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“But I’m Actually An Actor”

In light of the recent headlines highlighting former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens hustling in his job at Trader Joe’s while STILL AUDITIONING, and the overwhelming outpouring of support from actors worldwide who sympathized and who deeply understood his circumstance, I thought it would be exciting to highlight some of the incredible and unique jobs some actors have to pay the rent in between auditioning and working as an actor.

I’ve interviewed 100+ industry professionals here at The Actor CEO Podcast and have heard actors share some truly remarkable side hustles, day jobs, and gigs that have kept their lights on, their fridge full, and have allowed them the freedom to audition and work as actors when those jobs come along.

It’s no secret that celebrities like Harrison Ford, who was a carpenter/painter while auditioning in Hollywood, or Jennifer Hudson, who was serving burgers at Burger King in between auditions, have worked honest jobs while achieving their dreams. So it should be no surprise that other actors out there might also have some surprising day jobs.

Here is a List of Celebrity Actors and Their Side Hustles Before They Were Famous:

Jon Hamm (Set Dresser for Cinemax)

Jennifer Hudson (Burger King employee)

Harrison Ford (Residential Carpenter/Painter)

Julia Roberts (Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Scooper)

Terry Crews (Janitor)

Jennifer Aniston (Bike Messenger)

Nick Offerman (Scenic Carpenter for Broadway Shows)

Amy Poehler (Ice Cream Scooper at Chadwick’s)

Brad Pitt (Chicken Costume for El Pollo Loco)

Nicole Kidman (Massage Therapist)

Melissa McCarthy (Starbucks Barista)

The purpose of having a day job for an actor is to have a flexible way to make money that still allows you to focus on your acting career. In this article I have excluded the common (and even stereotypical) jobs such as waiting tables, catering, or bartending. It’s my opinion that those in the entertainment industry understand the value of this type of employment for actors, and we see it often. There are many other options out there that can be unique and true to you and I want to share some of those jobs you may not have heard of.

Here are 7 Unique Actor Day Jobs

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Actor: Ben Curtis

IMDb Link

Day Job: Window Display Model

What They Say: I was once a window model where I was literally paid to lie in bed shirtless in the window of Roots fashion store. When I moved people were terrified or they got excited thinking I was naked and would come jump in the bed and take photos next to me. (Ben shared many of his experiences on the Actor CEO Podcast. ActorCEO.com/24)

Actor: Tenaya Cleveland

IMDb Link

Day Job: Executive Chauffeur

What They Say: I used to do a series of driving jobs in L.A., including courier, valet and the one that seems to surprise people most is that I was an executive chauffeur for one of the top limo companies in town.

Actor: Kevin O’Donnell

IMDb Link

Day Job: Sales, Real Estate, and oh ya…Private Detective.

What They Say:

I was working for a marketing company selling subscriptions to the New York Times (online and home delivery). They flew us all around the country for a few weeks at a time. It was all commission based. Excellent sales training. Excellent opportunity for improv comedy. That was cool. My partner and I got so good at it that we started our own marketing company and approached the Wall Street Journal who gave us a shot. We brought the promotion to movie theatres (my big idea) and made a killing. We were able to hire tons of out of work actors who turned out to be great at direct sales. Renovating properties and selling them has been my recent work. I also worked for a private detective in Brooklyn back in 1999 tracking down people in order to issue subpoenas.

Actor: Fisher Neal

Website Link

Day Job: Hunting Guide

What They Say: Since growing up in the South, hunting has been a pastime I’ve known and loved from the age of 7. Not too many actors understand that world, and I’ve found many people want to learn more about it. Unlike most hunting guides who work with experienced clients, I specialize in teaching beginners.  My most popular trip is an Apprentice Deer Hunt, which starts in the morning with a shooting lesson on crossbow or shotgun, followed by a woods lesson that covers a wide range of knowledge from plant, tree, and mushroom ID to deer sign to how to choose a place for a stand.  We spend the final few hours of daylight in a tree stand on their first real deer hunt. (Fisher shared his insight on the Actor CEO Podcast. ActorCEO.com/72)

Actor: Sarah Kate Allsup

IMDb Link

Day Job: Substitute Teacher

What They Say: Being a substitute teacher is a great flexible side job. Plus having a bunch of kids stare and judge you is similar to being in an audition room. It kept me on my toes! Improvisation skills are a must in both scenarios!

Actor: Isi Adeola

Website Link

Day Job: Part-Time Zookeeper

What They Say: I work at an animal care college where students are taught practically about the animal care industry. We have an onsite zoo with a host of different species I look after and interact with including meerkats, porcupines, owls and Scottish wildcats!

Actor: Paten Hughes

Website Link

Day Job: Tomato Farmer

What They Say: We’ve all had so many. i’ve had two that are sort of out of the ordinary: selling handmade jewelry at the NYC holiday markets and being an heirloom tomato farmer. The farm is in Sonoma, CA where I supply amazing local restaurants like Barndiva, Mateo’s, and Spoonbar with their tomatoes each summer/fall. (we even made a series about it, by THIS IS US’ Bekah Brunstetter…watch it at popcornflix.com) Even if you’re the most successful actor in the world, you’re not on set each day. That’s why you’re seeing people like Gywneth Paltrow branching out and starting GOOP or Kate Hudson and her Athleisure line. We’re artists: you’re allowed to and should have multiple different facets to your life, including how you spend your days and how you’re earning money. Let all of your experiences inform your art. (Paten also shared her side hustle on at the ActorCEO Podcast. Actorceo.com/55)

Here is a List of Celebrity Actors and Their Side Hustles Before They Were Famous:

Jon Hamm (Set Dresser for Cinemax)

Jennifer Hudson (Burger King employee)

