How many actors are there in the whole world?

November 17, 2023
12 min read
By George Djaniants
How many actors are there in the whole world

Diving into the vibrant and diverse world of acting, we aim to elucidate this thrilling profession and its plethora of players. So, who qualifies as an actor? It's a query that springs to mind when pondering a question like "how many actors are there?" Globally, the count can prove to be quite complex, presenting various challenges due to the sheer diversity of the profession. The task is complex, with fluctuating numbers that depend on numerous factors such as the dawn of new markets and the continually growing demand for fresh content. In subsequent sections, we'll examine the composition of professional unions and guilds, delve into the world of film, television, and voice acting, and even touch upon the legion of as yet unrecognized talents awaiting their big break. Join us as we navigate through this fascinating global perspective on acting.

Defining The Term 'Actor'

defining the term actor

To delineate the term 'actor', we need to address a commonly accepted definition that spans the entire globe. Essentially, an actor is an individual who portrays a character within a performance, applying their skills and techniques to depict a character's personality, emotions and motives. This could be in various mediums and platforms such as the cinema, theatre, television, radio, or online platforms such as YouTube or Twitch. Their performances could be live, recorded, or performed through voice-over. They also include individuals working in the puppetry world, miming, improvisational theatre, and even some forms of animation. Thus, this broad definition envelopes not just those in the limelight but also those who perform behind the scenes - capturing a vast range of individuals with performing inclinations. It's worth noting that an actor's career can span different platforms and disciplines. For example, a Hollywood actor might do voice-over work for a cartoon series or a traditional theater actor might act in an independent short film. Therefore, it’s essential to acknowledge such diversification when we refer to the term 'actor.' Along these lines, it becomes evidently clear that an actor doesn’t compulsorily need to have a blockbuster film or an Oscar to their name to be acknowledged as one.

Factors Influencing 'How Many Actors Are There'

The count of active actors fluctuates significantly due to a complex interplay of dynamics within the acting industry. Among these factors, emerging markets and the increased demand for varied content play pivotal roles. In recent years, owing to the proliferation of digital platforms, marketplaces for actors have diversified and multiplied. For example, homegrown web-series from regions like Latin America and Africa have been successful in catapulting local actors into global fame, thereby altering the dimensions of actor demographics.

Likewise, such diversity in content delivery platforms has also led to an increase in actors. Consumer demand for fresh and unique content has skyrocketed, which requires more actors to fulfill. In line with this, let's take the case of India. A massive Hinglish-speaking audience -- a mix of Hindi and English -- facilitated the surge of actors who could cater to this niche. Consequently, streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime heavily invested in local content, leading to a noticeable spike in the number of active actors in this region. Thus, it becomes evident that the count of actors is susceptible to numerous fluctuating market factors, making a fixed number elusive.

Actors in Professional Unions and Guilds

In a bid to gain a deeper understanding of the number of actors across the globe, it's essential to turn our attention to key actors' unions and guilds that hold significant memberships. It's no secret that a substantial number of professional actors choose to align themselves with these bodies to leverage the benefits they offer, from bargaining power and networking to legal protection and career progression opportunities.

When we examine the numbers, organizations like the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) stand out prominently. SAG-AFTRA, which represents around 160,000 film and television actors, journalists, and other media professionals in the US, offers a clear snapshot of the number of actors in a single, established market. Similarly, the British actors' union Equity, with about 47,000 members, provides an understanding of the acting population in the United Kingdom. However, it's crucial to note that not every actor is a guild or union member, and these figures don't include independent or non-union actors.

Corresponding unions or guilds are found in many other countries, including Australia's Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) or France's Syndicat Français des Artistes Interprètes. Yet, despite the valuable insights these organizations offer, we must remember that they represent only a fraction of the entire acting profession. For a complete picture, these figures must be examined in conjunction with other aspects such as aspiring actors, dubbing artists, and global acting markets.

Recognizing Voice Actors and Dubbing Artists

recognizing voice actors and dubbing artists

Voice acting and dubbing artists form a highly significant yet often overlooked subset within the acting industry. This rapidly expanding field contributes significantly to the overall count of world actors, though the contributors often remain anonymous—unrecognizable to the general public. From the voices behind beloved cartoon characters to dubbers who translate foreign movies into local languages, these artists breathe life into characters with their unique vocal talents.

This profession demands remarkable skill sets. Voice actors must deliver convincing performances that are just as nuanced and emotive as onscreen actors, relying entirely on their voice. Moreover, dubbing artists need a keen ear for languages and inherent acting abilities, as they are responsible for making content universally accessible while conserving the original performance's emotional integrity. For example, think about the famous American animation, The Simpsons, which has been translated into dozens of languages. The voices behind Homer in French or Marge in German are as essential as the original English artists in bringing these characters to life for international audiences.

