13 Times Actors Didn't Sugarcoat What It's Really Like To Be An Actor In Hollywood And All The Rejection That Comes With It

by Ricardo Johnson

"If I'm not acting, I'm not sure who I am."

1. Heather Matarazzo

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Heather got her big break in 1995 with the coming-of-age film Welcome to the Dollhouse, and she went on to star in other big projects like The Princess Diaries, Saved!, and Sisters.

Earlier this week, Heather took to Twitter to voice her frustrations about her career trajectory. In a string of tweets that have since been deleted, Heather talked about years of audition rejections. "I feel at a loss because I feel I have done THE WORK, for a long time, with no complaint," Heather wrote. 

"I have taken the disappointments, the rejections, etc., and maintained that rejection is redirection. I have had continual FAITH in the Universe, but today, something broke. I feel cast aside. I've given my life to acting for over 30 years and am done struggling to survive."

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2. Mena Massoud

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Mena earned the role of the century when he landed the lead in Aladdin — the 2019 live-action adaption of the 1992 Disney classic. But despite starring in a film that made over $1 billion at the box office, Mena revealed he had a hard time booking auditions after the film's release.

“I’m kind of tired of staying quiet about it,” Mena told the Daily Beast. “I want people to know that it’s not always dandelions and roses when you’re doing something like Aladdin. ‘He must have made millions. He must be getting all these offers.’ It’s none of those things. I haven’t had a single audition since Aladdin came out.” 

“It’s wild to a lot of people. People have these ideas in their head. It’s like, I'm sitting here being like, 'OK, Aladdin just hit $1 billion. Can I at least get an audition?' Like, I’m not expecting you to be like, here’s Batman. But can I just get in the room? Like, can you just give me a chance? So it’s not always what you think.”

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Since then, Mena has starred in notable projects like Run This Town, alongside Nina Dobrev, and the Netflix rom-com Royal Treatment with Laura Marano. Mena also nabbed a leading role in the Hulu series Reprisal, but it was canceled after one season.

3. Katherine Heigl

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Katherine ruled the early '00s with hit movies like Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, and the Ugly Truth. Not to mention she starred in one of the most-talked about medical dramas in TV history: Grey's Anatomy. But after speaking out against her projects — calling Knocked Up "a little sexist" and pulling herself out of the race for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama (for Grey's) at the 2008 Emmys, saying "I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination" — things got a little messy for her in Hollywood.

Last year, Katherine spoke to the Washington Post in a candid interview where she detailed how the backlash affected her mental state and how getting older put everything into perspective for her.

"I may have said a couple of things you didn't like, but then that escalated to 'she's ungrateful,' then that escalated to 'she's difficult,' and that escalated to 'she's unprofessional,'" Katherine told the Post.

"What is your definition of difficult? Somebody with an opinion that you don't like? Now, I'm 42, and that shit pisses me off. At the time, I was just quickly told to shut the fuck up. The more I said I was sorry, the more they wanted it," Heigl continued. "The more terrified and scared I was doing something wrong, the more I came across like I had really done something horribly wrong."

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She noted that her family and friends were "scared" for her, after seeing how the blacklisting weighed on her mental health. Katherine currently stars on Netflix's Firefly Lane and put out a psychological thriller last year called Fear of Rain.

4. Sara Weisglass

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You probably recognize Sara from Mary Goes Round, her stint on Degrassi: The Next Generation and Degrassi: Next Class, as well as her recent Netflix debut in the 2021 dramedy series Ginny Georgia. But despite her past success, Sara — who's been in the industry since she was 6 — is still very familiar with the unpredictability of Hollywood.

"I didn’t work at all last year and that was really hard," Sara told the Sailfin Sessions in a 2021 interview. "I think what was even weirder was, when Ginny and Georgia came out, everyone was looking at me like I was some sort of working actor who never stopped."

"No, I was unemployed and felt like ass. You have to be so grateful in the moments when it’s painful and you get told no. Rejection sucks, I’m still dealing with it. But the rejections make the good times so much better."

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Sara is currently filming Season 2 of Ginny Georgia.

