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December 9, 2013

The Actors’ Survey – UK acting by numbers

UK actorsAs a frivolous pre-Christmas treat, here are some strange nuggets about UK actors.

I used publicly available data from a number of actors’ websites to draw data on almost 30,000 actors in the UK, based on their self-declared vital statistics.  I have written a number of (major) caveats at the bottom of this article, which should be read before anyone decides to start or end an acting career based on these results.

In summary…

  • The percentage of white actors is similar to that of the UK population
  • Asians make up 7% of the UK population but only 2.7% of actors
  • Female actors are slimmer, blonder and much better dancers than male actors
  • Female actors with blonde hair are on average slimmer than those of other hair colours
  • 89% of female actors claim to have a healthy BMI, compared with 75% of men
  • Male actors are more willing to perform nude than female actors
  • Actors who can dance the Tango are much more willing to perform nude than those who know Tap
  • More actors say they can do an American accent than Cockney or Yorkshire accents.

Ethnicity

In very loose terms, actors seem to reflect modern Britain. The biggest difference between actors and the UK population appears to be within Asian actors, who only make up 2.7% of actors but are 7% of the general population.

Comparing surveys of ethnicity are always tricky as different organisations use different classifications.  For example, the 2011 UK Census did not break down what percentage of people were classed as ‘Mediterranean’, whereas many actors’ listings do.

Hair Colour

Blondes may have more fun (and be significantly more attractive) but they’re outnumbered two to one by brown haired women and five to one by brown haired men.

Eye Colour

Blue is the most frequent eye colour, although not for long if the New York Times is to be believed.

Build

I don’t think anyone will be shocked to learn that the majority of actors claim to have a ‘slim’ or ‘medium’ body type.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Many actors list both their height and their weight so I thought it would be fun to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI scale is as follows:

  • Under 18.5 is ‘Underweight’
  • 18.5 to 25 is ‘Healthy’
  • 25 to 30 is ‘Overweight’
  • Over 30 is ‘Obese’

Which means that 82.4% of actors are classed as ‘healthy’.

Accents

It is telling that a significant number of actors have prioritised perfecting an American accent over regional British accents.

Dance Skills

Many more women can (or at least claim to be able to) dance than men.

Playing Age

This is an updated graph.  On Twitter, Samantha Hopkins asked “I’d be interested to know how many male vs female actors there are in different age brackets“.  I had a look at the data and added the following graph.

The Naked Truth

One of my data sources allowed the actor to state if they would be willing to perform nude or not.  So I took this data and cross-referenced it against some of their physical attributes.

Obviously, no one should take this particular part too seriously.  I think most actors would decide whether or not to perform nude based on the merits of the script. We also shouldn’t make any blanket assumptions about people who can dance the Tango.

Blonde is a Very Slimming Colour

The slimmest female actors have blonde hair and the slimmest male actors have red hair.

Limitations

This survey has some significant limitations and so I feel it should be regarded as ‘anecdotally interesting’ rather than ‘scientifically robust’.

  • This is self-reported data so it is reasonable to assume that there is a certain degree of flexibility with the truth from the actors.  I have no data to prove this but we can look at a comparable arena – online dating. OK Cupid crunched the numbers and concluded that on average their members lie about their height to the tune of two inches.
  • I don’t know how many actors there are in the UK, therefore I can’t know how representative my sample is of all actors. I created the widest database I could from publicly available data but naturally there will be many actors who do not publish much data about themselves.
  • I have not accounted for talent.  Of course, the most interesting thing to explore with actors would be to find the correlation between their vital statistics and their talent/ success.  Ideally, I would create a system that factors in each actor’s credits (what type of productions have they acted in, how big were their parts, who are they acting opposite, etc).  This would be infinitely time-consuming, not to mention highly subjective.
  • This covers self-proclaimed actors and I have not applied any test as to whether these people have actually been paid to act.  That said, I do have some data on which of my surveyed actors are members of Equity and when I randomly tested to see if this affected the results I discovered it did not. It would be interesting to hear from Equity as to how their data compares with mine but I would not expect any great disparity.

Epilogue

I am interested to see the reaction of British actors to these results so if you’re in the acting profession then please add a comment below.

In order to find a few images to accompany this post I put a call out on Facebook for actors’ headshots and permission to use those images here. David Wilkinson kindly reposted and between his and my small posts I got images from Alex Childs, Alexia Muiños Ruiz, Ali Boland, Ben Eagle, Callum McGowan, Catherine Nathalie Delaloye, Claire Louise Amias, Fleur Mollo, Helena Lewin, Irene Splendorini, Jennifer Karen, Jessica Bayly, Julian Boote, Julie Hoult, Lauren Hurwood, Lilly Driscoll, Mark Hampton, Mel Mills, Michael Parle, Montserrat Roig De Puig, Noah Young, Paduraru Andreea, Robert Dowdeswell Jr, Sara Gallego, Shian Denovan, Steel Wallis, Vanessa Emme and Zara Symes. Thank you all!!

UK actors survey

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3 Responses

  1. Michael Parle December 9, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    think ticked all the boxes, brown eyed/haired handsome man slim build @ your service & for hire ! thanks for the mention

  2. Matt December 11, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Great work Stephen! Many thanks for taking the time to collect this statistics and to give a very comprehensive result. Very useful information and relevant information!

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  1. 20 interesting film facts we learned this year | Stephen Follows - February 23, 2015

    […] 3. Actors who can dance the Tango are much more willing to perform nude than those who know Tap. My study of UK actors also revealed that Asians make up 7% of the UK population but only 2.7% of actors and that female actors are slimmer, blonder and much better dancers than male actors. More… […]

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