Historically, voice actors and dubbing artists haven't been counted in traditional acting statistics, partially due to their work's backstage nature. However, their vital contributions have led industry experts to argue for their rightful inclusion in the count. Understanding this aspect of the acting profession further broadens the answer to the question—how many actors are there worldwide, and underscores the profession's diversity. From this perspective, it's fair to say that the digits of actors around the globe are significantly more than those we see on our screens.

Include Unrecognized and Aspiring Actors

When assessing the total count of actors worldwide, it's important not to overlook the countless unrecognized and aspiring performers seeking their breakthrough moment. These individuals form a vast pool that significantly swells the global actor tally. Importantly, these performers may not have achieved significant roles or widespread recognition for their craft. Yet, their commitment to acting and their regular involvement in honing their skills are undeniable contributions to the industry as a whole.

Unrecognized actors can be found all over the world, from community theaters in small town USA, to street performance troupes in Europe, to unknown artists tirelessly auditioning in major cities like New York, London, or Mumbai. Their numbers are difficult to accurately quantify due to the inherent informal nature of their roles. But the Entertainment Labor Force Report reveals that each year, thousands of aspiring performers relocate to major hubs of the film industry in the pursuit of dreams, a testament to their prevalence.

Interest in acting as a profession remains ever high. Educational programs geared towards performing arts count their enrollees in the hundreds of thousands. For instance, the University of Southern California boasts more than 1,500 annual entrants across all its performing arts programs. These aspiring actors are actively engaged in learning the craft and are an integral part of the broader actor tally.

Although awaiting their big break, these unrecognized and aspiring actors actively contribute to the culture and economy of the industry. It’s crucial to acknowledge them when considering the booming acting population. Their palpable passion, tireless dedication, and creative contributions are the lifeblood of this diverse profession. From the local theater company to the competitive auditions, these unsung performers indeed are a part of the count of actors globally.

Looking at Actors in North America

The North American acting scene, comprising principally of the United States and Canada, is arguably foundational within the global acting community. The U.S. is home to Hollywood, a place synonymous with the movie and entertainment industry, attracting acting talent from around the globe. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country had approximately 63,800 actors actively employed in film, television, and on-stage as of May 2020.

However, this number only represents those who made some income from acting and "actively employed" does not necessarily mean full-time. Many performers juggle multiple jobs to sustain themselves while auditioning during their free time. Therefore, the number of aspiring actors who pursue their passion either part-time or are currently between jobs, could significantly skew the figures upwards.

On the other hand, Canada, while not as globally recognized as its southern neighbor, has a highly vibrant acting scene. Cities like Vancouver and Toronto have grown as premier locations for filming American television shows and movies, often referred to as the "Hollywood North." The Association of Canadian Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) recorded over 27,000 full members in 2019, providing a glimpse into the impressive pool of performing talent in the country.

Putting these considerations together, it becomes clear that North America holds a substantial portion of the world's acting population. With significant acting schools, several internationally acclaimed film festivals, and growing production budgets, the region continues to attract and nurture immense acting talent. Yet, it's important to consider the number of actors in North America is fluid in nature, with new talent entering and exiting the industry frequently.

Exploring The Number Of Actors in Europe

Europe, home to a plethora of cultures and languages, is a uniquely fertile region for the acting profession. Major acting hubs in Europe like the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy have been cradles of art forms for centuries, enhancing the diversity and quality of their acting pool. According to Statista, in 2017, over 157,000 professional actors were registered in the United Kingdom alone, signifying the prominence of this profession in the region.

Evidently, these numbers portray only a part of the acting picture in Europe. Not included are multitudes of theatrical talents not registered with professional guilds. The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, for instance, graduates around three hundred actors each year, only a fraction of whom join professional unions immediately. The British Actors' Equity Association does report around 43,000 members, but it's clear that many 'stage' actors are not yet included in this tally.

Furthermore, each European nation has its own traditions, institutes, and agencies, making the task of accurately counting each actor a daunting challenge. BEKRAFT, the German Actors’ Guild, boasts a considerable roster of 8,000 members. With France's various artist associations and Italy's expanding film industry, Europe's actor count rapidly increases.

In conclusion, Europe presents a diverse and dynamic landscape for the acting profession. While it's difficult to pinpoint a precise count due to varying definitions and record-keeping standards, an examination of union memberships and estimates from acting schools suggest the existence of hundreds of thousands of actors across the continent.

Number of Actors in Asia

The Asian continent, with its rich array of cultures and film industries, boasts a significant number of actors. Driving this high count are powerhouse countries like India, with its booming Bollywood industry, and China, home of the ever-growing Chinese film industry. These two countries alone contribute an immense talent base that significantly impacts the total enumeration of actors in Asia.

But beyond these two mammoths, there exist several smaller, yet significant entertainment industries throughout Asia. Industries in countries like South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines are vibrant and burgeoning, offering the world a steady stream of actors, both seasoned and nascent. The Korean film industry, specifically, has seen a surge in recognition and popularity globally, adding further to the actor count from Asia.

