act like a champion today

So I just had a breakthrough, even though it’s been in front of my eyes since I was little.

Has that ever happened to you?

You hear something for years and it doesn’t totally make sense/you think you understand, and then BAM one day it hits you?? The marquee finally blinks in all of its’ glory!

Mine went a little something like this:

So, there’s a famous sign: “PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” that hangs in stairwell between the Norte Dame football locker room and the tunnel to the field. Tradition states that all the players touch the wall on their way out before game day. My dad is an ND alum, so we had a replica hanging in our basement growing up. Later, as I was choosing colleges- I ended up choosing UNC because I saw that same sign in a stairwell at the theatre department, only it read “ACT LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY”.  A literal sign I should go there.

Now flash-forward to post college, living in LA and my acting teacher said something along the lines of “LA is the Olympics of acting, so you better train (aka rehearse, practice, read scripts etc.) all the time if you are going to make it in this sea of actors”.

And even with all of these sports metaphors, I was still thinking about myself as an “actor” and weirdly that meant I felt guilty about getting help– I needed to figure it all out on my own because that’s what the great actors do right?? They just find the character, they know the beats of the scene, where it needs to go to tell the writer’s story etc. The greats do it all on their own.

And it’s ironic too because part of the reason I love what I am doing is I constantly get to LEARN. I’m a student of life, as corny as that sounds. But subconsciously I was blocking out help.

But recently it clicked. The “BAM” moment happened during another acting class, as the teacher- a series regular actress- said her career changed when she started thinking about her auditions with an athlete’s mentality. No longer were they this big once in a lifetime, must book or fail situations. Auditions became a game. This meant she was still training, approaching the text from a writer’s stand point and making the strongest choices based on what was on the page BUT she then scored herself post audition like she had just played a game of basketball. That took the audition more into her hands and totally changed her dynamic in the room.

*Most* athletes don’t beat themselves up after all of their losses– because statistically you can’t win them all. Instead, they look at game tapes and work on improving their plays so next time around they can give it a better shot. By approaching acting with the same mentality, it has allowed me to reimagine what winning and losing look like. I feel more in control because I know I have the tools, and can keep training on the parts that aren’t up to par (pun intended).

Not saying this is the way. It’s just the way that I now approach my work- and maybe it’ll help you, regardless of your profession. The same principles can be applied.

Now that the marquee’s lights are flashing (thank God!) I don’t need to feel less than because I work through scenes with an acting coach or another actor (aka teammate). And winning doesn’t just come in the form of booking the job. It comes from keep track of growth in the audition room, classroom and onscreen, of being consistent and great at what I do. Being an athlete means showing up to all days like they’re game days; ready to utilize the training, while also trusting your teammates, coaches and your own worth–and ultimately “PLAYING LIKE A CHAMPION” all the damn time.

acting advice: where to begin

I was recently asked by a rising college senior, let’s call him Greg, what “THE most intelligent move post college?” should be upon graduation for beginning his acting career.
Below is my response:
I am not going to bullshit you in my email, I’ll lay it out for you and hope it serves as a tool to help you make your decision.

You cannot make a wrong decision (unless you choose to go climb a mountain without proper supplies- I wouldn’t say it’s wrong, just foolish)

My hope in telling you that is to take off the pressure, not add to it. Graduation and entering the real world is a big transition, so don’t add on to that adjustment by hemming and hawing over what’s “THE most intelligent move post college”. Learn to trust your gut.

Treat Whichever City you Land in as if you are entering the olympics

When you go to LA/NYC/Chicago and enter your preferred field of TV/Film/Theatre/Improv, treat it as if you are entering the Olympics-that’s relevant right?! There are loads of talented people and even less-talented people who you will be competing with. Your job is to train your ass off so walking into an audition is just another “race in the pool”. Yes, you want to book the role, but you must be striving for your personal best, not your agent/manager/best friend/neighbor/girlfriend/co-worker etc best. Your job is to analyze the text, know what the writer’s aim for the scene is (she’s been hired after all, you haven’t yet), figure out your relationship with the other character and bring yourself to the scene.  I’m still practicing that. All. The. Time. And honestly will be throughout my acting career.

Regarding rejection, it happens all. the. time.