Harrison Ford (Residential Carpenter/Painter)

Julia Roberts (Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Scooper)

Terry Crews (Janitor)

Jennifer Aniston (Bike Messenger)

Nick Offerman (Scenic Carpenter for Broadway Shows)

Amy Poehler (Ice Cream Scooper at Chadwick’s)

Brad Pitt (Chicken Costume for El Pollo Loco)

Nicole Kidman (Massage Therapist)

Melissa McCarthy (Starbucks Barista)

The purpose of having a day job for an actor is to have a flexible way to make money that still allows you to focus on your acting career. In this article I have excluded the common (and even stereotypical) jobs such as waiting tables, catering, or bartending. It’s my opinion that those in the entertainment industry understand the value of this type of employment for actors, and we see it often. There are many other options out there that can be unique and true to you and I want to share some of those jobs you may not have heard of.

Get the Rehearsal App

Rehearse Scripts Anywhere on Mobile

with the Rehearsal App!

Here are 7 Unique Actor Day Jobs

Actor: Ben Curtis

IMDb Link

Day Job: Window Display Model

What They Say: I was once a window model where I was literally paid to lie in bed shirtless in the window of Roots fashion store. When I moved people were terrified or they got excited thinking I was naked and would come jump in the bed and take photos next to me. (Ben shared many of his experiences on the Actor CEO Podcast. ActorCEO.com/24)

Actor: Tenaya Cleveland

IMDb Link

Day Job: Executive Chauffeur

What They Say: I used to do a series of driving jobs in L.A., including courier, valet and the one that seems to surprise people most is that I was an executive chauffeur for one of the top limo companies in town.

Actor: Kevin O’Donnell

IMDb Link

Day Job: Sales, Real Estate, and oh ya…Private Detective.

What They Say:

I was working for a marketing company selling subscriptions to the New York Times (online and home delivery). They flew us all around the country for a few weeks at a time. It was all commission based. Excellent sales training. Excellent opportunity for improv comedy. That was cool. My partner and I got so good at it that we started our own marketing company and approached the Wall Street Journal who gave us a shot. We brought the promotion to movie theatres (my big idea) and made a killing. We were able to hire tons of out of work actors who turned out to be great at direct sales. Renovating properties and selling them has been my recent work. I also worked for a private detective in Brooklyn back in 1999 tracking down people in order to issue subpoenas.

Actor: Fisher Neal

Website Link

Day Job: Hunting Guide

What They Say: Since growing up in the South, hunting has been a pastime I’ve known and loved from the age of 7. Not too many actors understand that world, and I’ve found many people want to learn more about it. Unlike most hunting guides who work with experienced clients, I specialize in teaching beginners.  My most popular trip is an Apprentice Deer Hunt, which starts in the morning with a shooting lesson on crossbow or shotgun, followed by a woods lesson that covers a wide range of knowledge from plant, tree, and mushroom ID to deer sign to how to choose a place for a stand.  We spend the final few hours of daylight in a tree stand on their first real deer hunt. (Fisher shared his insight on the Actor CEO Podcast. ActorCEO.com/72)

Actor: Sarah Kate Allsup

IMDb Link

Day Job: Substitute Teacher

What They Say: Being a substitute teacher is a great flexible side job. Plus having a bunch of kids stare and judge you is similar to being in an audition room. It kept me on my toes! Improvisation skills are a must in both scenarios!

Actor: Isi Adeola

Website Link

Day Job: Part-Time Zookeeper

What They Say: I work at an animal care college where students are taught practically about the animal care industry. We have an onsite zoo with a host of different species I look after and interact with including meerkats, porcupines, owls and Scottish wildcats!

Actor: Paten Hughes

Website Link

Day Job: Tomato Farmer

What They Say: We’ve all had so many. i’ve had two that are sort of out of the ordinary: selling handmade jewelry at the NYC holiday markets and being an heirloom tomato farmer. The farm is in Sonoma, CA where I supply amazing local restaurants like Barndiva, Mateo’s, and Spoonbar with their tomatoes each summer/fall. (we even made a series about it, by THIS IS US’ Bekah Brunstetter…watch it at popcornflix.com) Even if you’re the most successful actor in the world, you’re not on set each day. That’s why you’re seeing people like Gywneth Paltrow branching out and starting GOOP or Kate Hudson and her Athleisure line. We’re artists: you’re allowed to and should have multiple different facets to your life, including how you spend your days and how you’re earning money. Let all of your experiences inform your art. (Paten also shared her side hustle on at the ActorCEO Podcast. Actorceo.com/55)

So now that you’ve seen no shortage of actors who are working hard on their craft AND at their job, you can feel right at home knowing you are in an industry full of hustlers, part-time workers, and artists who are very familiar with the work/art balance. Don’t let anyone try to diminish either your craft with, “But what is your REAL job” or your work by saying, “But you’re an actor, so you couldn’t possibly be an expert in this.” Um, ya! You’re an actor, an artist, and you CAN be an expert at this because you need to be so that you CAN be an ACTOR and an ARTIST!

I’ve worked as a scenic carpenter for film, stage and NY Fashion Week. I’ve driven trucks across snow filled mountain passes. I’ve painted rich a**holes apartments. I’ve hung more stage lights than I can count. I’ve been a Production Manager, Technical Director, Producer, Camera Operator, Spot Light Tech, and Universal Studios Guide. Now I run my own business. I’ve done these jobs so that I CAN be an artist in charge of my own time and my own path. I’m proud to wear the badge of “Jack of All Trades” and every actor out there should be proud too.

There is no set path. Everyone is climbing their own mountain. You do you.

See you at the top,

Mike Moreno

Host, The Actor CEO Podcast