An actor (or actress for female) is one who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre, and/or in modern mediums such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hypokrites), literally "one who interprets". The actor's interpretation of their role 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; to act, is to create, a character in performance.
Formerly, in some societies, only men could become actors, and women's roles were generally played by men or boys. In modern times, women occasionally played the roles of prepubescent boys.
After 1660 in England, when women first started to appear on stage, the terms actor or actress were initially used interchangeably for female performers, but later, influenced by the French actrice, actress became the commonly used term for women in theatre and film. The etymology is a simple derivation from actor with ess added. Within the profession, the re-adoption of the neutral term dates to the 1950–1960s, the post-war period when the contributions of women to cultural life in general were being reviewed.Actress remains the common term used in major acting awards given to female recipients.