 Unlike the Olympics, you won’t have the benefit of seeing your “score”. So how do you deal with all of the countless “no’s?” You keep doing the work, you get a massage, go for a hike, find a solid group of friends. I can’t stress that enough.
Find your tribe and cling to them. Meet every week and hold each other accountable for tasks. As an actor we are building our own business.
That’s something that’s not highlighted enough in college.  You must realize that you are your own product and despite acting because you “love the craft” that’s only about 50% of the job. The other half (arguably more) is self-promotion/business.

YOUR TOOLKIT:

-professional headshot
-formatted resume
-acting clips
-solid training
-be realistic about what your type is: ask people/friends who aren’t biased what roles they’d see you playing. If you’re getting a lot of “mean girl” or “computer nerd” DON’T play against that initially. That will only help Casting Directors, Agents and Managers effectively pitch and cast you. And for you, that makes choosing scenes and headshots a lot easier. Play to your type!

get off your pedestal

Currently, I wait tables as my steady source of income. Do I wish I could stop today and only be making money via my art? Hell yes. But as actors we are freelancers, and until you reach a certain level the odd-jobs will be necessary to stay afloat. Bottom line: don’t think just because you went to university that you can’t do “menial jobs”. Obviously hold onto your self-worth, but realize that 99% of creatives, especially in LA, start at the bottom of the totem poll. Show up and be a team player- not someone with a sour attitude who bitches about XYZ.

Acknowledge jealously and be gone with it

There will be others who book jobs faster than you-don’t fall into the trap of sitting in jealously, the faster you learn to do that, the more open you are for other opportunities.
Everyone has a different path to success

Take vacations

AKA don’t be scared to leave for “fear of missing an opportunity”. There will always be others. Operating under the veil of fear will never your friend.

Relationships are key

Building them into lasting friendships is even more so. Don’t be the kind of actor who only reaches out when you need something. Become a trust-worthy ally. Casting Directors will bring you back because you’ve shown up in the past and rocked it, Directors will bring you back because you treated everyone respectfully, Casting Assistants will eventually become Casting Directors and will remember if you brushed them off. You know how Jennifer Lawrence worked with David O. Russell 3 films in a row? There was a trust and respect element there. Aim to bring that to all the people you meet!

define your own success

Read this post about I wrote on this topic.

and last but not least: you are a badass

Pursing acting is tough as shit, so keep reminding yourself that you are a badass. There will be lots of highs and lows, but they will all be easier if you have a healthy amount of self-love.

Hope this helps!! Let me know if there are any other specific questions you have and I’ll answer them too.

note to self

I call myself an “actress with an appetite”, right? You’ve seen the appetite part, but where does the actress come into play? I haven’t starred on a hit TV show, let alone had a one-line role on a sitcom. Perhaps the title for my blog should be “aspiring-actress-with-an-appetite-(that-she-should-control-because-the-camera-adds-10-lbs)”. But it’s not. And never will be.

As a 5 year old, I told my mom “I want to be an actress and waitress” (smart kid I was!). And I have been pursuing that dream ever since. Not always in the most direct routes, but one of the things I value in life is to “experience it”. Fully. I chose to attend college, I leave LA to visit friends and family frequently, I don’t obsess over calories, and I don’t allow fear of not being the person they [Hollywood} want dictate my decisions (98% of the time). Obviously there are moments when I doubt myself, AND I didn’t waltz in to LA three years ago with this mindset. But I’ve learned self-confidence and a good dose of “you are enough” mantras of are key to a happy creative lifestyle.

Right now I audition, not frequently, but getting into rooms. I am making my own content and wine videos. It’s not the average path to getting a role, but it’s my way. There’s a quote out there about how “when a spaceship launches it inevitably ends up diverting off the scheduled-course numerous times before landing on the moon.” I have to be my own champion and define my own success in order to not throw in the towel. I am going to land on the moon damnit! It might not be next week, but I will keep working hard in order to land that role.

NOTE TO SELF:

I am an actress and I have a huge appetite for life (donuts, fried chicken, and cereal milk soft serve). Keep doing you. It’s worth the time spent. Believe in yourself.

NOTE TO FRIENDS AND READERS:
  • Stay creative (if that’s what you like)
  • Do things that bring you happiness (try a bunch of activities if you’re not sure what that is)
  • Define your own success (if you leave it up to others, you’ll never feel fulfilled)
  • 99% of the time, at least look at the dessert list (1% of the time you’ll be so full you’ll need to be wheeled out of the joint)

Let me know what you’re pursuits are, I’d love to watch, listen, participate, and promote in any way I can.