From Young Hopeful to Acting Over 40: Terrance's Journey

So you moved to LA 20 years ago to be an actor, but you're still not an actor. Is there still hope?

The novel non-Hollywood follows one actor on just such a 20-year odyssey and suggest that maybe — even though there has yet to be success — maybe there may just be some opportunities awaiting in acting over 40.

Listen along as author Neal A. Yeager reads a few chapters devoted to older actors and the possibilities of a second chance.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Danny Trejo Fan Club

Chapter 48: Danny Trejo Fan Club

Eight years, four months and five days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrence, 36, leaned against the side of the limo, smoking cigarettes. Terrance had been driving a limo part-time for the last year or so and hadn’t been on an audition since he couldn’t remember when. He kept up on who the hot producers and casting agents were in the event that he should get one of them in the back of his car. Because he still held out hope for acting. He still went to acting classes. Still submitted his headshot for roles. Still kept in excellent physical shape. Still did an occasional student film.

But mostly he drove a limo.


While Terrance was out driving a limo on that Saturday afternoon, his daughter Holly, 12, and her friend Julia were spending a bored afternoon going through all of the junk on Terrance’s overflowing desk. Little Julia picked up one of Terrance’s headshots and said, “Your dad looks better than my dad. My dad’s big and fat. Your dad’s like Brad Pitt.”

“My dad doesn’t look like Brad Pitt,” Holly replied.

“I know. But he’s good-looking and he’s old. Like Brad Pitt.”

Melanie, 35, who had been at her own desk doing paperwork for her new job, looked up and said, “Whoa there girls. Brad Pitt is not old.”

“Is too,” said both girls.

“He’s only a few years older than I am,” said Melanie.

“You’re old too Mom,” Holly giggled.


The girls returned to looking through Terrance’s things. Holly looked at the bookcase which was overflowing with books dedicated to the acting profession. The girls started pulling books out and looking at them.

“Why does Daddy have so many acting books?”

“Because Mommy buys them for him.”


Melanie sighed and said, “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure any more.”


“Nothing. Mommy buys the acting books because she loves Daddy and Daddy wants the books because he wants to be a movie star.”

“Like Brad Pitt!”

“Yes. Like Brad Pitt.”

Then the girls suddenly became bored with Terrance’s things and they bolted out to the living room.

Melanie looked over at the books that the girls had left on the floor. She sighed and walked over to the pile. As she lifted one of the books, she examined its cover and slowly shook her head. She was familiar with these books, had seen their covers staring back at her over the years. All different, yet all the same.

She sighed and decided to leave the books where they were.


Later, after Terrance had returned from his limo shift Melanie watched as he went over to the pile of books on the floor. “The girls were playing there,” she said.

“Oh. Okay,” said Terrance. He picked up one of the books but instead of putting it back on the shelf he sat down at his desk and opened up the book to an obviously familiar section.

Melanie sighed and said, “Can I ask you something without it turning into something?”

“Turning into something? What do you mean?”

“I mean you know that I’ve always been supportive of your acting, but any time I say anything that could be interpreted as critical you get all defensive.”

“No, I don’t…. Wait, that sounded defensive, didn’t it? Okay. I’ll try not to. What’s the question?”

Melanie walked over and slowly tapped the cover of the book he was reading. “All right,”she said, “How many times are you gonna read that thing?”

“What do you mean?”

“This book is supposed to tell you how to make it as an actor and you’ve read it like 60 times. It doesn’t seem to be working. So have you ever considered the possibility that maybe that book’s crap?”

“What?” said Terrance, “This is not crap. This is far from being crap. This is one of the best-selling books on how to make a career out of being an actor.”

“Right,” said Melanie as she rubbed her temples, “And remind me again which successful actor wrote this book?… Oh, wait, I forgot, it’s not written by a successful actor.”


