Getting Into Acting after 30 – Is it too late?

by txactor on April 10, 2008

While I’m waiting for some responses to my SAG / SAG Eligible post, I’m going to post something based on search terms someone out there in internet land used to make their way to my blog: Someone was looking for information on getting into acting after the age of 30.

Now generally this is not a great idea. Why? If you’re thinking about hitting L.A. and breaking in at 30, 40 or 50something, you need to consider that there are no ‘holes’ in the talent pool in L.A. Every age range, every look, every ethnicity is already represented…probably hundreds if not thousands of times over. Hit L.A. at 40 and you’re competing with 40 year olds who have been competing in the big leagues for decades.

The prospects, then, are not good. BUT, that’s not to say having success when starting ‘later’ in life is impossible.

So as not to be a total naysayer on this topic, let me share with you the bio of actress Kathryn Joosten from the IMDB.com

Kathryn Joosten

Date of Birth
20 December 1939

Mini Biography

Kathryn is best known for her portrayal of Mrs. Landingham, secretary to the President (Martin Sheen), on the critically acclaimed NBC drama, “The West Wing” (1999). She has also recurred on “Dharma and Greg”, and guest-starred on many hit television series such as Becker, Arli$$, Ally Mcbeal, Providence, Scrubs and over twenty other prime time shows. Kathryn will also be seen later this year on ABC’s Daytime Drama, “General Hospital”. Her credits are impressive for any actor, let alone one that only began the craft at age 42 and arrived in Hollywood seven years ago.

Although only put into action well into her middle years, Kathryn’s dream began in her twenties when her mother died of cancer in 1963. While dying in the hospital, her mother shared that her biggest regret was not following her dreams. Kathryn vowed at that moment that she would someday pursue her own dream of acting.

At the time she was entering into a new career as a psychiatric nurse in a medium security wing for disturbed teenagers. Through that job she met and married a psychiatrist, gave birth to two boys and settled down as a suburban housewife in Lake Forest, Illinois, a well-to-do suburb of Chicago. But Kathryn never forgot her dream of acting, something that she never had time to pursue in between caring for her children and husband. In 1980, her husband’s alcoholism led Kathryn to a divorce and a difficult situation; a single mother with two young sons. Rather than lose hope, she took the opportunity to change her life forever and follow her lost dream.

Kathryn took classes at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago and performed at community theaters all over Northern Illinois. By day she supported her family hanging wallpaper and painting the mansions of Lake Forest, working as a sales person for a Welcome Wagon company and using her contacts to book film and print locations in the houses she was painting. By night Kathryn was improving her skills and moving from community theater to semi-professional theater.

Her first break was in 1991. Disney held a cattle call for street performers for Disney World. After standing in line for five hours, Kathryn got the part and moved shop to Orlando, Florida. Though she was living behind an adult arcade in the “tourist unfriendly” part of Buena Vista, Kathryn was finally earning her living through performance and loving it. The part only lasted for a year and once again Kathryn was forced to supplement her acting income with other work — bartending and catering during the day, theater at night. Though the acting gig was over, the move to Florida proved one thing to Kathryn…she had the talent to make it as an actor. She did it once and she could do it again. Unfortunately, it took her two and half years to realize it wouldn’t happen in central Florida.

In December 1995, Kathryn again packed a truck and drove to Hollywood. Although she didn’t have an agent and had no contacts, Kathryn never hesitated following her dream. In only five months she landed her first part…two lines in “Family Matters”. In the six years since then, she has appeared in over a dozen plays, six movies, eleven national television commercials, two pilots, ten drama series and over twenty sitcoms. From her many roles Kathryn is recognized as one of Murphy Brown’s secretaries, Frazier’s agent’s mother and the bingo buddy to Drew Carey’s girlfriend. But it is her portrayal of Mrs. Landingham, the foil, friend and secretary to Martin Sheen’s President Bartlet on The West Wing that has propelled her into the spotlight she truly deserves.

