Drew Droege and the Hollywood Acting Studio

Drew Droege is hilarious and if you haven’t seen his fake Chloe Sevigny videos, then you’re really missing out. Backstage recently wrote an article about his latest series – The Hollywood Acting Studio – and interviewed Droege.

The article is insightful and really shines a light on what you need to do to stay focused on your career. There’s a ton of great advice in it, but my favorite quote is:

“I teach improv and I tell students, “You have the Internet. Make your own stuff and put it out there.” You have to be active in the whole thing; you can’t just be a lump of clay. Be creative and realize you bring a lot more to it.”

Enjoy the clip below. I’ll be watching on Starz Digital Media.

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You Don’t Know Jack

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson claims that he’s quitting acting. The 73 year-old claims that the main reason is that he’s forgetting lines and “memory loss” is causing him to bow out of the lime light. While part of me congratulates the septuagenarian for gracefully going out on top, part of me also feels like it’s a publicity stunt. Remember when Joaquin Phoenix claimed that he was quitting acting to be a rapper?  Or even Johnny Depp’s saying that he’ll be quitting acting soon.

Aging actors: you’re not dead yet! And just because you had a box office flop like Rango or The Lone Ranger doesn’t mean that your career is done.  Truthfully, Nicholson has had a long string of successes so he has earned the right to retire or do anything else he wants, but as a fan I’m disappointed and want him to keep going. Besides, if this woman can still be performing into her nineties why can’t you Jack??

Betty White Visits Fuse's "No. 1 Countdown"

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The Valley

I saw La La La, L.A.!: A Puppet Musical a few weeks ago. It was essentially Avenue Q in Hollywood. Hilarious, funny, and so true it hurt. Here’s the great number “The Valley,” about a newbie wannabe writer who can’t decide where to live in LA. For the record, I live in Hollywood and work in the Valley. It’s not that bad, but then again I did live in Philly for 10 years.

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The fine art of the Quadruple (Quintuple?) Take

Sir Patrick Stewart’s girlfriend films the actor giving a masterclass on the art of the “double take” in comedy. All aspiring comedians watch and learn. In truth, the last take may be the illusive “quintuple take”:

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Mailings!

I’ve been doing mass mailings lately to put myself out there in the LA market.  A coworker and fellow actor, Michael, recommended that I get envelopes from Samuel French that have a window for your headshot to be seen.  So I did.  Submitted for your approval, if you ever wanted to know what 20 of me looked like:

Headshots

On another note: the guy at the post office in Encino now knows me by name.

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Celebrity Sighting 101

Paparazzi“A celebrity is any well-known TV or movie star who looks like he spends more than two hours working on his hair.” – Steve Martin

Los Angeles is the land of celebrities.  Leave Griffith Observatory to those wishing to gaze at the constellations, if you want to see the stars my friends, head to The ‘Bu, BH, and WeHo (Malibu, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood respectively).  The stars shine bright here and seeing Jennifer Lawrence at Whole Foods is comparable to seeing an albino tiger in the jungles of Bengal.

There are those in LA who bemoan seeing celebrities.  However, I’ve learned in my six months here that if you buy an Angeleno a drink, they love to gush about the time they saw Richard Gere pumping gas or Catherine Zeta Jones yelling at a waiter.  I’ve also learned that there’s a code of etiquette in approaching your favorite celeb. Here are the three commandments that were passed down to me by the booming voice of Orson Welles from a burning bush on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Rule 1: Does thou care

Great! You just saw one of the Gilmore Girls at The Grove. Get as close as you can and breathe that intoxicating scent of fame and glamor.  Ok, so maybe you only saw the show once or twice when you were flipping through the channels.  But she’s a celebrity and you’re pretty sure her name is Lexi, or is it Alexis?  You should say something, right?  Wrong!  If you don’t know their name or flat out don’t like them, don’t suck up to them in real life.  If you see Neil Patrick Harris in Studio City and you went as Doogie Howser for Halloween, it is completely acceptable to say hello.

Rule 2: Speak trippingly on the tongue

Introduce yourself to NPH and let him know you’re a big fan.  There’s nothing wrong with expressing your love for one of your idols.  Insert any odd facts, or bit of trivia that you have to impress your celeb.  You’re not a run-of-the-mill fan after all, you know that Neil Patrick Harris voiced the Spider-Man video game in 2009.  Being a crazy fan is to be avoided at all costs.  If you see Jodi Foster in an aisle at CVS and say “Put the lotion in the basket!” it probably won’t make her want to talk to you.  A simple introduction will suffice and if you must snap a photo of you and them, try not to be a tool about it.  Besides, if the photo doesn’t come out great, you can always “fix it in post.”

