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Actors from the Comédie-Française c. 1720.

An actor (actress is sometimes used for females; see § Terminology) is a person portraying a character in a dramatic or comic production; he or she performs in film, television, theatre, radio, commercials or music videos.<ref> {{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> Actor, ὑποκριτής{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (hypokrites), literally means "one who interprets";<ref name="hypocrite">Hypokrites (related to our word for hypocrite) also means, less often, "to answer" the tragic chorus. See Weimann (1978, 2); see also Csapo and Slater, who offer translations of classical source material using the term hypocrisis (acting) (1994, 257, 265–267).</ref> an actor, then, is one who interprets a dramatic character.<ref name="confused">Interpretation pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art, or, more commonly, as in John Malkovich's performance in the film Being John Malkovich; to act, is to create, a character in performance: "The dramatic world can be extended to include the 'author', the 'audience' and even the 'theatre'; but these remain 'possible' surrogates, not the 'actual' referents as such" (Elam 1980, 110).</ref> Method acting is an approach in which the actor identifies with the portrayed character by recalling emotions or reactions from his or her own life. Presentational acting refers to a relationship between actor and audience, whether by direct address or indirectly by specific use of language, looks, gestures or other signs indicating that the character or actor is aware of the audience's presence. In representational acting, "actors want to make us 'believe' they are the character; they pretend."<ref name=trumbull />

Formerly, in some societies, only men could become actors, and women's roles were generally played by men or boys.<ref name="Neziroski 2003">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> In modern times, women occasionally played the roles of prepubescent boys.

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