As an inspiration to us all, Kathryn continues to make her living following her dream. She doesn’t know who she will play next…a nun, a bartender, a judge. Whatever it is, she will use her talent to touch and amaze us, and we are glad for it.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Matilda May 10, 2008 at 7:22 pm

I am one such person who at 17 years knew that i wanted to be an actress. I started of as a model and then got married too young at 20. Had my first son at 21 and another at 25 and was divorced and was divorced at 26. I lost my whole focus, being from Zimbabwe in Africa i failed to get my career started again. I am now currently in Australia. Studying for a degree in Communication, i am scared to pursue my love for acting as i am scared that it might not pay my bills at this age. I am inspired by Kathryn’s story. I have dreams of acting in a lead role with actors such as Terrence Howard,Brad Pitt, Will smith and more. But fear of leading my boys on this unknown path is too scary. It is their lives i will be dragging in to the unknown as well. But i have been inspired so maybe….

Chrissie October 29, 2008 at 8:26 pm

I too have buried my dream of acting. I wanted to head out to New York or L.A. after high school but chose to care for my mother through two transplants and an on-again, off again college career throughout my 20′s. I’m 32, I’ve lost my grandmother and mother but still can’t let go of this dream. I’ve wished it away and even prayed that it would leave my heart, because I believe I’m too old. I made a choice and don’t regret it. But, my heart breaks from so much loss and breaks even more when I see young successful actresses my age and I know I would have succeeded in film. Kathryn Joosten definetly has guts.I respect her for chasing and claiming her dream. Maybe fate stepped in too many times for me and for some reason or another my dream was meant to stay a dream. I’m not as brave as Kathryn. I know 30 is over the hill by Hollywood standards. It’s probably time for me to find a new dream, but great to know about people like Kathryn.

brittney November 3, 2008 at 7:49 pm

I’m 11 years old and I’ve been trying to convince my mom to let me get into acting for years and I’m afraid that will happen to me, too. But now seeing that it’s possible, maybe it won’t be so bad. ;-)

Joe December 12, 2008 at 1:28 am

That’s pretty incitefull, I kind of had the same question..being 28 and no film experience but looking to fulfil that desire to do some film roles.

Daniel Jefferson January 8, 2009 at 3:54 am

Super article and most encouraging 4 the midlifer!!

christian January 13, 2009 at 11:39 pm

Wow, I’m not 40, but this has inspired me to follow my dream. it just shows always follow your passsion, and never give up. It’s your passion, your blood, but mostly your HEART ! And my dream is to work with Meryl Streep one day, and this will happen. Persist, persist, persist!

Future Academy Award Winner !

Jaz February 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Wow, how very very inspiring.. true persistence and belief i’d say. I too, like sooooo many, have dreamt of getting into acting. I still do and am turning 40 at the end of this year! I probably won’t ever give up, some may argue I should at this age, but as I have learned over recent years, life has a way of throwing things our way, good and bad, so maybe that something good will head my way at some point in the form of an acting part/break?! I want to believe that. Kathryn really is proof that if we keep hanging on to those dreams, and work at them, maybe we will find our way!

suszi April 17, 2010 at 12:12 pm

It’s never too late, any age, anything is achievable !

Eagle August 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

Today is the day for the rest of my life and I am now trying to follow my dream of being an actress. Mrs Joosten is the apple in apple pie something you need to get the job done. I am 52 a widow and now I want to go back to where I started 20 years ago. Thanks for the blog on Mrs Joosten, I love her work…

Don Harris September 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

In this struggle to find job security. I put off my dreams of becoming a commercial actor, extra or even model because of job security issues. I now work in government (Civil Service “Security”). Because of the hours I work, I’m finding time to squeeze in some acting lessons. I hope to go to New York and have my first audition and be selected for a non speaking role in a TV commercial…wish me luck.

Jillian Bullock May 6, 2012 at 10:15 am

As an author, screenwriter and filmmaker, I have always wanted to use my skills as a boxer and martial artist to become an action actress. I hold a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Wing Chun and now I train in mixed martial arts (MMA).

At age 50 (51 in June), I am now single and the kids are grown and out the house, so now is my time to focus on myself and fulfilling the last one of my dreams. I am even writing a book about my journey entitled Next Stop Hollywood (Fulfilling Your Dreams and Goals After Age 30, 40 or 50).

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