As a kid, I wanted to be like Gilda Radner. I watched Monty Python late at night. In high school, I was cast in a few plays and in college, I pursued radio. After seeing a little documentary about my favorite SNL actors and how they were united by Second City, I began to commute to Chicago on weekends for improv classes at Players Workshop.
I worked various jobs in advertising, helped an ex start a business, worked at an industrial record label, booked bands at the Morseland Music Room (RIP) and other venues for a year, temped for media and higher end office furniture companies. Upon taking classes at Second City, I found happiness, a renewed sense of individuality and camaraderie. My last job there was going nowhere and an on/off relationship had lost spark from the too many offs. I began to take weekend jaunts to NYC, staying in hostels, and living two lives. It was great to have a sense of privacy and feel like a door was opening. One day, I decided to put my resume on NY's craigslist. Shortly after, I received an invitation to interview with two VP's who happened to be in town. A month later, I flew out with a job in waiting, a backpack and two months worth of hostel reservations.
The job wasn't to last and I knew this from day one. But I spent time pursuing theater, learning about the business, submitting for acting jobs, eventually getting some paid non-union commercial/industrial gigs, did a bunch of stand-up, too.
I finally joined AFTRA. That was a fun day. I shared the elevator with a beautiful, well put together gal. At the front desk, the administrator asked her if she got her waivers from background work. In a very uppity tone, "Uh, NO. I don't do background." He asked me the same. "Background." Interesting tension, there.
A turning point was when the company went under two years later. It wasn't a good time to find a similar job so I did a lot of background work which was enjoyable when the studio was in walking distance and winter days were spent indoors with great food. However, there wasn't enough work. "They moved production back to Los Angeles." "I guess I should go there."
No job in waiting, just a backpack, little savings, small bank account in LA inherited from my Dad's passing, a couple of boxes to be shipped and temporary accommodations to live with a photographer a couple of blocks from another apartment I wished to live at.
I'd never been to LA. I did a google map walk around the area and Compton.
Work was scarce at first. I kept a spreadsheet of agencies, background companies, submitted like crazy, kept track of submissions, responses, etc. I think it was maybe the week I moved that SAG and AFTRA merged and that was a big deal. I was grandfathered in so I didn't have to save up more money, get more waivers.
There was one day I was angry, on the bus and thought to myself, "I need work right now!" My phone rang and I was asked if I could do background for True Blood. Yes. "But ... you'd have to be fully nude for two days." "Yes, I'll go nude!" I got some looks on the bus.
It wasn't as bad as I thought and nude work means more money, plus, it was True Blood. Production decided to split men and women into two cages. The hair lady blessed me by teasing and greasing my hair over my face. On set, I headed straight to the back of the cage and that's where I stayed, crouched out of sight with long hours and great pay.
I got tired of trying to find an agent and the day after my last submission, thinking, "I'm done", I got called in to audition.
Then they signed me.
A few months later, I had an audition for a company with an unrecognizable name (big brands use phony names, sometimes). It was a hot day. I was supposed to dress sophisticated but I didn't have any nice clothes so I "Johnny Depp'd" it, went in kind of sloppy but comfortable with myself.
What I didn't know is that in auditions, they'll ask something like, "What's your favorite book?" You don't actually talk about the book. You go off passionately about what might be related to the book. My choice was quite grim but it was enjoyable to me.
I left thinking, "My poor agent. I have no idea what I'm doing."
Then I booked it. It was a national, union spot for Microsoft.
You never know when a spot is going to come out, they don't tell you. One night, I was in my second apartment, a very small, dismal spot. I was logging off of Facebook when the next screen popped up and there was my damn face holding a phone. I lurched back and mumbled a lot of profanities. Then I started getting notifications the next day about being on friend's screens.
During this time, I had a couple of UK pen pals, became obsessed with UK news and begged the universe to somehow get me there. After that gig, I booked a flight. My first international flight since 1986 and it was 2012.
In London, we went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Before it started, there were a bunch of commercials for different devices. I joked they should play the Microsoft commercial. Moments later, bloody hell, there was my big face on the screen. I clapped like an idiot because in the big scheme of things, I don't know how I made it from Saginaw, MI, wanting to be an actor to being in London on a screen. Ridiculous. What crazy timing of it and everything.
Anyway. It hasn't been an easy path. There's a hell of a lot of strife and crazy things I'm not mentioning but that's for a book someday. I'm thankful for all of it because every closed door has pushed me to find an open one. I'm thankful for the sense of persistence I have which, despite annoying myself, has been helpful. Every bad thing has prepared me to deal with greater obstacles.
From strength to strength.