I get a lot of email from people who would like to be be actors, but they are concerned that they may not be handsome or beautiful enough.
What an actor looks like has a great deal to do with his or her success. Professional casting is always done first by look--does the actor look like the character. There are often characters in plays and films that are not necessarily handsome or beautiful in appearance. Many film stars of both sexes were not. In fact, some stars' careers were built on their "ugliness."
Before everyone gets all excited that they are going to become film stars in spite of their mediocre looks, we need to consider that the actors and actresses who succeeded without being handsome or beautiful were still attractive in the sense that the audience was drawn to them. This happens because of the charisma, or charm, that the actors and actresses have. Charisma is that unidentifiable quality that makes someone interesting. It could be a vocal quality, a sparkle or twinkle in their eyes, or any number of other things that draw people's attention.
This quality must be strong enough to make the audience want to see that actor again.
Good looking or not, the thing that the actor must project is being someone that the audience can idenify with -- someone that the audience finds exciting, interesting, and appealing. When we say the audience identifies with an actor or character, we don't mean that they recognize qualities in them that remind them of Uncle Joe or their brother. What we mean is that they recognize in them the people that they, they audience, wish they were -- romantic and exciting people -- instead of the boring, everyday drudges that they are. That is what makes film and TV popular -- that it provides a means for everyday people to live exciting lives via identifying with the characters and actors in the shows.
Because of this identifying process, actors must make themselves extraordinary people. They work hard to develop those characteristics that will make them attractive to the audience. They have personal trainers. Some have cosmetic surgery. Others develop powerful voices or physiques. But most actors and actresses don't just rely on the looks they have been born with. Instead, they spend hours and sometimes lots of money to become the idols of the audience.
There is so much more to being an actor than acting. There is becoming an interesting physical person. There is developing a charming personality. There is having the business savvy needed to succeed. There is the hard, physical work of staying fit and healthy. And there is much more to this complex, fascinating business called being an actor.