The number one most important quality one can develop in any chosen field of work, but especially in acting, is integrity. Integrity is defined as adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty. What could possible be more important than that? Integrity as an artist is vital. There are many different aspects to your own personal integrity as an artist.
First off, while you are starting off in this business, with your acting classes and student films, you need to determine what it is you want to accomplish as an actor. Do you want to make a statement with your career? Do you want to create art? Do you just want to make money? What is your goal? What is your definition of success? Why is this your chosen profession? Lord knows, there are much easier careers out there.
As an example; I act because I have to. I love to act. I have tried to find other careers, something else to do with my life that I would enjoy. So far, I’ve got nothing. Why do I love to act? I love to make people feel. Whether that is happiness, or anguish, anything, I strive to engage people’s emotions. What medium would I love to do above all else? Romantic comedy. Why? When I was growing up, when I needed to escape from my life, I would escape into romantic comedies. They would remind me that there was hope for me, and laughter, and joy. I want to be able to provide that for others. When will I know I have made it? What is my definition of success? When I am making a living as an actress. Not when I’m rich, but when I have no other work, except acting (and teaching, in my case because I also love teaching acting.) When I can honestly say, I’m an actor. And when someone says, “Sure, but how do you make a living?” I can say, “By acting. Acting pays my bills.”
Also, personally I believe that many of the problems in our world can be linked to the violence, sex and language in our media. I want to make family friendly films. Not necessarily children’s movies, but movies with wholesome values and messages. Which means, I know right now, I will not be nude in movies, or in sexually explicit movies, or gratuitously violent. Good things to know now. So I can start my career where I want it to end up. I will never have trouble deciding what roles to take or turn down. I have already established my “ground rules,” before the opportunity has forced me to decide.
Another aspect of integrity as an actress: I will always do my best. I don’t care if it’s a student film that will never see the light of day, or if it’s the lead in the next Spielberg film. If I accept the job, I will do my best and I will be professional. That is integrity.
Start working on your integrity now. You won’t just develop it when you’re rich and famous. It is what you are, what you practice. Start your career right, with integrity.