Actor An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art. In ancient Greece and Rome , the medieval world, the time of William Shakespeare , only men could become actors, women's roles were played by men or boys. After the English Restoration of , women began to appear on stage in England. In modern times in pantomime and some operas, women play the roles of boys or young men.