Actors changed their surnames if they were too “ethnic” or if they were unpronounceable. Actresses did not change their names every time they got married.
Things change. Ethnic-sounding names are no longer considered death at the box office, which is an improvement in terms of openmindedness. But when a surname confuses the casting world into wondering what, exactly, you are and how that will play into your ability to portray a role, I tend to think it might be time to change it to something more maintstream.
I can think of three gorgeous actresses whom I have represented who all have extremely confusing last names. The names suggest that they are a certain ethnicity and therefore a certain type, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. I discussed this with all of them. The first one sweetly refused to change her name, even though she acknowledged that it had always been confusing to casting. The second one not only refused to change her very unattractive name, but I believe she thought that my even bringing it up must have meant that I didn’t believe in her, so she left the agency.
The third actress’ last name isn’t actually ethnic. It’s just unpronounceable. In fact, she doesn’t even know what nationality it is, since it’s her new husband’s name, not hers, and he apparently never asked where it came from! Turns out her maiden name is lovely and suits her to a tee. Her manager and I are going to work together to get this beauty to change her professional name back to her maiden name – a name, by the way, that will definitely be what I call “marquee-friendly”.
Ladies – if you have any doubts that using your married name professionally is a risk, at best, and a mistake in general, please look at all of the famous actresses who have done that in the past couple of decades and see if they’re still married to the man/men whose name they tacked on to their own. Then think about all the very famous, multi-married women who never changed their names, no matter who they were married to at any given moment. Which tactic makes more sense to you, if you’re being realistic?
Male or female, young or not so young, picture your name on a cinema marquee. How does it look up there? Will it attract “aaahs” or “oh, brothers”? Will it flow trippingly off the tongue or trip people up?
I’m trying to help your once-upon-a-time end happily ever after. Your name does not and should not define you; it also shouldn’t stand in your way.