Hey J! Ask the Agent: Sorry I’m late.

Hey J,

I’m coming into the industry, well, let’s just say “a few” years later than the rest. Do you think it’s too late for me?

Thank you for your thoughts, Susan.

Hi Susan,

Fortunately, dreams aren’t milk – they don’t have an expiration date.

For all my flippancy in responding I have to say how sad I am to hear that anyone worries about this. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time I’ve heard someone voice this fear and I am sure it won’t be the last.

This industry does seem to have an obsession with youth and beauty, doesn’t it? Those of us who are, ahem, more mature in years know that both are fleeting. Youth passes and beauty fades. As I have aged I have noticed an increase in confidence I only wish I’d had when I was younger. Life experience is incredibly valuable and if you can bring that depth to your acting work then that is to be praised and lauded.

I work with people of all ages and the one thing I know is that everyone has a unique and individual journey. There are as many different reasons for becoming an actor as there are actors. It stands to reason then, that everyone’s individual journey will take its own individual path. You might have started taking classes on Saturday at Stagecoach when you were a kid, you might have gone to APGS, you might have trained at NIDA or WAAPA , you might not have trained at all. Whatever your journey, whatever route you have taken – that’s your unique story. Whatever path you took that led you to come into the industry later in life, welcome! You’re not late – you’re right on time.

What I look for in a client is talent, talent, talent. Full stop, end of story, bottom line. Have you got talent? Well then it doesn’t matter what you’ve been up to. Will you be going in for the lead role at the Sydney Theatre Company? Maybe. Might you be going in for a smaller part? Absolutely. Will you be getting above-the-title billing opposite Cate Blanchett anytime soon? Maybe not. Might you have one line in an episode of The Gloaming? You bet!

Everyone starts somewhere. Everyone begins building up their CV and their credits from a place of having nothing. Fortunately, there are roles written for twenty-year-olds AND for sixty-year-olds. The process is the same – you start small, build up a CV, build up credibility and build up a network of contacts. It’s a process you can begin at any age. You can take a break from it and come back to it. You can go at whatever speed suits you but the process for everyone is pretty much identical – work at it, improve your skill, get rejected, a lot, keep going. Nothing happens overnight but if you are pragmatic and don’t expect miracles then you have just as much right for your dreams to come true as anyone else does.

Why not make a feature out of your individuality? Instead of trying to pretend to be something you’re not, why not make casting directors aware that you’re a late starter or a returner – the life experience you bring to a role might be just what they’re looking for. Knowing who you are, knowing what makes you unique is a key part of the process. Running your own business or working in an office tells us you have skills in organisation and are reliable and used to working in a team. You might have brought up children, you might have travelled the world – as a mature performer you bring skills and experience to your work. Deciding, later in life, to pursue your dream and your passion demonstrates a level of bravery and confidence in yourself that is to be admired.

That’s not even mentioning that the field has probably thinned out quite considerably! The 20-30 age bracket is one of the most oversubscribed brackets in the industry; you might actually be quite relieved you missed out on those years.

Most of us, the older we get, have learned to adjust our expectations. If I was coming back into the industry in my later years I doubt I’d care much about becoming a star or a household name, I’d just want to work. Whether you’re returning to the industry after years out doing something else or you’re a late starter you are surely doing it because you have reached the point where you can no longer ignore that siren call – you’re doing it because you have to, because you need to finally scratch that itch. You’re doing it for yourself because you love it and that is, in my opinion, the very best and healthiest reason to do it – whatever your age.

There are only two limits – the first is in how you think about yourself and your career and what you expect from it. The second is your physical ability – all acting requires physical and mental stamina. I probably wouldn’t pursue a career as a musical theatre dancer late in life – not unless I had considerable physical strength and flexibility! Aside from that, it’s your life – live it. As septuagenarian dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp says “Life is about moving, it’s about change. And when things stop doing that they’re dead.”

Stay connected. Stay creative.


Got a question? Email JBR at [email protected]


JBR is a UK Talent Agent based in London. He began his career as a child performer in the 1980’s and has spent more than three decades in the industry exploring creativity and working across a number of fields. He has been an actor, a director, a writer, a designer, a drag queen, a producer, a dramaturg, a teacher, a comedy booker, a publican, a marketing manager and an agent. He runs JBR Creative Management working with a small group of multi-platform creatives. JBR's first book, Getting, Keeping And Working With Your Acting Agent will be published by Nick Hern Books on May 27th 2021 and is now available to preorder.


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