Industry Pro: Actor Josh Randall
Josh Randall works a lot. Even when he’s not shooting a film or TV show, he is at meetings and auditions for upcoming projects. And, as he says below, the work you do to get the work is often more arduous than actually shooting a role. But he’s obviously doing something right on both counts, as he is a very sought-after member of the Hollywood community. YII was lucky to get a chance to find out about his journey and pass along a few of his hard-earned lessons to our readers.
Current part: I am about to shoot a movie called SAY HELLO TO STAN TALMADGE directed by David Moreton. They’ve shot most of it and the director decided he wanted to add another dimension to it, a window into the future. The rest of the movie takes place in the 70s, I am in the present day.
College & degree: I started as a Civil Engineering major at UC Davis, but I realized engineering wasn’t for me and ultimately got a degree in English lit with a creative writing emphasis from San Francisco State.
Internships (if any): Nope. I worked as a grip on movies while I was a student (practically for free), but that was more of an apprenticeship.
Acting while in school (professional or amateur): The first major thing I did that made me think I should be an actor was in college. I was paired with a playwright in a writing class who had me read scenes from his work with him. He ended up putting on a play at school and cast me as one of the three leads.
Day job while you were working towards being a working actor: I was a grip, mostly on rap videos. I started out during school and then after graduation, carrying sandbags and eventually working on technical aspects of the job. I had a DP friend and I ended up as a key grip on some of his jobs. He kept me afloat while I was doing theater and striving to be a working actor. I always had a play in my tool belt that I would study during down time.
First post-graduate acting job: It was a play in Berkeley, one of my favorite acting experiences to date (and it actually paid a little). Around the same time, I was working as a grip on a movie in Santa Cruz called SOMEBODY IS WAITING with Gabriel Byrne starring and Martin Donovan directing. They needed someone to play the main bank robber. They thought I looked mean so I got the job.
How did you get repped? I’d moved to LA and gotten some things on my own so I had a head shot and a bit of a resume and I knew an assistant at Don Buchwald. I got hip-pocketed (Editor’s note: That’s where an agent sends you out without actually signing you as a client.) I got a few auditions, went on some things and didn’t get them then, and while I was out of town on a family emergency, they dropped me. First real rep was a manager named Carolyn Govers. She repped me for seven years and was really, really helpful. That changed things for me after she signed me.
What was your first significant paid acting role? I did a pilot called “Stuckeyville” for CBS, which CBS decided not to pick up. But since Worldwide Pants, David Letterman’s company, was the producer of “Stuckeyville,” Les Moonves, the head of CBS, agreed to let them shop it around to other networks (which was unprecedented at the time- typically, when a network doesn’t pick up a pilot it develops, that project is dead). It was refashioned as “Ed” for NBC the next year. It was a huge deal for my career. I’d done little guests roles- one on “Angel,” for instance- but nothing like this.
Since then? I’ve done several pilots that didn’t get picked up, including one called “True” with Ann Heche created by Kari Lizer (“The New Adventures of Old Christine”), and a bunch of guest star roles. I was also on a series called “Courting Alex,” which was on for 13 episodes. One of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had was working on “Pushing Daisies.” After two episodes, I was scheduled to go back for more, and was thrilled about what Bryan Fuller had described was in store for my character, but sadly ABC did not pick up the show for the back nine (episodes).
Do you continue to train (acting classes, coaches, workshops)? I always challenge myself to learn. I think it’s important, particularly to retain a sense of enthusiasm (the audition process, when you are lucky enough to get sent out a lot, can start to feel like a means to an end). I continue studying with new people because it keeps it challenging and interesting. I worked with Tom Todoroff in the early years. I was in class with Invana Chubbuck for a while. Now I train privately, and have also worked with Steppenwolf West. There’s something great about being in a play or even working on a scene in a class, that helps preserve whatever it was that made you want to be an actor in the first place.
Has ageism been a factor in your experience as an actor? Not so much for me, because I was cast a little older when I was in my 20s and now I’m playing my age. But I think it’s particularly an issue for women. To be an actor by profession is very challenging, but for women, it’s that much more so.
Have you used your acting career- or are you planning to use it- as a way of branching into producing or directing? I haven’t yet- though I was on the boards to direct an episode of “Ed.” Unfortunately, the season got cut short, but I’d started to prepare and pay attention in a very specific way at that time, so I got a lot out of the experience. I would like to make my own movies that I would write and direct.
Eureka moment (when you realized you did or did not want to do something or that you should do something differently, etc.): I’d been playing basketball at San Francisco State and I was in my last year of eligibility and a play came up and I had to decide whether to be on the basketball team or do the play. I realized there was something more significant and defining about the play. I was nervous about making that decision, but as time went by, I realized more and more that it was the right one.
Describe a typical work day (either when you are working on a project or working to get a new project): In some ways, a “going to set” day can be easier than a “going out to acquire work” day. If you have more than one big audition in a day, it can be really trying. For one, it can be challenging to stay up and be sharp during a day of auditions, whereas when you are working on set, you have the luxury of other actors to work off of. Also, at the very least, you get a camera rehearsal, and you don’t have to actually create the world as much, you have the world laid out for you. When auditioning, you are driving all over town, getting yourself fed, and having a couple of changes of clothes for multiple appointments. You’re a suited up lawyer for one role and a blue collar worker for another, for instance. It can make for a challenging day.
Best thing about being a working actor: To make a living doing something creative is a pretty great thing, and something to be grateful for no matter how trying aspects of it can be at times. I also love getting to travel and meet new people all the time.
Worst thing about being a working actor: No matter where you are in your career, stability is going to remain an illusion. It’s always a bit of a fight no matter where you are in the pecking order.
Brush with greatness: Very early on, when I was a grip on SOMEBODY IS WAITING, I was on the set watching Gabriel Byrne doing a scene and it didn’t look like much was happening. That night, like every night, the cast and crew watched dailies being projected in 35 mm. I remember watching Gabrielle Byrne’s close up and there was so much going on, even though he wasn’t doing much. It was a learning experience.
Secret of your success/advice to the newbie: I think it’s really important to have something else in life to ground you. It could be meditation or religion for someone, community service, a meaningful family life, or another creative endeavor, something. As actors, we’re always being told when we can act and when we can’t and having something else in life will minimize the career peaks and valleys. Also, if you go into an audition and EVERYTHING is riding on the audition, you can’t be your best. The people in those rooms have very sensitive desperation radar. It can have an effect on your work and on your piece of mind. It’s really dangerous to have your sense of self-worth entirely attached to being hired as an actor. Also along those lines, with the changing technology and resources that are available for almost no money, if you have an idea that is stimulating to you, there is no reason not to produce it yourself.
Next move: I’m taking steps to have a more proactive hand in my career, to be more actively involved. And that could be to create my own material to act in, but not limited to that.
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