Lily Gladstone was about to quit acting right before she got an email from Martin Scorsese asking to meet with her. “You just wonder if it’s going to be sustainable,” she told the Hollywood Reporter. “So I had my credit card out, registering for a data analytics course.” Shortly after the meeting, she landed her breakout role in Killers of the Flower Moon.
Cara Jade Myers also considered quitting acting to focus on her writing career before booking a supporting role in Killers of the Flower Moon. “Then, an audition I thought I had lost in 2019 came back around. I couldn’t believe it,” she wrote in an essay for Backstage. “Next came a callback, followed by an audition with a legendary director. Next, I was in a Zoom room with four other women doing a chemistry read. Then I got the call: I had booked the job. I wish I remember what was said after ‘congratulations,’ but I was crying too hard. It was a long, hard trek, but I had made it to the next part of my journey.”
Jacob Elordi was living in his car and only had about $400–$800 left in his bank account after filming The Kissing Booth. He planned on going back home to Australia to work and recover from Hollywood, but ended up landing his breakout role as Nate Jacobs on Euphoria. “I got really lucky, which is just an LA story, you know?” he told GQ.
After years of struggling to find work, William Jackson Harper was “at peace” with not letting theater and acting be at the center of his life anymore. He figured he had one more pilot season left in him, and ended up auditioning for the role of Chidi Anagonye on The Good Place. He went on to play the role for four seasons and got nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance on the show.
Gal Gadot told her husband that she wasn’t sure acting was for her right before landing her breakout role as Wonder Woman. She told Access Hollywood, “There’s so much rejection in this profession, and it came to a point where I was just like, ‘Is it really worth it?’ We 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?”
Max Greenfield was having trouble finding work and even called his friend Todd Milliner, who produced the series Hot in Cleveland, asking for a clerical work job. Todd told him to hang on just a little bit longer, and Max figured he might as well go on the last few auditions he had left — one of them being for the role of Schmidt on New Girl. He then went on to star on the series for seven seasons.
Melissa McCarthy made a promise to herself that if she didn’t make it in Hollywood by the time she turned 30, then she’d switch to a new career path. Then, just a few days before her 30th birthday, she got the call saying she’d landed the role of Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls. She told Howard Stern, “[Gilmore Girls] ran for seven years. It was the first time I felt like I could say I was an actress because…I quit my nanny jobs, I quit all the production jobs.” After Gilmore Girls, she went on to star on Mike & Molly and several other movies, becoming one of the biggest names in comedy.
Monique Coleman was ready to give up on her acting dreams right around the time she was called back for a role in High School Musical. She told BuzzFeed, “I was going through a period, which a lot of actors go through, where you are on the brink of giving up because it just doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for you.” She ended up starring in all three HSM movies as Taylor McKessie, and guest starred as herself on the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Joshua Bassett recalled getting really frustrated with Hollywood after getting “really close” to landing roles before finding out someone else got the job. “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. It was either somebody had a larger social media platform or some ridiculous reason,” he told Access Hollywood. “I was just getting really frustrated, and 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.” About a month later, he auditioned for his breakout role of Ricky Bowen on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.
Eric Stonestreet was really considering quitting acting and becoming a concierge butcher. “I actually had one of my biggest and lowest valleys about two months before I got the audition for Modern Family,” he said in a 2017 interview. “I was really deciding, do I stay in it, because I have enough traction and…casting directors know me, and I’ve created enough of a career for myself that I could probably continue doing it, or do I split now and start Stonestreet Meats or whatever I wanted to do?” A friend convinced him to stick with acting just a little bit longer, and soon after, he landed the role of Cam Tucker on Modern Family, a role that won him an Emmy Award.
Annie Murphy recalled her life being “quite bleak” before landing her breakout role on Schitt’s Creek. “My house had just burnt down, I had, like, $3 in my bank account… I hadn’t worked in close to two years,” she told Kelly Clarkson. “I found myself crying in the Pacific Ocean, a very snotty cry, and the universe was like, ‘Don’t do this anymore! This is not for you!’ And two days later, I got the audition for Schitt’s Creek.” She ended up winning an Emmy Award for her performance on the series.
KiKi Layne felt really discouraged after moving to LA and struggling to find work, so she borrowed some tarot cards from a friend hoping to give her some sort of guidance on what to do next. “I grabbed those cards, and I don’t know anything about tarot; all I knew is that a lot of the cards that I saw, that I was pulling for myself, were cards that my friend had pulled for me some months prior,” she told Tamron Hall. “I just saw…a repeat of some of those messages that I had gotten earlier in the year, [that said], yes, I’m supposed to be here. I was supposed to make that move. And that’s that.” Just two weeks later, she got an audition for her breakout role in the movie If Beale Street Could Talk.
Hong Chau has said she’d almost quit acting several times throughout her career before landing a role in Downsizing. “I’ve thought about quitting so many times because I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, and Downsizing is only my second movie,” she told E! News. “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.” She went on to star in movies like The Menu and The Whale, with the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination.
Rashida Jones was seriously planning on going back to school and leaving Hollywood behind. “I said to myself, ‘I’m going to do a couple more auditions, and then I’m gonna look at this application for grad school a lot more seriously,'” she said in an Off Camera with Sam Jones interview. “I was co-producing a movie at the time, and I was also thinking about going back to school, maybe getting a degree in public policy or law or business, and then, you know, I got a break.” Soon after, she landed her role as Karen Filippelli on The Office, and went on to star as Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation.
Finally, Laverne Cox recalled feeling “devastated” by turning 40 and having her acting dreams still not come true. She was also in a lot of debt and considered quitting acting altogether. “I was in rent arrears on my apartment, I had rolled back rent, and I was in all kinds of debt, and I was going to give up acting actually,” she said during a Paley Center pride month panel. However, she ended up landing her role as Sophia on Orange Is the New Black, and became the first openly trans person to be nominated for a primetime acting Emmy.