I was teaching an Introduction to Acting class in Boyle Heights last week.
I had just explained all the topics we would be covering in the next 10 weeks. I asked the students a few basic questions; “What is your name? Where do you live? And what are you doing here?” Many of the students answered; “I want to be a storyteller,” “I want to play roles that are so far away from who I am,” and “I want to express myself through acting.” Then a student asked me how long I had been an actor and without hesitation I said, “This is my 30th year as an actor. After a few oohs and ahhs, I suddenly feared that the next question might possibly be, “Why are you not famous and why are you still teaching?” Fortunately, that question never came up, but it did take me back in time to the day I decided to move back to Hollywood and commit to being a full-time actor.
“Instant Family” movie, Tig Notaro, Rosemary Dominguez 2018
There was a stagehands strike in 1992 and suddenly auditions as well as TV and film jobs dried up for a bit. Couple this with my disenchantment with teaching tennis at two clubs in Connecticut, the discovery of my new found love for acting, I had to make a change. I had been living a very financially comfortable life as the head tennis professional at a winter club and a summer club making a ridiculous amount of money, but suddenly that wasn’t enough. I wanted to move back to Hollywood and continue to work as an actor. I thought about it long and hard and then discussed it with my family. I was about to take my family away from a life of leisure and a degree of privilege to an unknown life in the big city and the knowledge that I may not find a job right away. So, we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly, Hills that is. Swimming pools, movie stars. Well, not quite. We arrived back in Hollywood with all the optimism in the world. After all, I had three films coming out with small but memorable roles.
“Thrasher Road” movie 2018
I managed to get a job teaching tennis at the La Cienega Tennis Centre. It was a part-time job that would suffice until our savings dried up. I acquired a theatrical and commercial agent almost right away. Between tennis lessons, auditions and commercial work, I really thought I had arrived. Now it was all a matter of time before I got famous. The first film to come out was, “Hangin’ with the Homeboys” and it won the grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Just before the film was released in L.A., I found out from a friend in New York who informed me that he and I were cut out of the film. No problem, I have two more films being released soon. The next film was, “The Super” starring Joe Pesci. The director, Rod Daniel, decided to do reshoots in the scene I had with Joe Pesci, but I was in L.A., so, once again I was left on the cutting room floor. Three’s the charm they say, the third film that would cement my overnight stardom was “Other People’s Money” starring Gregory Peck and Danny DeVito. This time I heard from a friend of my in New York that said he saw the movie at a test screening and that my part, along with a long monologue, had made the cut. That’s all I needed to hear. I bundled up the family and I purchased five tickets opening day. The premiere was in New York, but I was going to have my own premiere. We sat in the dark waiting for my big monologue and the beginning of my new life as a Hollywood big shot. It never came. My scene was cut and the film got mixed to unfavorable reviews. I was gutted, but my family celebrated anyway. I was famous in their eyes. I always would be.
So, what is the moral of the story?
I learned that I cannot control a great many things in this business. Will my agent get in the room of big roles? Will I have auditions five days a week, three times a day? Will I be discovered from a short film and thrust into stardom? The only thing I have control over is the work I put into my craft and putting myself out there. The only other thing that I know I can always count on is the fact that this business is a marathon and to the hangers on go the success. The hangers up, not so much. Success and fame come in all sorts of guises Every time I get an audition, a callback, book any job, and perform, it’s a kind of success and fame. And so goes on the journey.