We show the evolution from the earliest frame-by-frame synthetic actors to real-time perceptive actors living in distributed virtual environments or even in the real world. We first compare requirements and methods for frame-by-frame and real-time actors. Then, we introduce a new classification of synthetic actors with four categories: participants, guided actors, autonomous actors, and interactive perceptive actors. Actors of this last category are not only aware of other actors and real people, but they are also able to communicate with them