“No, really. You look at the photo on the back of that book and you think, ‘who the hell is this woman?’ And you read the little ‘about the author’ thing and you see that this woman who’s telling you how to make a living as an actor… doesn’t. She’s not making money as an actor, she’s making money as an author.”

Terrance replied, “So?”

“You don’t think it’s weird to take advice from someone who hasn’t actually done what they’re advising? Would you buy a workout book written by some big fat guy?”

Terrance said, “No. But what, you think Brad Pitt’s gonna take time out of filming to write a book about how to succeed in the film business?”

Melanie laughed and shook her head, “Brad Pitt…”


“Nothing. No, I don’t expect Brad Pitt to write a book, but I’d hope that at least one of these books would be by someone whose name I’ve heard of. Or at least when I look at their photo I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s that big, scary guy.’”

Terrance replied, “Oh, that’s just…. wait… big, scary guy?”

Melanie said, “Yeah, that big, scary guy with the scars on his face. He’s been in lots of stuff. You see him all over the place.”

“Such as?”

“He was in that movie you rented a few weeks ago. The one about the vampires in the bar. And he played the bartender. And I think he stabbed Quentin Tarantino in the hand.”

Terrance rummaged his brain, “You mean Danny Trejo?”

“I don’t know who I mean. I don’t know what his name is but I’ve seen him in lots of stuff and he always plays a big, scary guy.”

“His name is Danny Trejo.”

“Fine!” shouted Melanie, finally losing her patience, “His name is Danny Trejo! Danny Trejo, Danny Trejo, Danny Trejo. The point is that even though Danny Trejo is not a big movie star, Danny Trejo is in enough stuff that he’s obviously making a living at acting. Which is something you can’t say about the author of that book you’re reading now.”

Terrance put his book down on the table and was about to start speaking a sentence which would have begun with the name Danny Trejo, but Melanie interrupted him and plowed forward, saying, “If we walked into that actors’ bookstore for the five millionth time and I saw a book titled How to Actually Make a Living at Acting so Your Wife Doesn’t Have to Support You by Danny Trejo, I’d snatch that sucker up and give it to you gift wrapped. If Danny Trejo was giving seminars on how to make a career out of acting and he was charging two thousand a pop, I’d max out my last credit card to get you in there. But Danny Trejo doesn’t write these books, does he? They’re always written by people who haven’t done what Danny Trejo does.”

“Good to know that Danny Trejo has a fan club.”

“Damn straight he does! Maybe I’ll go knock on Danny Trejo’s door and tell him that he absolutely needs to write a book for my husband. I just have to find out where he lives. Wherever it is, it’s probably nicer than where we live.”

And with that, Melanie walked into the bedroom and slammed the door.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 52 ]

Inspired by Danny Trejo

People tend to catch the acting bug early in life.Every day, young people throughout the land pack up their cars and head for L.A. or New York with dreams of stardom in their eyes.

But it often just doesn't work out. That's just the way it goes. Many times when acting success doesn't come, then life seems to take over. And the idealistic young person with stars in their eyes falls into the groove of the day job and then time, and life just get away without any success happening.

Sometimes there is a possibility of a second chance. And sometimes the career has to be evaluated to see if that second chance is feasible.

Terrance's situation, that of spending all of his time as a limo driver though he came to LA to be an actor, is actually a not uncommon situation. And like many in his situation, Terrance has to deal with the idea that he is getting older without success and what does that mean?

Oh yeah, and then there's the idea of a Danny Trejo Fan Club.

First off, this scene takes place about 20 years ago, when Danny Trejo was not as well-known as he is today. But the chapter makes an important statement about the concept of a working actor vs the concept of being a star. There are many actors, who like Danny Trejo at the time, never become big movie stars and household names, yet they are able to make a living at acting without a day job.

In the pre-Internet days in which this chapter takes place, there was not a lot of access to the thoughts and advice of actors like Danny Trejo. There were plenty of books on acting technique written by actors who are successful for that technique, but the popular books dedicated to the acting profession tended to be written by people who were not successful actors.

