How She Got There: Kayli Carter, Recent B.F.A Graduate and Actor

Name: Kayli Carter
Job Title and Description: Actor 
College Name/Major: Savannah College of Art and Design, B.F.A. in Performing Arts
Instagram Handle: @kaylicarter

What does your current job entail? Is there such thing as a typical day?

Kayli Carter: I would say there is no such thing as the typical day in the life of a working actor. Each day is different, and that’s part of the appeal for me. There are two parts to this job: The first part is ninety percent of your workload as an actor, auditioning. The business side of this profession is as interesting and fulfilling to me as the creative process, and that keeps me engaged in researching the changes made in my industry all the time. Once you book a job, you get to do the next ten percent, which is the payoff. That ten percent of playing and executing a role is why a lot of people want to be actors, but for me, I live for auditioning. It’s the chance to play any role for five minutes, and leave it all out on the table.

What is the best part of your job? 

KC: The community. The people I’ve met in this industry have the kind of empathy and joy that fuel positive change in the world. In theater as well as film and TV there is an inherent drive that we all have to tell stories, and inhabit the human experience in a truthful way. Once you meet people and recognize that they feel as passionately as you do, it creates a bond.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out (or were learning the ropes in school) that you now know post-college?

KC: SCAD did a wonderful job of preparing me for the business side of acting. Many conservatories focus mostly on technical training, but if you can’t navigate the business, you’ll never be able to use all of that. One thing that I could have done with even more of is —“It’s not personal.” I wish I could say that fifty times more. There are a million variables that go into making casting decisions, and most of the time, it’s not about you. This is a business where learning to let go and be zen is of the upmost importance. It’s a lot like dating, which can be equally as frustrating and self-deprecating, but ultimately, being authentically yourself, and confident in the face of rejection is what helps keep you appealing, and… sane.

Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better? 

KC: I’m going to name two people. At SCAD, Andra Reeve-Rabb, changed my professional life. She believed in me from day one, and continued to support me, motivate me and tell me the hard truths during my time in college. I think she saw something in me before I did. Andra has also set up the only collegiate casting office that bridges the gap between the student realm, and the industry. That casting office is sheer genius, and it made me exponentially better at my job.

Out in the world, my first professional theater job, came from Mark Rylance. His play “Nice Fish” has carried me through this past year in three venues, first at the American Repertory Theater in Boston, then my Off-Broadway debut at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, and now, currently on London’s West End. This journey has been a global one, and through this show my career and ability have expanded. I’m so grateful to have him as a mentor, and a friend.

What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it? 

KC: I was actually dismissed from a play my freshman year of college. I was spreading myself very thin, and couldn’t do my best work as a result. I hadn’t learned balance. Learning how to give your best without burning out is an important lesson, and that lesson would’ve been much harder to learn in the professional world.

What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far? 

KC: This past summer, I was shooting a limited series called “Godless” for Netflix and that entire experience was surreal, from the script, the setting, and the beautiful people I got close to during filming. Every day that I went to work, I had to ask myself “Is this really a job?,” truly humbling, but also, I met Meryl Streep after she came to see “Nice Fish” in Brooklyn, and I’m still picking my jaw up off the ground.

What do you look for when considering a role? 

KC: I look for a script that has given women the permission to be complicated, to be flawed, messy, ugly. That’s what is beautiful to me. Complexity. I think human nature is one of the most interesting courses of study, and I’m not looking to play someone whose best attributes are physical characteristics. I want to play someone who tries to make the best out of their own chaos.

What advice would you give a 20-something with similar aspirations? 

KC: People will be afraid if you are burning brightly, that is not a sign for you to dull your magic, it is a sign that you are on the right track. Keep going, keep taking risks, and keep the people close to you who acknowledge your power. Be kind to those people, and be even kinder to those who doubt you. As long as you don’t doubt yourself, you’ll be fine.

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