Who Was the First Actor Ever?

The first actor ever was Thespis of Icaria. He lived in the 6th century BC. According to The Theatre of the Greeks.

Thespis of Icaria was the first actor to appear on a stage in a play. He was playing a character in a Tragedy.  

The First Actor Ever

The first actor ever came from a background different from acting; He was a singer. But how did he came on stage to perform?

We are to thank the Old Greeks for that. They performed the first tragedies, which were accompanied by dithyrambs, ancient hymns in Athens.

Take a guess – do you think that the first-ever actor also starred in the first motion picture ever? History of movies is an interesting one!

They wanted to honour the god Dionysus and adapted the hymns to fit choral processions. These processions took place during special occasions, and the people used to dress up in masks.

Later on, at the beginning of the 6th century BC, they evolved into a series of events, where the actors as we today know them performed.

Thespis was first the actor ever and one of the first to stage his own tragedies. He was born in Icaria, an Athenian village, presumably in 566 BC.

He divided the choir and added tirades spoken by a single character, separate from the choruses. According to the legend, he went on stage for the first time in 534 BC.

He masked himself with coloured pigments prepared with plants and used linen masks.

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The first actor ever often “toured” with the rest of his troupe actors through the Athenian region in a carriage.

The expression “getting on Thespis’ cart” therefore means becoming an actor and it is why we use the noun “thespian” in English as a synonym for an actor or an actress.

The “Thespis carriage” is cited in a dozen literary pieces, most notably in Théophile Gautier’s novel Le Capitaine Fracasse, and in Victor Hugo’s preface to Cromwell.

The First Actress Ever

Ow that you know who was the first actor ever, let’s find out who was the first actress ever. It is nothing like the actresses you could find in the first TV series ever made!

The first actress ever was Margaret Hughes. She came to the English stage in 1660. But how did she ended up on stage?

The Puritan Long Parliament banned the English drama in 1642. King Charles II. decided to restore it during his reign because he was a passionate theatregoer.

Since women weren’t allowed to play on stage, men did all the women’s roles. When the King was watching one of the plays, the man who had to play a female part was late to stage because he was shaving.

This incident made the King come up with a royal warrant in 1662. It declared that only women could play women’s roles.

So, Margaret Hughes, then 15-year-old, was the first actress ever to appear in England and probably in the world. She played Desdemona in Shakespeare’s play, Othello.

After that role, she played St. Catherine in John Dryden’s Tyrannick Love and later Panura in John Fletcher’s The Island Princess.

The First Black Actress Ever

The first black actress ever was Joséphine Baker. Her real name was Freda Josephine McDonald and she was born in Missouri in the United States.

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She was an American singer and dancer and a naturalized French citizen.

She went to perform on Broadway after being spotted dancing on the street at the age of 15 and after dancing in St. Louis Chorus Vaudeville show.

In 1926, after two failed marriages, she met Giuseppe Abatino, with whom she began an affair that lasted until 1936. During this period, he was her manager and her mentor. 

After a tour in Europe, Joséphine Baker leads the review of the Folies Bergère in 1927.

The same year, Baker launches into the singing career, and following Giuseppe’s advice, she takes part in the film La Sirène des tropiques.

Giuseppe opened the “Chez Joséphine” club with Joséphine and organized the singer’s world tour in 1928.

The First Black Actor Ever

Lincoln Perry was the first black actor ever. He began his career in entertainment as a teenager as a supporting comedic role.

Its stage name, Stepin Fetchit, is the contraction of “step in and fetch it.” When he arrived in Hollywood in the early 1920s, he played supporting comedic roles in a variety of films.

Most of them included his character of Stepin Fetchit, known as “The laziest man in the world.” He appeared in 1929 in In Old Kentucky, a silent film by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

In his private life, Lincoln Perry led a parallel career as a writer for the Chicago Defender.

In 1929,  Fox studio hired Perry and he was the first black actor to receive a fee, at a time when white actors played the majority of black roles.

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He starred in Hearts in Dixie in 1929, where he plays the role of Gummy, a lazy man who takes the pretext of “miseries” at his feet to let his wife Chloe do all the work. 

Lincoln Perry is the first black actor to become a millionaire. At the peak of his career, he owned twelve cars and lived in a mansion, with sixteen Chinese servants.

However, the taste of the public changed, and his career experienced a downfall in the early 1940s. He left Hollywood in 1940 and was declared bankrupt in 1947. 

Who Are the Most Famous Actors Ever?

Did you ever wonder how much do actors earn?

Well, it depends on numerous factors, such as the type of their role, the movie budget, the movie’s success, etc.

So, some actors earn less and some more. Here’s the list of the top 10 earning actors until today.

  • Keanu Reeves, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions: $156,000,000 
  • Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense: $100,000,000 
  • Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible 2: $100,000,000 
  • Will Smith, Men in Black 3: $100,000,000 
  • Robert Downey Jr., Avengers: Infinity War: $75,000,000+ 
  • Sandra Bullock, Gravity: $70,000,000+ 
  • Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump: $70,000,000

Do You Like Movies?

In case you’re a movie lover, make sure to find out what were the first Academy Awards ever presented. Do you think Thespis of Icaria deserved an Oscar?