3. Vox populi

Question: If you saw Benedict Cumberbatch at The Beverly Center but didn’t tell anyone, did you really see Benedict Cumberbatch at all?  After you’ve said farewell to your new celebrity BFF, and got their autograph or photo with you, it’s time to tell all your friends.  Brag to everyone about how cool they were, and how surprised you were to see them.  If you can’t think of anything to say, you can also rely on the old phrase, “they were nothing like the character they played – they were just like a real person.”  This will instill in them the fact that celebrities really are like the rest of us.  And they are just like us, except with nicer cars, bigger houses, and much better hair.

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My Own Private Delaware

I was in Delaware this weekend for my cousin Chip’s wedding. It was a short trip that was filled with family.  It was great to be home, and the trip was such a whirlwind of festivities and fun, that it wasn’t until I was seated in the plane, gazing out the window and looking down at Delaware that the emotions began to flood over me.  I’ve looked at Googlemaps a bunch of times, and I analyzed the different neighborhoods, houses, and land, but I’d never flown over the state before. I was suddenly struck by the fact that I no longer live in the Delaware Valley.

Easter 1987There are moments in life where you reconcile your past life with your present one.  I looked down at my house in Darley Woods and looked back, as I replayed the moments my brother and I explored the forest as kids.  We climbed in storm drains, caught tadpoles, and found a rock that we swore was a diamond and would most definitely make us rich.  Then there was Ashbourne Swim Club, where I was a good swimmer, and the little league field off I-95 where I was a not so good baseball player.  Then Concord High School, where an angsty sixteen year-old played Dashboard Confessional in his Chevy Cavalier and thought that the education system was designed to make people slaves to the man.

Throwback Photos-2I remember all of the versions of Michael who grew up in Delaware and I smile – especially at the self-loathing teenager.  “Yes,” it will be amazing to see any R-rated movie you want to, and “Yes,” it will also suck when you have to pay your credit card bills and wonder where all your money went.  I look back at the Michaels in Delaware as a twenty-eight year old adult.  It’s suddenly apparent that I’ll be 30 soon and not only will my childhood be gone, but so will my early adulthood.

It’s also when I’m thousands of feet in the air that I remember one of my favorite books growing up, Winesburg, Ohio.  My favorite part was the end where the reporter, George Williard, gets on the train to leave his town and thinks about the small things, the people and places that touched him, and he’s reminded that the town he grew up in was the background needed to paint the dreams of his future.  Delaware is one of those strange, small places that I’m happy to call home.

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Life on the 101

I lost my way, that’s what she said, back to the 101 – Albert Hammond, Jr.

los-angeles-trafficThe intersection where the 101 meets the 405 is the most congested intersection in the United States. I drive through the bottleneck traffic jam everyday to get to work.  A sixteen mile commute from my apartment in Hollywood to the Warner Center in Woodland Hills, can take as short as twenty-five minutes, and as long as an hour and ten minutes. When driving on the freeways in Los Angeles, one has to resign themselves to the fact that their commute could take double – or even triple – the time they expected.

When traffic is moving and the sunshine beats down on the palm trees and rolling hills in the distance, the 101 feels like a road leading you to paradise.  When traffic is at a standstill and the freeway becomes a parking lot, the 101 feels like hell at a stand still. My commute in Philly consisted of me taking the 34 trolley to work every day. Even when a trolley broke down or I had to jump over vomit on the steps leading up to the seats, it was a shared experience. We’d all grumble together and blame SEPTA.  Their “We’re trying” motto on the subway billboards was an acknowledgement that even they knew they were sub par.  When you’re stuck in traffic in your car, you place the blame internally, “Should I have taken Ventura Blvd?” “Why didn’t I check Sigalert before I left the house this morning?”

You'll Never Get to Work in TimeJust because you’re alone, doesn’t mean you’re not provided with prime people watching opportunities.  Women apply makeup in the mirror above their driver’s seat and men brush their teeth as motorcycles split lanes and whiz by – a practice completely legal in California, which still manages to startle me even when I see them coming in the rear view mirror.  The 101 is the main artery into the San Fernando Valley and whether its clogged or the traffic is coursing heartily through its veins, on a weekly basis I see bits of tire, detached bumpers on the side of the road, or a totaled car.  A sober reminder, that according to the National Highway Safety Administration, there are at least 30,000 fatal deaths from car crashes each year.

In LA, a city that feels like it has never lost the buzz and excitement of the gold rush, where “making it” seems just one phone call away, and the odds of fame and fortune seem stacked in your favor, the car crashes are a visual reminder that some people don’t make it. I’ve been haunted recently by talk of people leaving LA because “things weren’t working out for them.” When I hear this news, the same thought enters my mind when I see a car crash, “That could’ve been me.”  Yet, it’s not me – I feel optimistic about the future and while it may be naivete, I feel that taking small risks, like driving a car, or large risks, like moving across country to pursue a dream, is better than a life of regret.

