Military Veterans in Acting

One of the most appealing things about breaking into the entertainment industry is it can happen at any time. You don’t need to start off as a child actor in order to make it big in the business or to have the chops required to find fame. Several stars were discovered in adulthood, many made career transitions well past middle age, and plenty of people took a completely different path before arriving in Hollywood. In fact, a few famous faces you’ve come to know once started their careers in the military. If you’re thinking about following your passion and switching gears from military life to show business, read on to find some inspiration.

Making the Move: From Soldier to Superstar

This switch might not seem like the most traditional, but it’s a surprisingly popular topic. Search engine results yield dozens of articles outlining how to transition from the military into acting or modeling, and many people are ready to chase their dreams after serving their country. It’s important to apply your life experience wherever your journey takes you next, but acting is an extremely different animal compared to life as a soldier. There are two key factors to keep in mind when preparing to make the shift, and integrating these key pieces of knowledge will aid you in handling the big change.

1. Develop a New Mindset 

The regimented, purposeful life of a military man or woman has likely given you the tools to be disciplined and dedicated. You’ve probably become used to maintaining a strict schedule and knowing the steps you must take to achieve your desired results. These are incredible tools to have on your side and they’ll most definitely help you in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. However, things are a little trickier when it comes to “moving up in the ranks.” Breaking into show business is certainly about staying thirsty and being driven, but you can’t expect to climb up the ladder the same way you would in the military. 

The entertainment scene is more about who you know and getting some lucky breaks. Models and talent must have thick skin as competition is stiff. Decisions are not based on skill alone, as other aspects come into play when booking talent. Casting decisions are based on everything from personality and accents to height, location, and more. Beauty and talent are often in the eye of the beholder, and all casting directors and producers have different opinions. The nature of a Hollywood lifestyle requires you to be flexible and open to interpretation. Call times and locations are constantly changing and you need to be ready to adapt quickly. As long as you have the creativity and the drive, your big break will be worth the work and the wait.

2. Enlist Some Support

This notion may feel highly relevant to your days in the military: You can’t do it alone. Entering the entertainment industry is no easy feat even for a person who has been training for it their entire life. Coming from the military world and taking the steps to become an actor or model will take time and effort on your part, but you’ll also need the help of those who have done it all before. Whether you look for other veterans in acting to become a mentor or seek out a successful professional you highly respect, you’ll need to have a guide to keep you on track.

Once you have a mentor on your side, your transition may feel much more comfortable and you’ll have clear, distinguished goals to help navigate your path. Your mentor will be able to assist you in building a network of professionals who thrive in your chosen niche of the industry; having several individuals to seek advice from gives you the freedom to explore more than one option or avenue. Developing interpersonal relationships with people who have found success in the field will also provide you with the support you’ll need to keep moving through what can be an overwhelming pursuit.

At Ease: Military Veterans in Acting

It might give you some relief to see familiar faces who have made the move from the military to acting. Tons of our favorite people from the screen have served our country before testing the waters of Hollywood (or jumping right in). Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lead, Adam Driver, joined the Marines after 9/11 and served for over two years before a medical discharge. The star noted that the military experience gave him a fresh slate to decide what he wanted to do in life. He said, “There’s something about going into the military and having all of your identity and possessions stripped away: that whole clarity of purpose thing. It becomes very clear to you, when you get your freedom back, that there’s stuff you want to do.”

Other big names who went from soldier to star include Morgan Freeman, Rob Riggle, Clint Eastwood, and Chuck Norris. These guys play extremely different roles and take on parts with no relation to their days as a soldier. They are prime examples of life giving us many colorful journeys. You don’t have to have any experience to break into the acting or modeling industries, just a little gusto (which we’re willing to bet you have plenty of). 

Sometimes, an actor already knows what they’re cut out for even while still in active duty. Sinbad almost had a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force because he kept leaving base to do stand-up. If you got it, you got it. 

Discovery Spotlight Can Help Lead Your Charge

Kim Leftwich retired from the United States Army after 30 years of service. She attended a Discovery Spotlight expo in 2021 and has modeled for Vogue, Freedom Care, The Gatsby Showcase, and the Elevated Elegance Fire & Ice Fashion Show for Delta Sigma Theta.

You don’t need to make the move to Los Angeles or New York City any time soon, and there are smaller steps you can take to test out the entertainment industry. Discovery Spotlight has casting calls and opportunities to fit just about any type of actor, model, singer, or dancer. If you’re unsure about how to shift into the industry in a way that feels right for you, fill out our form to talk to a professional about your experience and goals. We thank you for your service, and look forward to helping you on your journey to stardom.

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