Terrance's wife's frustration with the expense of acting business books written by people who were not making a living at acting, was a common frustration with both actors and their spouses alike. In those pre-Internet days before everyone had a blog or a youtube channel, a book like the one proposed by Terrance's wife "How to Make a Living at Acting so that Your Wife Doesn't Have to Support You, by Danny Trejo" would have indeed been a treasure.

And as Terrance approaches the idea of a career in acting over 40, studying the career of a working actor like Danny Trejo make all the sense in the world.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Actor's Abs to Flab

Chapter 52: Actor's Abs to Flab

Four years, two months and eighteen days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance, 39, took a drag from his morning cigarette and looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was a week before his 40th birthday and the sedentary life of a limo driver had finally gotten the best of him. After staying fit and cut for most of his adult life he had, over the last few years, gotten away from regular workouts. As he looked at his nearly-40-year-old self in the mirror he realized that it was now official: he had a gut.

He looked in the mirror and shook his head. Pushing 40, the softness had just sort of crept into his physique — just as it had done to most of those his age a decade or more earlier. It had been only his desire to break into acting that had held the fat at bay for him for so long. But that too had changed over the last few years. He had stopped going to acting classes. Stopped looking up casting notices. Stopped getting his headshots updated. Stopped telling people that he was an actor.

He was, in fact, now a full-time limo driver. The good news in that scenario was that for the past few years he had been earning a steady, full-time income. That, combined with the fact that Melanie, 38, had landed a much better job about 5 years ago, had allowed them to work on saving a down-payment for a house (they would have to buy somewhere out in The Valley where home prices were a little better, but they felt it was doable). Their daughter still had a few years of high school left, so they didn’t want to move until she went off to college. But that was the plan: in a few years, the two of them would stop being renters and they would then transform into homeowners.

Terrance was almost 40 years old.

He had somehow turned into a chain smoker.

Acting was far, far back on the back burner.

And he had a gut.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 58 ]

Older actors — no abs required

One of the facets of being an actor which is often discussed (we've discussed it here a few times) is the issue of looks. For whatever reason, whether it is audience expectations or just studio executives' interpretation of those audience expectations, those in the acting profession are expected to be physically attractive.

But what if you're trying to make it as an older actor? How do those expectations of looks change as an actor ages, and say, wants to pursue acting over 40?

Often, as in Terrance's case, the decision is kind of made by default. As he gets older and real-life issues seem to take the place of his dedication to an acting career, well, the soft edges started to creep up on him just as they do with most people when they age.

Is it ideal? No. But is it common? Yes.

And what about that career? Is he about to become an over 40 actor, or is he just simply a limo driver. These are also important questions that he must examine as his 40th birthday nears.

In the meantime, he has a gut.

That's the way it goes.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

The 40-Something Vampire

Chapter 58: 40-something Vampire

Five weeks and two days before being stabbed while acting on the set of a vampire movie, Terrance, 44, sat smoking and talking with one of his new classmates at his new acting class. A few months ago he had convinced himself that he wanted to get back into acting. So he had joined an acting class. Not this acting class, however. The teacher of the class that he had initially joined had committed suicide after Terrance had only been to two classes. So, Terrance had looked around for a new class — as, presumably, had the rest of that class he had attended for a few weeks. Luckily he had found another, with the added surprise that the teacher was a woman who had been one of his fellow students in one of the acting classes of his youth. Like Terrance, she hadn’t become a star either, but she did seem happy to be teaching this class now.

What was it that had made Terrance decide to give this all another go at 44? What had led him to get a gym membership so that he could start working off his extra 30 pounds? What had made him look up acting classes? What had made him start perusing the casting notices again? What had made him set an appointment with a photographer and look into the costs of photo reproduction and web sites on which to post?

Boredom, mostly.

