Reality TV: a guilty pleasure for sooooo many people. While everyone loves to turn up their nose at unscripted programming, in remains hugely popular. But is it a viable way to start an acting career?
Have you ever thought about doing Reality TV? Most new actors have at least toyed with the idea. Maybe you have visions of being famous or making the huge per episode salary that some reality show stars bring in. ( For more on reality TV salaries read these articles on MoneyWise, The Things or Celebuzz)
But not all reality shows are created equal. Disney anyone? Or how about Nickelodeon, PBS or HGTV? These networks consistently turn out quality television. And then there’s America’s Got Talent…. The largest talent showcase on the planet. Generally speaking, talent showcase and shows aimed at kids and young adults tend to rank high on the quality scale, but when we get into adult territory so many of the shows are dating and or competition based and this is where things can go sideways.
While doing reality TV can definitely have it’s benefits, it’s probably not going to launch your career as a serious dramatic actor or actress. So why even consider it?
Here are the Pros and Cons of reality TV for new actors
Reasons TO DO Reality TV
- Can give you valuable on-camera and on-set experience when you’re new to the business
- Provide you with much need footage at the beginning of your acting career
- Gives you a credit on your resume when you have nothing else to show
- Shows potential agents and casting directors that you are at least trying at something and you’re not sitting around waiting for stardom
- You may actually make valuable contacts that last for years. Many casting people and producers in the reality realm make the jump into mainstream film and television
- It’s a paycheck. Usually very small so be clear on how much you are getting paid before jumping in.
Reasons NOT to do Reality TV
- Don’t do reality TV because you want “exposure”. There are literally hundreds of reality tv shows and most of the content is buried as filler these days on streaming services. Only a very small percentage of people who do reality TV actually become a “star”.
- It can be super cheesy …. even degrading.
- The show may not be aligned with your personal morals or values
- Reality shows are all non-union and notoriously low paying.
It’s absolutely crucial that you do your research ahead of time before diving into any reality TV show. A good rule of thumb: If in the past the show has created drama or portrayed situations that you personally wouldn’t feel comfortable being a part of, you can pretty much be guaranteed that they are going to do it again.
If you do decide to venture into the world of reality TV, here are some things to keep in mind:
- What are you looking to gain from participating in the Reality TV experience and in particular this show?
- How have people been presented on the show in the past? Are you okay with that and willing to participate in what you’ve seen?
- How far is “too far”? What are your boundaries?
The reality of most reality tv shows is that these are not going to make or break your career. Unless you are on an entire season of a very high profile show, it will most likely be forgotten if it’s widely seen at all. I’ve never heard of a casting director refusing to cast an actor because they did a single episode on a dating show 10 years ago. Conversely, a lot of stars come from The Voice and American Idol.
Yes, some notable actors and actresses did stints on reality TV early in their careers (read ScreenRant’s: 15 Actors You Didn’t Know Started On Reality TV ) but think of it more as a stepping stone rather than a big break.
The bottom line is to get real about reality tv. Know what your goals are and why you’re doing it, or deciding not to. Both are valid choices and highly personal and will depend largely on the show, the market, where you’re at in your career and your brand. I find so much pressure is put on new actors about what can make or break your career, when the truth is, very few decision you make early on will have that much influence as time goes by.
If you want to be a full-blown reality star, that’s a whole different ballgame and a career choice in and of itself. But a one day appearance on a cheesy dating show may not have the career altering implications you think!