How to Choose Your Professional Actor Name

When beginning your entertainment career it is very important to make sure that you have a unique professional name. This is your personal brand name and you never want it to be confused with other artists. You may miss out on work or royalties!

Most artists keep their own name, but many choose or are required to change their name for professional purposes. You will need to consider the following:

1. Always decide on ONE professional name, across the board

In other words use the same name for your Spotlight membership, your Equity card, any other organisations / unions, and on all professional documentation pertaining to your career.

2. Check with both Spotlight and Equity to see if they already have members with your name

For Spotlight, visit their site and type in the name in the box on the top left hand side (Looking for an artist?). If an artist comes up that means there's already a Spotlight member with that name and you will be required to choose another.

When joining Equity, names are reserved on receipt of a full or student membership form. Equity receives applications on a daily basis and cannot guarantee the availability of names over the phone or web. Equity has a broad membership base that includes singers, designers, stage managers, stunt performers and variety artists (amongst a wide range of performers), so it may be that another member will already have your chosen name.

Neither Spotlight nor Equity is able to hold or reserve names for future use, or for artists whose subscriptions expire. If your subscription does expire a current or new subscriber may successfully apply to use same name in the meantime.

3. Check spellings and abbreviations

You should always double-check different spellings and abbreviations of a name, since neither Equity nor Spotlight will accept similar names, even if they are not identical.

For example, we would not allow Sophie Smith if there is already a Sophia Smith, or Peter Jones if there is already a Pete Jones.

The following are also discouraged, since they are not sufficient to distinguish you from other artists:

Adding initials:

  • e.g. Ewan McGregor & Ewan K McGregor

Adding middle names:

  • e.g. Rachel Weisz & Rachel Jane Weisz

Adding extra surnames

  • e.g. Ralf Little & Ralf Little-Roberts

Same names with different spellings

  • e.g. Judi Dench & Judy Dench

4. Check the industry as a whole

If your name can be easily confused with someone else who is working or has worked in the industry, we also recommend that you change it, even if they are not working the same professional field.

For example, there is no point starting to work as an actor with the name Sam Mendes, because you will always be confused with the other Sam Mendes.

Applicants should also think in terms of a global market and avoid duplicating names with overseas performers who may not necessarily be members of Equity or Spotlight, such as Rachel McAdams or Terrence Howard.

You should also ensure that you do not use the name of artists who are deceased. Choosing Laurence Olivier for example would not only cause confusion, but would also undermine your credibility.

We recommend that you search the Internet Movie Database to make sure there is no one else with your name.

Remember: your professional name is your identity in a complex and ever-changing industry, and you may use it for 70 years choose wisely!

* Artists include all performers and creative personnel This information provided by Equity For full details please visit the Equity website