My past three blogs have been about the business of being an actor. I’m going to jump forward here and talk briefly about how we define a successful actor. Better yet, what is success? How do you define it?
It’s tough to talk about success in acting. There are many stars who are truly successes; you can read about them in magazines and hear about them on Entertainment Tonight. Is that success? What does it take to be considered a success? Someone may be successful in certain areas, but does that make them a true success? I have a doctor friend who makes a lot of money, and is considered a huge success in his field. But he’s told me many times that he doesn’t see himself as a success in life. I looked up success in a thesaurus and came up with some words: achievement, accomplishment, victory, triumph, winner, sensation. The dictionary defines it as “attainment of goals, wealth, position, honors, or the like.”
As actors, success is relative. If you’re on a series, you’re clearly a success by certain standards. If the series ends after one season, and you are unemployed for six months, are you no longer a success? Are you only a success when you have a job and are working? Many actors define their success by whether they are working on something, or making money. Is that a good measurement? Is that the only measurement?
I have a dear friend who I‘ve known for more than 10 years, who very recently passed away. He was a former student, actor, all around theater and artist gentleman, an excellent electrician, and a dear personal, family friend. I’ve been thinking a lot about him lately, as I miss his physical presence in my life and at The Actors Workout Studio, where he has been involved for so many years, both on and off stage.
His name is Paul Respass, and he was a very talented actor. Some of you reading this know him and may have seen his work. Others never heard of him. Was he a successful actor? Depends who you talk to. To me, he was a huge success. He was a successful man, actor, human, artist, and friend.
This was his journey. He started out with a dream to be an actor. He was nervous, and didn’t know if he “had what it takes” (the subject of an upcoming blog). He believed he had something to share and give to the world. He wanted to express that through the various characters that he wanted to play. He started in my beginners class, was a dedicated student, frightened at first; then got bolder, and into the work he went. He studied diligently, asked a lot of questions, volunteered at theaters doing lights, tech, wanting to make his contribution in as many ways as he could. He was generous and compassionate. Those were qualities he had that he could bring to the good guys and the disturbed guys, which were his signature roles.
He would return to the beginner’s class year after year, because he wanted to help the new, young actors get past their fears, as it was something he understood and for which he had compassion. He continued studying and began doing theater, small parts at first, then larger. He got head shots, resumes, did the business portion, and started getting cast in shorts, independent films, web shows, and more. After several years I remember people calling the theater and asking for “that guy, you know, that Paul guy, I liked him and think he be right for this project. Can I have his number?”
We had a writer’s workshop for several years, and I noticed that the writers were starting to write specifically for Paul. He had a unique quality that told a story, his characters had an emotional life and history that only Paul could convey. I’m not going to cite his resume here, but he worked plenty on stage and on screen. There was one web show in particular, “The NoHo Show” that took place in a small theater in North Hollywood. The part was written for him, and the show won awards. I’ve read great theater reviews about Paul Respass over the years.
So was Paul a success? I guess it depends who you ask. He didn’t make the cover of People magazine or sign a million-dollar movie contract, but to me he was a demonstration of living a successful actor’s life and career. He was loved, respected, inviting, compassionate, and talented. He pursued his dreams and lived his purpose to the fullest. I didn’t see much of him this past year, because it seemed he was working on one project after the other. He did make time to come to our AWS Spring Festival in April to see the other actors and to “help out,” which he always did without being asked. He was a generous artist. To those who knew him, he was a comfort, inspiration, and respected talent.
Paul wanted his work and characters to bring up something in people, to challenge their thinking and perception, to inspire them. Even after he is gone and all I have are his memories, he is still inspiring me. Thank you, Paul for being such a demonstration of what an actor is and can be. You are a success.
Look within. Are you living a successful life? Perhaps you may want to redefine, what is success? So, what is it? What does being successful mean to you?