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Why Procedural Dramas Matter to Actors

Updated: May 28, 2023

By Faith Hibbs-Clark

Procedural dramas are a hot commodity in the world of broadcast syndication. They provide a quick and entertaining snapshot of a problem and its eventual solution - all tucked away into a single episode. With these shows gaining popularity, aspiring actors can greatly benefit by understanding the importance of procedural dramas and the opportunities they provide. In this blog post, we will explore why procedural dramas are crucial for actors’ growth and how they can help actors get more experience and exposure.

1. Versatility in roles

Procedural dramas provide a constant stream of different characters with different backgrounds and motivations for actors to portray. Typically, these shows present new and intriguing characters in each episode, and actors often audition for multiple roles over the course of the show's run until they hopefully book something. As an aspiring actor, this kind of variety in roles is crucial for gaining more experience in the industry. Roles can range from the lead character's family members, witnesses, suspects, victims, or even the villains themselves. In this way, procedural dramas are the ideal training ground for actors to hone their skills.

2. Additional Exposure

Acting in procedural dramas is an excellent platform for actors to showcase their skills to a broader audience. These types of shows are typically popular among viewers and can provide invaluable exposure and name recognition for actors who are just starting out in the industry. With episodic content, it is also easier for casting directors and industry professionals to come across emerging actors' acting work. A single episode on a popular procedural drama like "Law & Order" can help to improve an actor's score, which can make an actor more desirable to casting professionals. (Photo: Bella Hibbs, Casting Director Good Faith Casting)

3. Audition skills

Auditioning skills are crucial for actors to land their dream roles. With procedural dramas, actors have more opportunities to audition for different types of roles on a steady basis with the same casting company until they land a part. They can cut their teeth on a wide range of characters in the process. Many actors are discouraged when they keep getting called to audition for the same casting director for different roles on the same project, but this is a mistake to feel this way. Getting invited to audition for the casting director again is a sign that you are producing great auditions and is standard in the procedural casting world. Consider it a compliment and use it as a learning experience to sharpen your audition craft.

4. Material to use in the demo reel

Additionally, the shorter storylines of procedural dramas make it easy to gain numerous clips with different characters and types of scenes. This type of work gives actors more material to show casting directors and showcase their acting abilities. The footage from these diverse roles can go a long way in helping actors put together a great demo reel that can be used to market their talent for other opportunities.

5. A chance to work with experienced actors

Procedural dramas are generally packed with talented and experienced actors. As a newcomer, working with such actors is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow in the acting profession. New actors can take this opportunity to learn about different acting techniques and styles and an opportunity to learn from their wisdom and experience. You might even get an opportunity to work with one of the leads and celebrities in the show. A scene with a star gives you well-deserved bragging rights.

6. The potential for long-term employment

Katrina Fristoe, talent agent and owner of SWAG Talent, a worldwide talent agency, says:

"So many of my talent have auditioned and booked a role for one day in a procedural drama and ended up being asked to recur, or they leveled up to TOS. Just recently, a SWAG actor booked a one-day co-star role with two lines, and within a few days, he was offered four more episodes with a minimum guarantee of nine days! This is an actor who has been acting for several years but has not booked network television in the past!"

While most procedural dramas do not rely on long-term storylines, some characters can be re-occurring or even become regular cast members. This can be a significant advantage for actors looking for consistent work. With long-term employment, actors have the luxury of honing their craft for a longer duration of time, and they can become a familiar face on-screen. Many television stars gain enough traction to be offered prominent film roles. Look at the cast of Friends, for example. All of those actors have gone on to do substantial film work.

7. Perfecting improvisation skills

With procedural dramas, there is always an element of unpredictability as to where the writers and director will go with the storyline. The nature of procedural dramas requires actors to be at their best in terms of delivery and stamina. The fast-paced, high-pressure environment of these shows demands actors capable of taking direction quickly and adapting to new scripts and directions. As an actor, working in a procedural drama can be a valuable learning experience, pushing you to grow and develop your craft. Actors who excel in the ability to improvise in unexpected situations or with last-minute changes will thrive in this type of role. This kind of flexibility helps actors to break out of predictability, try new things, and trust their training.

8. Opportunity to network

The unique nature of procedural drama production also benefits actors in terms of network building. Often, these types of shows can bring together a wide range of film and television professionals. This can include writers, directors, producers, casting directors, crew members, and more. By working on a procedural drama, actors can make connections and build relationships with key players in the industry. For example, the director that you work with in your episode might be getting ready to shoot a film and remember you for a role. This is often how new opportunities arise in television and film. Nurture those relationships by being professional and establishing sincere relationships with others.

Procedural dramas are an essential part of the acting industry, and they provide a unique and varied experience for actors. From improving acting and auditioning skills to perfecting improvisation, the benefits for actors of working on procedural dramas are numerous. So, if you're an aspiring actor, don't hesitate to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that procedural dramas provide for your growth and development.

Want to learn how to audition for this type of role? Take the 1-night special topics class this month. Live on Zoom.

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