flip, December 1971

Dear FLIP:

I am 13 years old and have wanted to be an actress since I was seven years old. Could you give me some hints on how I should get started? Do I have to move to Hollywood? Should I take acting lessons? Anything you can tell me will help. Thanks a lot.

We receive a lot of letters like the one above, asking for advice on acting as a career. So we went to one very successful actor--Ben Murphy of "Alias Smith & Jones" and asked him to answer the letters for us. Here is his advice to you on becoming an actor or actress.

Well, to start with I don't think I would recommend that anyone become an actor unless they have to--and by have to I mean they have an unquenchable emotional urge to become an actor.

But becoming a movie star is another thing altogether. To me that means a very cold, calculated attempt at becoming something. You can become an actor in your soul, by just knowing that that is right for you. Becoming a movie star takes a lot more than that and very few people can do it. I suppose some people do set out to become movie stars, but very few succeed. I never set out to become a movie star, and I'm not one. I set out to become an actor and I am one--and maybe I'm a TV star.

The reason I got into acting was an emotional need to express myself in some artistic way. I looked around me and I decided acting would be the best way for me to find that self expression.

Then I took the first step--I moved to California and went to the Pasadena Playhouse (which has since folded). I spent two years there studying.

You don't really have to move to California or New York to get started. You can study almost anyplace. But to build a successful career of any consequence, you do.

But you should stop and consider the advantages and disadvantages of acting before you decide it's right for you.

The advantages of acting are that it leaves you a lot of free time which you can plan your own way. You can become very wealthy–you really can. Also, it can satisfy that emotional need, if you have the emotional need it takes to be an actor.

Also, it allows you to do a lot of fun things. Such as in our series, "Alias Smith & Jones," Pete Duel and I can be children again and ride horses, play on wagons, have fights and do all kinds of things that we could never actually do when we were kids.

So it's fun. It's fun, profitable and it gives you the emotional satisfaction of being in the limelight and having people respond to you.

The disadvantages of acting are all the opposites of the advantages. You can stay poor for a long time. You can go through a lot of emotional trauma because acting deals with your emotions and if you don't know how to control them then you don't have yourself together and you're going to have a lot of problems.

And there's a lot of insecurity--wondering when you'll get your next job. And a lot of frustration at not being able to work at something that you may be very good at.

Another drawback is not being able to live a normal family life because you have irregular hours and you may be out of town a lot. In answer to this particular letter, you have a problem, being only 13 years old, because you still live with your parents and you don't have your own transportation. I think at your age you just need to study and grow--and go to college. I went to college for five years before I made up my mind to be an actor.

Just live and learn a little more before you decide what you're going to do with your life.

I hope that answers some of your questions. Good luck.

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