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What does a TV Commercial Actor do?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Most often, a television (TV) commercial actor helps sell products and services on television. Sometimes TV commercial actors promote messages of individuals or organizations, such as politicians or advocacy groups. A TV commercial actor might do average-length, 30- to 60-second commercial spots or longer advertising spots called infomercials, which might last 30 minutes or even an hour. Television commercial actors also do voice-over commercials, which basically is announcing, narrating or speaking in a commercial without physically appearing in it. A TV commercial actor might work in national commercials or local commercials.

Some TV commercial actors specialize in commercial acting, and others act in commercials as part of a broader career in acting. Like television and film actors, TV commercial actors often have agents who help them find auditions, although some choose to find work without the help of agents. When seeking work on their own, TV commercial actors often look at television industry publications, newspaper advertisements and online for casting calls. Television commercial actors might also belong to unions, such as the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) in the United States.

An audition for a TV commercial actor involves reading a script for a casting director to see if he or she fits the director's vision of the character. After a TV commercial actor gets the part in a commercial, he or she must learn the lines through memorization to be fully prepared once filming begins. Filming can be a long or a short process, depending on the number of takes required and the number of locations. Some commercials are filmed in a single location, and others involve traveling to several locations.

Long days are typical of working in acting, and it is no different for a TV commercial actor. The career of a TV commercial actor might involve several days or weeks of work followed by long dry spells with no commercial work. Having another job that helps pay the bills is typical of TV commercial actors. They might work in acting-related fields such as teaching acting classes or work in professions completely outside the acting realm.

There is no required education to become a TV commercial actor, but many actors take acting classes or pursue degrees in acting. Acting training might help a commercial actor get in the door to an audition and can, of course, improve acting abilities and enhance natural talent. Having special skills, such as dancing or singing talent or excellent athletic ability also can be valuable for TV commercial actors.

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Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Jan 12, 2015

When I watch television I see many more celebrities in TV commercials nowadays than I did years ago. Successful actors used to stay away from doing advertising, but now I guess they simply see TV commercial advertisements as another way to make money. Even some celebrities who don't want to be seen on the commercials will do voice overs for commercials.

By Sporkasia — On Jan 11, 2015

@mobilian33 - There is no easy answer to your question. For starters, defining what an average TV actor is cannot be done with any certainty. As a rule, actors in national commercials are going to make more money than actors in local TV commercials when they are doing pretty much the same job. The number of times a commercial airs will also help determine how much the actors earn.

Some commercial actors earn a very good living, but the competition is intense, and you really have to have a good plan if you are going to support yourself with commercial acting. In general, commercial actors earn much less than TV actors. Celebrities who do TV commercials earn the biggest bucks.

By mobilian33 — On Jan 10, 2015

How much money does the average TV commercial actor make per commercial and for an entire year? Is the pay anything like what the actors on TV shows make?

By Animandel — On Jan 09, 2015

One of my neighbors just told me that her daughter is going to be in a TV commercial. The commercial is for a local car dealership, and the little girl has a small part. This all started when my neighbor took her daughter to a talent agency that advertised in the newspaper.

A TV commercial producer was looking for child actors and he went through the talent agency. I had no idea that getting in a TV commercial could be so simple, or that it could happen so quickly.

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