As had been the plan, his daughter had gone off to college. Without the soccer games and basketball and all of the other things that keep the stay-at-home dad of a school-aged person busy, he suddenly found he had little to do.

Also according to plan, he and Melanie had managed to buy a house. Painting and trimming and all of that initial homeowner stuff had kept him busy for a bit, but that had run its course. Lately, it seemed as though he and Melanie just sat and stared at one another. Not that there were any marital problems, there weren’t. They still got along just fine and still loved each other and all of that. It was simply that they had turned into, well, turned into people who had been married for over 20 years.

It happens.

So he had decided to get back into acting again. The independent film world had changed drastically in the years that he had been gone. The introduction of high-quality digital cameras meant that filmmakers no longer had to spend that ridiculous amount of money on film stock, and as a consequence there seemed to be a lot more independent productions going on than there had been in Terrance’s day. Though it seemed wrong to him that they were still called independent films when there was actually no film involved, it was a welcome sight to see so much going on in the independent world.

He had remembered from the days of his youth that small independent films and student films often had difficulty finding middle-aged actors. There were always plenty of twenty-something actors willing to do those low-paying or non-paying roles, but not so many older actors around for the roles of their parents and bosses in those small films. Perhaps now that he was older he might actually get some opportunities that he hadn’t gotten when he was younger.

In this, his first class with this group, the theory of more opportunities for middle-aged Terrance seemed already to be proving correct. Within five minutes of Terrance walking in the door the teacher had introduced him to a white-haired man who said that he was directing a film, that he was hoping to cast his film from members of this class and that, as it happened, he had a role for a man in his 40s. The role was that of a vampire who is the father of a girl who is still a human and he (the 40-something vampire) is trying to keep his daughter, who is dating the head vampire (who she doesn’t know is a vampire) from being turned into a vampire herself, but he (the 40-something vampire) gets staked by the vampire hunter, who is actually in league with the head vampire and has been tipped off by the aforementioned head vampire who wants the 40-something vampire out of the way so that he (the head vampire) can turn the girl (the 40-something vampire’s daughter) into a vampire.

That character synopsis had needed to be repeated to Terrance three times before he actually got it. He was told that the part of the daughter had already been cast and was to be played by a new girl in class who everyone thought was a fantastic actress, and they would sure love it if Terrance would consider playing this role of the father vampire.

For the first time in his life Terrance was actually being courted for a role.

It felt good.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Terrance.

[ or just skip ahead to The End ]

Acting over 40: a second chance

Everyone would like a second chance.

(or maybe a third or a fourth)

As Terrance has passed the 40-year-old mark, he thinks that maybe he has discovered one.

As mentioned, most people get the acting bug when they are young. That's when they dedicate the time, money and energy to it: when they are young. And if it doesn't work out, as for most people it doesn't, they tend to drift off into 'regular' careers and more 'normal' lives.

Which leads to an interesting situation when it comes to the casting of independent films, most of which have little or no budgets. For the roles of young characters, a casting agent or independent film production company will be absolutely flooded with resumes. Hundreds of young hopefuls will throw their hats into the ring in hopes of being able to work on a film, even if it is for little or no money.

But what about those roles meant for older actors? The exact opposite happens in the casting of actors over 40. Most of those young hopefuls who are now middle-aged have left the pursuit of acting behind. Which means that while the young roles receive hundreds of resumes and headshots, the older roles receive a trickle.

Oh a few older actors may still be trying to be actors, but there is also another complication to their participation in filming. Namely, they've had to shift their focus from acting to a 'real job.' And unless they are given a great role then there is little incentive for them to skip out on their day jobs the way that they would have when they were in their 20s.

And here is where Terrance sees a possible light of opportunity. He is both an over 40 actor, and he is also still in an occupation where his schedule is flexible. This give him the idea that perhaps there are acting opportunities for him over 40 which he didn't have in his youth.

Turns out he's right.

acting over 40