While it is exciting to consider the sheer number of actors coming out of Asia, tallying these numbers accurately requires considering several parameters. Like all counts in the acting industry, the count in Asia is inherently dynamic. Several actors remain unrecognized or belong to the category of 'aspiring,' while many others may be enjoying a hiatus. This fluidity in the profession makes any count a challenging proposition.

However, even with the potential inaccuracies, it is evident that Asia possesses an enormous talent pool. This contribution has only grown with the strengthening film industries and the significant global influence they boast. The number of Asian actors, thus, is not merely a statistic but a testament to the thriving acting profession in the region.

Studying Actors in Australia and Oceania

Analyzing the acting industry in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania offers a unique perspective. These regions are known for their vibrant and culturally rich performance traditions, and their actors, playing a crucial role in this. In Australia alone, the acting population estimates suggest there may be around 5,000 working professionals in the film, TV, and theater industries. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s acting community, though smaller, makes a significant contribution to the industry with renowned actors such as Peter Jackson and Russell Crowe.

The acting profession in Oceania goes far beyond Australia and New Zealand. Take the Pacific islands, for instance, which are less represented in mainstream global entertainment. Local actors here play pivotal roles in traditional theatrical shows and cultural storytelling, which often does not receive the same level of international recognition. Yet their contribution is indispensable to the acting fabric of the region.

Professional unions and guilds play a crucial role in maintaining and protecting the rights of these actors. Australia’s MEAA (Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance) and New Zealand’s Equity are two such examples, tallying their membership in the thousands. However, membership numbers are just one indicator of the number of actors in a region as many actors may work without such affiliations.

In recent years, the rise of streaming services like Netflix, which have put substantial investments in original content from Australia and New Zealand, has increased opportunities for actors in these regions. Shows such as “The Crown” and “Top of the Lake” are notable examples of this trend. This heightened demand for content can directly influence the number of active actors in these areas.

Finally, the number of unrecognized and aspiring actors in these regions is another significant factor to consider. Many talented individuals are honing their craft and waiting for their breakthrough moment which further elevates the acting population in Oceania. In conclusion, while exact numbers might be challenging to quantify, the acting profession in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania is thriving and continues to evolve.

Taking Count of Actors in Africa

taking count of actors in africa

While considering the African continent for a count of actors, we must first acknowledge its rich history and diversity, impacting the spreading of the acting profession. Worthy of note are Nollywood, Nigeria's booming film industry, and South Africa's burgeoning theater scene, both contributing significantly to the continent's actor populace.

Nollywood, Africa's primary acting hub, holds sway with its vast actor count. An analysis reveals a staggering growth track, projecting an increase in the influx of actors. Therefore, the resultant ripple effect influences the estimation of the total number of actors across the globe. Likewise, South Africa's theater scene, although less explored, offers a plethora of experienced actors, enhancing Africa's actor count.

Furthermore, various cultural factors, including the practice of community theater, performative storytelling traditions, and the rising demand for localized content, play pivotal roles in the creation and sustaining of acting jobs. These factors, combined with the unrelenting efforts of aspiring actors, escalate the nominal count of actors across the African continent.

However, a crucial challenge, the lack of central actor registry in Africa, obscures the concrete actor count. This inadequacy brings forth the need to devise an efficient method of data collection to achieve a verifiable actor count. One plausible solution is to couple data mining techniques and social media analytics with traditional counting sources like acting unions and guilds.

In conclusion, measuring the number of actors in Africa poses a considerable challenge due to the region's diverse contexts and the informal nature of many acting opportunities. Nevertheless, Nollywood's prominence, South Africa's theater scene, and cultural factors affirm the continent's substantial contribution to the global count of actors.

A Dynamic Number: How Many Actors Are There?

Arriving at an exact figure for the total number of actors worldwide is a herculean task, and our exploration of various aspects of the industry has revealed why. The landscape of acting is ever-shifting, influenced heavily by dynamics such as market demand and emerging opportunities. This dynamism extends from established guilds and unions to the realm of unrecognized talent and aspirants.

From thespians to voiceover artists, the profession of acting spans a broad spectrum. Figures swell further when we factor in those waiting in the wings for their big break. Moreover, geographical variances add another layer of complexity. The remarkable diversity and inherent fluctuations within the profession make gleaning an accurate tally even more challenging.

On a global scale, the acting industry continues to evolve. Propelled by globalization, acting transcends borders, highlighting the rich vein of talent in regions like North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, Oceania, and Africa. Each continent contributes to the number of actors, shaped by unique contextual factors.

From Hollywood to Bollywood, the acting fraternity spans across continents. The United States, Canada, United Kingdom, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, and the African continent each contribute an impressive array of actors to the global tally - further testifying to the vastness and influence of this creative industry.

In conclusion, the question "how many actors are there in the whole world" is complex and dynamic. The number is in constant flux, affected by countless variables and lurking unknowns. Even if we can't pinpoint an exact figure, the journey we've taken provides rich insights into the fascinating world of acting - a world that was, is, and will continually be in motion.

Published on November 17, 2023 by George Djaniants

George Djaniants

CEO & Co-Founder