"How To Get Away With Murder" Star, Aja Naomi King, Has The Best Advice For Young Actors

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Answers by Aja Naomi King, Actress, How to Get Away with Murder, The Birth of a Nation, on Quora.

A: The advice that I was always given when asking for advice about acting was that if I could imagine myself doing anything else, anything else at all, then go do that. It is a brutal industry filled with so much rejection and heartache, you constantly go out of your way to figure out what someone else wants you to be in an audition room and still be authentic to your own instincts as an artist, and it feels like you're completely in the dark.

In this day and age when there are so many people creating work online and writing their own shows, I wouldn't tell another actor if you can do anything else go do that. I would tell them to figure out the story they want to tell, to figure out what artists inspire you and why, and then figure out a way you can create that for yourself. However you can fill that need, that hunger, figure out how to do it, then when you go in to those auditions you feel less desperate, because you are already creating something you're passionate about, even if it's, say, doing a reading with friends, or creating your own online video project. Create something for yourself that you feel proud of, that you are in control of, that gives you a better understanding of the type of artist you want to be.

Your artistry is a muscle that needs to be exercised, so if all you are doing is auditioning, you'll never get the satisfaction of fulfilling the need to play the part. So create the part for yourself, so you can exercise that muscle, so you can be ready to go in that room, so that you aren't looking to others for satisfaction creatively speaking, but instead have already empowered yourself creatively.


A: I come from a family of storytellers. Growing up, my father would make up these stories about how he and my mother met and fell in love, and my mother would tell me these elaborately visual stories of growing up as a kid in New York, and I was always so enrapt. It went beyond just hearing a story - I could see it. I wanted to be there to live it, which led to these elaborate games of pretend. I never wanted to stop playing.

I never thought that this fun game could turn into a career, I never imagined being here. I was prepared to go down a career path that would be more stable and reliable when things shifted for me, and I couldn't imagine pursuing anything but acting. I didn't want to imagine it, I didn't want a back up plan. It became clear to me that this was all I wanted to do in whatever shape or form I could do it. It felt like less of a choice being made and more like clarity, I could see it so clearly, and I didn't have the heart to deny myself.


A: That is definitely challenging and the possibility exists, especially when your show has the word "Murder" in the title. At the same time though, you develop such a love and respect for the story that if your character is meant to be killed off, you want to make sure you do that death justice, because the playing of the part was a privilege and not one taken lightly. You would owe it to yourself and your fans to fully embody the story the writers want to tell to the very end.

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