I'm an actor and I have a Strong Accent. What should I do?

First of all... GET OUT!  Go!  Get out of here!!!  No accents allowed!!!

So, clearly, I'm joking!  But you're probably asking this question because you live in Hollywood (or somewhere else) and you are being told by someone - a casting director, agent, manager, acting teacher - that you need to "lose your accent" to be able to book more work.

Now don't get confused or stop reading, but on one level those people who are telling you this, are absolutely right, and on another level, those people are absolutely wrong!!

Where are they right?

They are right inasmuch as we can predict that you'd book more work if your accent didn't always sound like it does now.

In fact, the majority of your characters may want to sound very different from the way you sound in everyday life.

Where are they wrong?

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The are wrong in that you need to "lose" your accent.

If your accent is a huge part of your identity as a person and as an artist, why would we want to lose that identity?  

Well, we don't!  Not at all!!!

Now that we've laid that out in the open, here's what you should do!!

First, find a good dialect coach that you can study and work with like you would an acting teacher or coach.  In my studio, I LOVE when actors who have distinct accents come to study and work with me.  Whatever accent you have comes baked in the cake of your identity as an artist and as a person, and you have a distinct advantage over every other actor who doesn't have your accent - especially if it's an accent that is currently (or at various times) in vogue in film and tv.   If we nurture that accent the right way and make sure your English is perfect, you can use that accent as a huge asset in your career and you can book more work!

The problem lies in the fact that not every character you will play or want to play (or audition for) has your native accent.   This is why your agent or manager (or whomever) wants you to "lose" your accent.  

Here's my proposal...

1) We take a detailed look at your "type" as an actor and artist, and we identify that 6-12 accents that you will most likely be cast using.  This process is called "Dialect Typing" and is crucial to helping you focus your career, training and ultimately helping you book more work! 

2) We train you to be able to learn and use the other accents as if they were your own.  I always tell my actors to have at least 6 (preferably 12) monologues of every genre in their back pocket, so they can always be prepared for an audition, to do another piece in an audition, and to be specially prepared to audition at the drop of a hat for any producer or director they ever meet.  

You need to have your "back pocket dialects" ready in the same way.  This sounds like a long and hard process... it can be, but keep in mind that the more you do this work the more your brain learns how to learn dialects, so the 12th dialect you learn will be much easier than the first.  No matter what, you need to be prepared to take the time required to do this... see my previous post on how long it takes to learn a dialect to get an idea of this process.

Since voice and speech technique is really acting technique, this is as crucial an investment in your acting craft as the Meisner or Scene study or Cold Reading class you are taking. The kinds of skills you learn with your dialect coach are high-level skills that will set you apart from your competition.  Think of them like the high-level skills a professional athlete has.  If you want to play in the NFL, you'd better have the skills to play in the NFL.  Similarly, if you want to act at the highest level, you need to have the skills to do so - especially since these skills help to unlock and unleash your already formidable talent!!!

So cherish your accent, and learn to love the process of gaining more and modifying them to aid your career!!!

Anyway... those are my thoughts.