 episodes and a leading role as Dr. Alexander.
This happened when she, you guessed it, decided to take the next step in her career and focus on a role that she could knock out of the park and that suited her well. She’s yet another example of an actor dominating a category.
Step 1: hone your skills
Most of these actors began their careers on stage. There is simply no match for the energy that a live crowd provides. It’s unforgiving and there are no “take 3s” on stage, nor can you yell out “line!”
It’s probably the best place to hone your skills and all of the actors that make up faceless Hollywood, have skills. Rather than powerhouse agents and studio politics they rely on skills to get their next gig.
So if you want to book steady gigs that are artistically rewarding and that also fill up your checking account, be sure to sharpen your actor’s sword. Work on your skillset for at least a half hour every day. Whether it’s a monologue or improv class doesn’t matter, just pick something and stick with it.
Step 2: Be disciplined and be everywhere
Another trait that is prevalent among this group is a stellar work ethic and discipline. It goes without saying but how many of us could go on 69 auditions, hear “no” 69 times and keep at it? Most of us wouldn’t even get past no #9.
Because the actors of faceless Hollywood built their careers in what is probably the hardest viable way possible, they had to develop a tremendous work ethic and a ton of discipline.
That kind of begs the question. If this is the hard way, go on 300 auditions every year until someone notices your talent, what is the easier way to break into the faceless Hollywood scene?
Step 3: leverage your time
Simple: cut down on the shotgun approach to auditioning. Leverage your platform and get in the room with casting directors who can book you for 3 different shows, or who are slated to cast multiple upcoming films.
Look, As a member of the tribe, you already have some acting credits to boast about and you’re on way to making it in this business. I just want to help you get to where you want to go much faster.
Why struggle and do things the hard way when something better exists.
Learn from those that have paved the way for you and improve on what they have done. In this case the most logical thing to do would be to build and leverage a platform that makes it impossible for a casting director to cast someone else.
If you do this, not only will you get in the room much more often, you will book jobs at a much higher rate. This will allow you to spend more time working and less time looking for work.
And that is what I want for you: to spend your time doing what you love and enjoying the career that you deserve.