Let me start of with referencing two articles, one from the UK and the other from the US.
The Guardian has this nice article from 2011: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2011/sep/25/readers-editor-actor-or-actress
When the Observer and the Guardian published their new joint style
guide last year, this clause appeared: "Use for both male and female
actors; do not use actress except when in name of award, eg Oscar for
It was the guide's view that "actress comes into the same category as
authoress, comedienne, manageress, 'lady doctor', 'male nurse' and
similar obsolete terms that date from a time when professions were
largely the preserve of one sex (usually men).
As Whoopi Goldberg put it in an interview with the paper: 'An actress
can only play a woman. I'm an actor – I can play anything.'
There is normally no need to differentiate between the sexes – and if
there is, the words male and female are perfectly adequate: Lady Gaga
won a Brit in 2010 for best international female artist.
Tellingly, the (UK) performers' union Equity has no policy on this. "We
don't feel there is a consensus," said a spokesman. "In fact, the
subject divides the profession."
On the same topic, here is another article from 2009 in the LA times: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jan/18/entertainment/ca-actress18
As anyone who follows entertainment news has become aware over the
last decade or so, most thespians of the female persuasion now refer
to themselves as actors, not actresses. Journalists and other
nonactors, to varying degrees, are getting with the gender-neutral
program. On the one hand this change in usage is informed by the
egalitarian impulse that has pushed aside "stewardess" for "flight
attendant" and, less successfully, "waitress" for the ungainly
"waitperson" or ambience-free "server."
On the other hand, it points up the limits of language neutrality and
the unique qualities of the acting profession, raising questions with
particular resonance in this long season of awards.
Methods of interpreting dramatic roles may vary from school to school,
performer to performer, but there is no gender-defined difference in
process. An actor is an actor. Still, that raises the question of
award categories. If there is no difference in craft between men and
women, why separate them when it's time to celebrate their
accomplishments? The goal of an equal-opportunity spotlight is
laudable, but how long is it necessary?
The Screen Actors Guild, which might be considered the last word on
what working performers believe, continues to divide its honors
between men and women, as do most organizations, critics' groups and
festivals that present acting awards.
Coming to your questions:
Is it currently practiced everywhere? To natives - have you every
called them actress or they are just actors and not even female
I think the two articles above indicate how we might be moving to using the gender-neutral word actor, across both sides of the Atlantic. Given there aren't any strong negative connnotations to the word actress, this change would be slow and may never fully take effect. Here in India, the term actor is often used to refer to both men and women who act.
If I use a female actor, will it sound normal? If I prefer only
actress, is that okay?
I'd probably put the question back to you and ask why do you want to specify the gender? It might probably boil down to one of two things:
- If it is the name of an award then it seems acceptable to use "actress" (as mentioned above).
- On the other hand, if you're doing a casting call (a role that needs 2 men and 3 women) you might prefer saying "I need 2 male and 3 female actors".
Also, take a look at the same question that was asked on ELU: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/3349/female-actor-or-actress