Acting With Tattoos: Everything You Need To Know

Cheyenne Randall artist marilyn monroe tattoosMarilyn by Cheyenne Randall

Recently, a friend of mine was on set, and we chatted about how the acting industry is changing. She brought up a few of her fellow actors with tattoos, and I was surprised to find that actors with ink are becoming more commonplace on set.

Ink and the actor

Certain commercial brands will have their casting directors on the lookout for actors with tattoos, piercings and edgy hairstyles, but this doesn’t happen all the time. After chatting with a handful of casting directors, it became clear to me that tattoos will likely never be fully accepted.

Most actors with exposed tattoos have bankability to go along with their art. Think Tom Hardy, Johnny Depp, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Angelina Jolie. Since they’re already household names, these actors have more production flexibility and budget to cover their body art. This is why actors often wait until they’re well known to get any work done, or choose to hide tattoos in discrete areas on their body.

It is possible to have an acting career with tattoos

Zoe Saldana and Glee’s Lea Michele are both actors that have between ten and fourteen tattoos on their body, only they’ve carefully hidden them. If you just have to get that tattoo, think about the placement. You can still express yourself and satisfy your casting directors, as long as you’re careful.

Orange Is The New Black’s Ruby Rose seems to be an exception to the rule, but don’t count on her acceptance in the industry to become the norm. She caught a lucky break by nabbing a role of a prisoner with an extremely unique style, so casting wanted her as she was. While Ruby has been cast in other roles since this season of OITNB, it is the combination of her accomplishments in her native Australia and breakout success in the USA that gives her flexibility with her look.

Don’t forget your waiver

For actors with ink, remember that your tattoo artist still owns the design on your body under Intellectual Property rights. In order to show the design legally, a waiver needs to be signed.

What is your tattoo worth?

Whether you use a tattoo to memorialize an event, showcase your personality or to claim your own body, having tattoos as an actor is not a choice to enter lightly. Your tattoos have the potential to limit your career, so choose your designs and locations wisely. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how much that personal expression is worth.

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