Being a ‘Tween’ and What It Means as a Child Actor

Being the parent of a kid with stars in their eyes, ambition and talent emanating out of their pores just as much as their endless youthful energy, is a commitment. For those of you who have taken on said commitment, you are probably very aware it’s not an easy task. There’s learning lines, scripts and dealing with audition nerves. There’s finding time to attend rehearsals and performances, while still getting to soccer practice and doing homework.

If your son or daughter has the ambition and the drive – along with the talent – it can be rewarding for all of you. But let’s say you have all of that – the goals, the interest and the want to express themselves. At nine, your son is regularly going out for projects, commercials and pilots. He’s being seen for feature films and has even tested for shows. He goes out for roles as old as twelve and as young as seven, and is doing really well. He’s confident and he really loves it and he is excited for the possibilities in front of him.

There is something, though, that happens with kid actors once they get to a certain age – they hit the “awkward stage”, something all of us can relate to. In entertainment however, it’s less about cracking voices and acne and more about how the industry portrays kids versus teenagers. If you are familiar with any teen CW drama, you will notice all teenagers, even as young as 15, are portrayed by much older actors and actresses. The younger roles are generally cast age appropriate. It becomes more difficult for a kid, male or female, to get called in for auditions between the ages of eleven and fifteen. There are just not as many roles for ‘tweens’.

Unfortunately, there is not much to be done about something like this – life happens, growing up happens. The key thing for you to do, as a parent (or as the kid), is to not get dejected or take it as a note of self worth or depreciation of talent. “Hollywood” is tough on the best of us, and can be even more difficult on the younger generation. Trying to figure yourself out during adolescence is a hard time in a person’s life without the pressure of being disappointed about not moving forward in your career at that time.

That being said, there are exceptions – as there are with anything. However, for those “kid actors” who are struggling through this time period, it’s best to reiterate that it’s not their fault- that it’s not how well or not well they’re reading in the room. It’s about what the producers and casting directors are looking for age-wise, and even with the best audition, casting may not hire a fourteen year old to actually play a fourteen year old. Keep practicing, keep reading, keep auditioning. Hone the skills you already have and get ready for the next age group you’re open to read for. This time is good for young actors to possibly attend some acting classes or work with a voice coach. If your kid is mainly working in television and film, community and regional theatre might be a great temporary alternative as it has a bit more wingspan for age flexibility, and might be a good opportunity to give them more experience on stage.

What’s most important is for acting to be fun and an exciting experience, not a disheartening or discouraging one. If the auditions start to dwindle during the dreadful ‘tween years, it’s best, as a parent, to be as supportive as you were as when they were being seen frequently by casting directors when they were younger. It’s the awkward phase we all went through and they will get through it, too – to a better, brighter selection of roles in the future!

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tara McGrath started her career in entertainment mainly because she couldn't see a life where she wasn't surrounded and inspired by actors in some way or another. After graduating from SUNY Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film with a degree in Screenwriting, she worked for a year at Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Interning under their casting department with casting directors Carrie Gardner and Jim Carnahan, she assisted in casting such productions as Spring Awakening, American Idiot and Fox's hit show, Glee. From there she moved 3,000 miles to Los Angeles and for the last year has been working for a well-known boutique talent agency in West Hollywood. She has also worked as a reader and marketing assistant for the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition and has worked on independent features as both producer's assistant and P.A.

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