Acting agencies play a dual role: they help casting directors find talent to hire and they help actors land paid work on TV shows, movies, commercials, Broadway plays, and more. A good acting agency advocates for its actors to land more auditions, negotiate higher pay for acting jobs they book, and give actors access to opportunities that they would not be able to find on their own.
As an actor, signing a contract with the best acting agency requires research, training, networking, preparing a resume, reel, and headshot, as well as interviewing with agents themselves.
To help you find the right agency for you, we looked at 25 different acting agencies and examined their reputations, client rosters, specialties, and accessibility. These are the best agencies in the business.
The 6 Best Acting Agencies of 2020
Best Overall: William Morris Endeavor
William Morris Endeavor (WME) was originally founded in 1898 as the William Morris Agency, and, as a result of a 2009 merger with up-and-coming agency Endeavor, is now the largest talent agency in the world. With offices in Beverly Hills and New York City, along with more than 3,000 employees in 25 countries, WME represents some of the biggest names in Hollywood (John Krasinski, Joaquin Phoenix, and Millie Bobby Brown, to name a few). We selected this agency as the best overall due to its incredible size, unmatched resources, and high-tier clientele.
WME represents mainstream actors in film and tv, as well as top athletes, comedians, musicians, and voice-over talent. As the largest agency in the world, signing with WME almost guarantees you will land auditions for major films and shows. It’s important to note, however, that WME only works with actors who have substantially built up their resumes and credentials.
Actors can do one of three things to capture the agency’s attention in the hopes of getting signed:
- Land fairly substantial roles on film and TV (most likely through a smaller agency that works with lesser-known actors).
- Successfully network with WME agents and send your materials through your personal connections.
- Create viral internet videos (through YouTube or TikTok).
All of these are much easier said than done, so, while WME is the best agency in the world, it probably isn’t the best for budding talent.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Creative Artists Agency
Creative Artists Agency (CAA) was founded in 1975 in Los Angeles and has since risen to prominence as one of the most prestigious agencies in the world (along with WME, United Talent Agency, and ICM Partners). Headquartered in Los Angeles, CAA has offices across the US, Europe, and Asia and represents high-profile talent in comedy, film, television, social media, and sports. With clients like Jennifer Lawrence, Melissa McCarthy, and Robert Downey, Jr., CAA is undeniably a powerhouse agency with a star-studded clientele that matches that of WME. We picked CAA as the runner up because at over 2,000 employees, it is slightly smaller than its main competitor.
Like WME, CAA only works with more established talent and does not accept outside submissions. The most common way to get signed by CAA is to first work with a smaller boutique agency to build up your acting resume to be noticed. Having the right connections also helps.
Best for Theater: Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates
Kazarian/Measures/Ruskin & Associates (KMR) was founded as The Wormser Agency in Los Angeles back in 1957. The agency opened its New York office in 2002 and has since become one of the leading bicoastal boutique talent agencies. While many acting agencies pressure their actors into turning down theater jobs in the hopes they’ll land a higher paying film or TV role, KMR has been known to encourage its actors to pursue bigger roles on- and off-Broadway instead. We’ve chosen KMR as the best agency for theater mainly due to its reputation for prioritizing theatrical roles over others.
KMR’s clients have landed roles in shows like Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and Spring Awakening. According to the agency’s website, over a dozen clients have made their Broadway debuts in the past two years. In addition to theater, KMR also represents talent for commercials, film, TV, voice-overs, and has a special division dedicated to representing actors with disabilities. Any actor seeking representation can submit their materials to either office by mail, however, most of KMR’s clients come from industry referrals.
Best for Background Roles: Central Casting
Central Casting was originally founded in 1925, born out of a need to provide jobs for the estimated 30,000 background actors living in Los Angeles at that time. More than 90 years later, Central Casting holds the largest database of background actors and has offices in Los Angeles and New York as well as up-and-coming actor hubs Atlanta and New Orleans. Successful Central Casting alumni include Eva Longoria, Tiffany Haddish, and Will Ferrell. We chose Central Casting as the best agency for background actors because its mission, reputation, and storied history are unparalleled.
In addition to being the leading agency for background roles in commercials, film, TV, and print, Central Casting also has a deep commitment to ensuring actors get paid on time by offering its own payroll services. Every production that works with Central Casting’s talent must also use the agency’s payroll management services. To start working with Central Casting, simply fill out the online application on their website, and visit your nearest Central Casting office to complete in-person paperwork, a brief orientation, and get your headshots taken to be added to the database. Anyone, regardless of training or background, can be added to the agency’s roster.