I try to remind myself of these things when I’m stuck in gridlock traffic on the 101 watching someone floss their teeth in a Prius.

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My Silver Linings Playbook

Roll out the red carpet, call Harvey Weinstein, inject some botox in Joan Rivers, and don’t remind Leonardo DiCaprio – Oscar time is fast approaching in Los Angeles. Hollywood Boulevard has officially been closed off between Highland and La Brea in anticipation of the big event at the Dolby Theater this Sunday.

I won’t be attending the 85th Academy Awards this weekend, but I can beam with pride knowing that my likeness has been captured on celluloid in Silver Linings Playbook, one of the nominated Best Picture films. I know as an actor, you’re not technically supposed to mention extra work on your resume, and many think it’s demeaning, but critics be damned, I think it’s kind of cool.  Sure I’m only in a few blink-and-you-miss scenes where I’m dressed as an astronaut and a wolf during the Halloween segments, but it’s fun to feel some invested interest in a movie.  Although invites, nominations, and heck even SAG eligibility escape the extra, it does give you the right to say things like, “I remember when David O. Russell was setting up that shot, and Bradley Cooper had to do five takes because he kept messing up.” or “Jennifer Lawrence really is grounded and probably our generations’ Meryl Streep.”

I’m rooting for SLP of course, although I’ve been informed that Argo is slated to win. Argo can win and Hollywood can feel good about itself – especially after they’ve come under fire this year from Congress about violence and gun control issues – knowing that the movie industry played an integral part in the rescue of American hostages in Iran.  Silver Linings, however has grit.  It’s a damaged love story set in Philly and is about second chances and hope in the face of despair.  When I went home for Christmas, my Mom and Dad watched the movie together.  They pointed me out of course, but laughed and cried along with the film.

I was moved during a pivotal scene with Bradley Cooper when he says, “The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again.”  As a lowly extra in a film, and an actor new to Los Angeles with great expectations, it’s dialogue, and a movie that I can identify with.  Now off to grab some popcorn and root for the home team.

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Los Angeles, I’m Yours

This week will mark three months since I moved to LA.  The honeymoon phase has ended and the reality of settling into my newly adopted city has become a reality. I realize that in chronicling my journey out west on my blog, I never completed the last chapter. For those who read it, I’ve been stuck seeing Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, like some weird Sisyphean character that is forced to watch the same bawdy burlesque show night after night!  I apologize for not completing the journey. I’d like to say that I was holding off until I could make an accurate impression of what LA was and how I felt in it, but the truth is I didn’t know what to say.

Since I moved, I’ve continued the momentum by going full speed ahead. I landed a social media job at Kono Social, where I manage small businesses’ social media accounts. It’s similar to the work I did with ChatterBlast before I left. They hired me (after reading my blog no less!) and mentioned that they’d be willing to be flexible if I wanted to audition.  To my actor friends, I’m a sellout for having a full-time job, and to the finance department of my company, I’m a bohemian that gets to wear jeans and hoodies to work. I think I like it best that way. I had heard too many stories before I moved of young actors and comedians who came to LA only to work odd jobs that barely paid the bills.  They would leave after a year when it didn’t happen for them, feeling crushed and defeated. I refuse to believe that a creative life is synonymous with a life of poverty.

On a lighter – or dare I say sunnier – note, the weather is phenomenal and I’ve loved gloating to all of my friends back east when they complain about the cold. “Yeah, the weather’s been kind of bad here too, it rained for a little bit this morning but now it’s sunny and 72.”  I’ve started taking classes at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB) so that’s satisfying my performing outlet.  It’s humbling to start training again after being on a successful improv house team in Philly, but when I look back, I realize that I never really had a solid foundation at an acting or comedy school outside of Temple. I’ll admit that oftentimes my ego gets in the way of doing good work and training. It’s great to be at the center of the entertainment industry and to meet creative and inspiring people who are always working on something – directing a webseries, starring in a commercial, or writing a one-man-show.  There’s a buzz here that I love.  If Philly was a place to experiment artistically, Los Angeles is the place to use the tools you have to make it happen.

There are parts of the city that frustrate me to no end – the never ending traffic, the let’s hang out soon mentality of people who “like totally want to hang out,” but you can never track them down to schedule anything, and the high price of gasoline and everything else in the city. Full disclosure: LA has reminded me that for the past ten years I totally missed driving and I love having a car.  Through my darkest and most doubting moments, and there have been plenty, I feel confident in my move and I’m proud to say that my head is still above water.  In 1913, William Mulholland made a speech at the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. The water system would help the fledgling metropolis to irrigate the land and create a population boom. Mulholland bellowed, “There it is. Take it.”  For me, those five words uttered one-hundred years ago are still a slogan for those that flock to the city in search of something more.

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