Can an Actor have a Tattoo?
The simple answer is, it depends.
It depends on where the tattoo is; the size of the tattoo and its design; and then how many of them you might have; what kind of production you are dealing with; and the role you’re submitting for.
So it’s complicated. But we can sort it all out below.
What does the breakdown say?
Sometimes a casting breakdown will be specific. It might say
- no visible tattoos
- tattoos welcome
You can decide whether to submit to the job or not based on this.
But what if the breakdown doesn’t mention tattoos? In this case you have to use your judgement.
Can your tattoos be hidden?
This is the usual first question and the answer is, yes, they can.
But then you have to ask if the production is will to take the time and expenses to hide them.
For example, if you’re the star in a blockbuster then they’ll hide your tattoos.
But if you are a featured extra and you have a dozen tattoos which need to be hidden then most productions won’t bother – they’ll just get a featured extra who doesn’t have tattoos.
And if you are on a low-budget production without a dedicated make-up artist (MUA) then they might not even have the skill to do the job properly so again they might choose an actor who doesn’t need to have extra make-up work done on them before they can appear on camera.
So be sensible in your applications and go for jobs and productions where your tattoos will either not make a difference or will actively make you look better for the role.
Meanwhile, in case you’re interested, here’s a short video on how an MUA will hide your tattoo. As you can see, it takes a lot of work so you need to ask yourself: is the production going to go to this expense for you?
Where is the tattoo?
If you have an easily visible tattoo – on your face, for example – then this will restrict the kind of roles you can go for.
A casting director (CD) looking for an actor to play the President of France will see your tattoos and likely delete your submission immediately.
On the other hand, a CD looking for a gangster might well find your facial tattoos add an extra element to the character and call you in for an audition.
So again, be sensible in the roles you go for.
My tattoos are usually out of sight
For many roles having a hidden tattoo won’t make any difference. If the tattoo is on your shoulder and you won’t be taking your shirt off, then it’s no problem and no one will say a word.
But if you do need to take your shirt off you need to balance the type and scale of production against your role in it.
Should I tell them about my tattoos?
If your tattoos are hidden then there’s no need to tell the production that you have tattoos.
If they might appear, it’s as well to tell them as soon as you can. Don’t leave it till you arrive on set the morning of the shoot to tell them as they might need to get a specialised MUA in to deal with them.
So always give warning if your tattoos need to be hidden by make-up.
Does the tattoo design make a difference?
Yes, it does.
If you have a swastika on the back of your hand then you’ll be lucky to find work. But if you have a small heart on the back of your hand then CDs probably won’t even give it a second thought.
Use your common sense!