5. John Krasinski

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The Office cemented its way into TV history with its ridiculous characters and even sillier plotlines, and none of that would have happened without John as Jim Halpert. But before landing that career-changing role, John was strongly considering giving up his dream of acting.

John originally went to college to become a teacher, but later decided to attend theater school, and it's there where he fell in love with acting. After moving to New York and taking a couple of years to make a name for himself, John found himself stuck. He was ready to pack it up and move back, until his mom gave him a much-needed pep talk.

"I was like, 'So, I'm out,'" John said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. "'This is terrible. It's so scary. This is the worst. Waiting tables, not as fun as they say.' And she said, 'You know, it's September. Just wait it out. Just wait 'til the end of the year. Don't give up just yet.' I was telling her to come get me...and three weeks later, I got The Office."

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Thank goodness for parents! John has sustained a successful career in Hollywood ever since, starring in projects like Jack Ryan, It's Complicated, Something Borrowed, and A Quiet Place.

6. Deborah Ann Woll

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Deborah has starred in projects like Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You and Escape Room, as well as hit series like True Blood and Daredevil. Unfortunately, when Netflix surprisingly decided to cancel Daredevil in 2018, Deborah had trouble finding work for over a year and it made her question her self-worth.

"I'm just really wondering whether I'll get to work again," wrote Deborah. "Whether anyone wants to work with me again, and whether I still have it, all of those scary things. And part of my brain goes, 'No, you're just being crazy, calm down.' But the part of me that loves [acting] and the problem with being an artist and an actor, and any of these professions where you put a piece of your soul into your work, is that it becomes a part of your identity."

"If I'm not acting, I'm not sure who I am. And since it's been so long since I've really gotten to do it, I'm struggling a little bit with how to maintain my self-worth, my sense of my own value. I haven't had an acting job since, and that's been really hard for me. So even before COVID kind of flipped the world on its head, I was struggling with this."

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Deborah was featured in the 2021 film Ida Red alongside Melissa Leo and Josh Hartnett.

7. Liz Gillies

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Liz's claim to fame came in 2010, when she landed the iconic role of Jade West in Nickelodeon's Victorious. After the show ended in 2013, she thought offers would be rolling in left and right, but instead, Liz found herself playing the waiting game in her great-grandma's basement.

Liz told the Zach Sang Show, "When I was done with Nickelodeon, I was like, 'That was so much fun. People are going to be casting me so much right now. I was so good on that show...let's just sit by the phone.'"

"Cut to me in my basement playing The Sims for 18 hours. I'm not lying. Cut to my great-grandma of 98 being like, 'She needs to go out and get drunk, and maybe have a one-night stand, because it's killing us.'"

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Liz currently stars on The CW's Dynasty reboot. It was just announced that the series' current fifth season will be its last.

8. Brendan Fraser

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There was a time when you couldn't visit a movie theater without seeing Brendan's face on a poster. He starred in hit franchises like The Mummy and Journey to the Center of the Earth, as well as fan favorites like Bedazzled, George of the Jungle, Crash, and The Air I Breathe. But even a man at the top can go through hard times. 

Brendan was dealing with a lot behind closed doors, including health issues, a divorce, projects he wasn't proud of, and an alleged sexual assault from 2003 (Brendan claimed former HFPA president Philip Berk "grabs my ass cheek, and one of his fingers touches me in the taint. And he starts moving it around.”). The actor got to a point where he didn't feel worthy.

"The phone does stop ringing in your career, and you start asking yourself why," Brendan told GQ. "There's many reasons, but was this one of them? I think it was.” And that, he says, is why he ultimately disappeared for a while. “I bought into the pressure that comes with the hopes and aims that come with a professional life that's being molded and shaped and guided and managed. I just felt I couldn't be a part of it. I didn't feel that I belonged.”

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Brendan has since regained his confidence and jumped back into roles that mean something to him. He's gone on to star in HBO Max's Doom Patrol, Line of Descent, and No Sudden Move. He's also set to be a part of the upcoming release of Batgirl.

9. Susan Sarandon

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Susan Sarandon is an industry veteran, with a rap sheet filled with box office hits and cult classics, ranging from The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Thelma Louise to Stepmom and Tammy. 