Best for Working Actors: Gersh
The Gersh Agency was created in 1949 in Beverly Hills by Phil Gersh and is now run by his two sons. Today, the agency has offices in Beverly Hills and New York City and represents big names (such as Adam Driver, Jamie Foxx, and Kristen Stewart) as well as rising talent in film, theater, and TV. We picked Gersh as the best agency for working actors because of its consistent and impressive track record of providing up-and-coming actors with their big breaks. It was Gersh that helped Tobey Maguire land his role as Spider-Man and Hayden Christensen get the part of Young Darth Vader in the Star Wars prequels.
Gersh is significantly smaller than WME and CAA, which means that it can give attention and resources to actors who aren’t yet huge stars. In fact, many of Gersh’s clients go on to sign with the “big four” agencies after landing bigger roles through Gersh. To sign with a Gersh agent, you’ll need an industry referral, which means that someone in your network must refer you in order to submit any materials. Working actors with solid reels and some prior experience have the best chance of being represented by and building their careers with Gersh. Phone calls and material drop-offs are not accepted.
Best for Beginners: Boals, Winnett, and Associates
Founded in 2002, Boals, Winnett, and Associates is a New York-based agency that has been working with up and coming Broadway, film, and television talent for nearly two decades. The firm’s clients have landed roles on film and television in The Good Fight, FBI Most Wanted, and The Irishman and on Broadway in Mean Girls, Hamilton, and Waitress. The current client roster includes rising stars like Isabelle McCalla, who played Alyssa in the Tony-nominated musical “The Prom,” and Mia Pinero, who made her Broadway debut as the understudy to Maria in “West Side Story.” We chose this agency as the best for beginners because of its highly devoted attention and dedication to its clients.
BWA has a reputation for helping near-beginners build up their resumes, land auditions, and book short- and long-term jobs in well-known shows and productions. As true cheerleaders, the agency always makes sure to give its clients successes a well-deserved shoutout on their social media pages. BWA accepts submission materials by mail or email, and interviews by appointment. Phone calls and material drop-offs are not accepted.
What Are Acting Agencies?
Acting agencies are groups of talent agents who help connect actors to roles in TV, film, theater, commercials, and more. Agencies are well-connected with casting directors and therefore have access to job opportunities that actors wouldn’t otherwise be able to find on their own. Signing a contract with an acting agency can help an actor land more auditions and ideally more jobs, thus boosting their income and exposure.
What Does an Acting Agency Do?
Things commonly handled by acting agencies include:
Although an agency can send an actor on dozens of auditions, it’s ultimately up to the actor to land the parts. An agent is not responsible for helping you brush up on your acting skills, crafting your image or marketability, nor will they network with other people specifically on your behalf. Actors are still responsible for taking classes, managing their own social media presence, and building their own network of contacts in the entertainment industry.
What Is the Cost of Using an Acting Agency?
Any acting agency takes as compensation approximately 10% to 20% of a client’s gross earnings for every job they book from an audition they sent you on (10% if you’re a union actor; up to 20% if you’re non-union). This payment structure means it’s in an agency’s best interest to make sure that the actors it signs will book jobs. That’s why most agencies will only sign an actor if it is confident the actor will get hired for roles.
No fees or payments are due upfront for any legitimate agency. Agencies that ask for any upfront payment from talent are much more likely to be scams aimed at defrauding the public.
Is Getting an Agent Worth It?
It’s very possible to find and book acting jobs without an agent, but agents can submit you for roles that are not posted to the public. Agents and agencies are the middlemen between actors and casting directors, and they can use their special industry relationships and connections they’ve built up over the years to your advantage. An agent also takes care of all of the busywork that comes with being an actor, so that actors can devote more of their time and energy to honing their craft. This extra time and energy to practice and get better can be invaluable to an actor’s success.
How We Chose the Best Acting Agencies
In order to build our list, we researched 25 different acting agencies. In the course of our research, we found that acting agencies may cater to varying levels of acting experience as well as different entertainment mediums, which is why we highlighted various agencies for certain categories. To choose the best agencies, we looked at client rosters, reputation, areas of specialization, and exclusivity. We felt these were the most important qualities to consider when looking for the best acting agencies.
The Hollywood Reporter. "How do APA, CAA, Gersh, ICM Partners, Paradigm, UTA and WME | IMG stack up? THR breaks it down." Accessed May 31, 2020.
Web Film School. "TGA: AGENCY #6 (20 Agents, Names & contacts)." Accessed May 31, 2020.