I’ve received tons of letters from people asking advice about the entertainment industry and, in particular, pursing a life as an actor. People have also asked how I got to be on The Office. This blog, I hope, will address some of those questions.
I grew up in St. Louis Missouri. I always wanted to be an actor but when you grow up in a place like St. Louis that is sort of like saying, “I want to be a superhero when I grow up”. It hardly seems real. The world of Hollywood is mysterious. You hear stories of girls being discovered at ball games. Success is about having “it” or being pretty or some other intangible magic. You have no model for how to succeed. Everyone’s story is different. One person does stand-up for 15 years and then gets a TV show, someone else finances their own movie and it takes off at a festival and suddenly they are the hottest thing. But for each of those people there are thousands of stand-up comics and filmmakers who never got their break. How do you know what to do?
I thought being an actor meant being famous. But, most actors aren’t recognizable. It’s funny. I watch TV in a whole new way now. Like, I watch a show and I see the person who has 3 lines on Law and Order and I think, “Their family is gathered around the TV flipping out right now. I bet that was a huge deal for that person!” There are so many actors that make a living by doing support work on shows. I was that person for many years. For me to stay in this business, it had to be okay if I was never recognized. I learned that I loved the craft of acting more than the idea of being famous.
My first piece of advice to someone who is serious about being a professional television or film actor is: move to Los Angeles. Moving to Los Angeles can be difficult but it is the only city that doesn’t put a ceiling on where you can go with your career. New York is the place to go if you want to do theater. But if you want to be in film and television, move to LA.
I had a teacher once who said, “If you can think of anything else you are passionate about besides acting, do that. Your life will be better for it.” I actually think that might be good advice. I couldn’t come up with anything so I moved to LA.