I invite every professional actor who would like to improve their chances of being cast to try the following experiment:
For the next week, as you listen to radio commercials, watch television, visit internet video sites and go to the cinema, I encourage you to make written notes of every fictional character you see or hear that is not speaking in what you would personally consider to be a General American dialect. (NOTE: If you live outside of the United States and/or are seeking acting work primarily outside of the U.S.A. simply make notes based on characters who speak something other than what is perceived as the ‘preferred’ dialect of the market you are targeting.)
To the very best of your current ability write down the following observations (writing them down will help you get the best results from your efforts):
1) The name of the dialect you are hearing (for the purpose of this experiment, it will work just fine to take a note such as ‘Australian/NewZealand-ish’ or ‘Irish’ instead of ‘County Kerry, Ireland’ if you’re not exactly sure what you’re hearing).
2) The name of the show the fictional character appeared in and the episode name or number if possible. (Just to be clear, this experiment does not encompass documentary or reality style entertainment.)
3) The genre of the show (action, crime drama, situational comedy, children’s show, commercial etc.).
4) Approximately when the show was produced (Currently? Within 5 years? 1990’s? 80’s? 70’s? 60’s? etc.)
5) As many details as you can think of about the kind of character being played. Were they — The hero? The villian? The victim? Were they wealthy, middle-class, or poor? Urban or rural? Honest/trustworthy or dishonest/shady? Overtly sexual or a-sexual? Educated or uneducated? Naturally astute or rather dense? Refined or gritty? Did they ‘win’ or ‘lose’ in the end and how did you as the viewer feel about this win/loss?
6) Did the accent sound authentic to you?
When the week is over, go back and read the data you have collected and look for patterns. I cannot tell you exactly what information your particular entertainment viewing habits will yield, but by investing effort in this little experiment, I’m confident at the very least you will begin to see:
A) How many dialect role opportunities there are out there. (More than you think.)
B) Which dialects are currently being associated with which types of characters. (This is something that changes over time and is heavily influenced by world events.)
C) Just how often productions are forced to hire an actor who is not really ready to act in a particular dialect. (And by extension, how you can increase your odds of being cast by mastering dialects appropriate to your career.)
I hope you will give yourself the gift of performing this experiment and look forward to hearing from you about your observations!