And after being in the business for so long, Susan learned a thing or two about Hollywood's code of conduct...or lack thereof. During a 2013 interview on  Oprah's Master Class, Sarandon talked about how Hollywood treats actors when they age, especially women.

"You're so punished in this business," Susan said. "When people say, 'Do you think you've lost work because of your politics?' I say, 'No, you lose work because you get old and fat!' That's when they write you off in Hollywood. There's the inevitability of the deterioration of the physical. That forces you to think, really, what is beauty and what survives?"

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Susan is set to star in an upcoming drama series called Monarch about the Romans, the fictional first family of country music, in late 2022.

10. Gal Gadot

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Gal got her start in the Fast Furious franchise, but rose to fame once she entered the DC Universe in Wonder Woman. Since then, she's starred in big projects like Justice League, Red Notice, and Death on the Nile. But her career path wasn't an easy one. In a 2020 interview with Access Hollywood , Gal revealed that she doubted if acting was truly for her.

"There's so much rejection in this profession," Gal said. "And it came to a point where I was just like, 'Is it really worth it?' [My husband and I] were in LA for a trip, and I was telling my husband, 'Look, we're here now, but we're leaving in two weeks...I don't know if we'll ever come again.'"

"'I don't know if I want to pursue [acting].' And then, during those two weeks, I had the Wonder Woman audition. Isn't it crazy the way the world, the universe, works?"

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Gal is currently working on two upcoming films, including a spy drama called Heart of Stone, and a live-action adaptation of Snow White, where she'll play the Evil Queen.

11. Joshua Bassett

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Joshua currently stars on the hit Disney+ mockumentary musical comedy High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. But before earning that breakout role, Josh was having a very hard time booking gigs.

In a 2021 interview with Access Hollywood , Joshua revealed why he almost walked away from acting and the advice his father gave him that made him change his mind.

"It was, like, audition after audition of me getting really close to things, and the reason why I wasn't getting them was always ridiculous," Joshua said. "It was either somebody had a larger social media platform or some ridiculous reason. I was just getting really frustrated."

"I remember telling my dad, 'The joy of [acting] is gone. I don't enjoy it anymore. It's not something I want to do.' And he [was] like, 'You've gone this far, why don't you just wait it out a month?' And I was like, 'OK, fine.' I was ready to quit that day and then just about a month later is when I got the show."

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Joshua recently starred in the Disney+ original film Better Nate Than Never.

12. Laverne Cox

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Before her breakout role in the hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, Laverne nabbed parts in short films and Law Order. During that time, she almost gave up on acting and considered going to grad school. Laverne decided to go out for one more audition, and the rest is history.

"I was just devastated by, like, turning 40, and my life was kind of in shambles financially, and I had worked and trained a lot, and my dream of being a working actress had not come to fruition," Laverne said during an interview for the Paley Center's Pride Month programming, People reported in June 2021. 

"I was just like, 'I've got to do something else. I mean, who do I think I am? I'm a Black transgender woman — no one's ever done this before, let me go and do something, have a real job or something.'"

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Not only did Laverne land a leading role in Orange Is the New Black, but it also led her to become the first openly trans actor to receive a primetime Emmy nomination. Most recently, Laverne was featured in another popular Netflix limited series, Inventing Anna.

13. Hong Chau

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Luck strikes when you least expect it, and for Hong, it happened just when she was thinking about saying goodbye to her acting dreams for good. Before earning her breakout role in Downsizing alongside Matt Damon, she had a hard time staying optimistic about her acting career.

"I've thought about quitting so many times," Hong told E!. "Because I've been doing this for 10 years now, and Downsizing is only my second movie."

"Every once in a while, something would come along that would keep you in there for another, like, couple of months before you'd want to quit again, and so luckily I didn't quit and I stuck with it."

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Since then, Hong has starred in other major titles, like Amazon Prime's Homecoming and HBO's Watchmen. She's also expected to appear in the upcoming psychological film The Whale.

Are you familiar with a time when a celebrity spoke out about not getting work? Tell me about it in the comments below!