We Are Each Other’s Greatest Resource

I was back in Minnesota over the weekend (as I’m writing this, I’m waiting to board my flight back to L.A.) and it got me thinking about how strange and fortunate for us it is that we live at a time when we can move thousands of miles away from our home state, away from our friends and family, to pursue our artistic passions.

If you’re like me, and so many others in Los Angeles or New York, you grew up in a smaller city with very little information about getting into professional acting. That’s why so many of us end up studying acting in college—it’s what we thought you had to do to pursue acting after high school. Of course, you don’t. You can move to the big cities and join a great acting studio and get on your way faster, but no one taught me that in high school. I had to stumble into that information on my own.

And that’s part of what struck me while I was here in the Midwest; I made it. Somehow, I was able to muster up the courage to leave everything I knew and everyone I loved behind (except my girlfriend who moved with me; I’m lucky, I know) for a city that scared me. Somehow, I convinced myself that little, old me actually stood a chance of being a working actor in Hollywood in film and TV. I didn’t know how it would all work, but I was confident that I could figure it out.

Growing up in the Midwest, I had a warped view of Los Angeles. All I knew about the city was what I gleaned from TV and movies and the media. To pursue my art, I thought I would have to endure living in a city with which I had nothing in common; not the values, not the lifestyle, not the people. I grew up thinking everyone in L.A. was vain, cutthroat, and superficial.

I was so wrong. I’ve fallen in love with the city, and not because it’s beautiful, or because of the incredible standard of living, or because of the weather. I fell in love with the people, because they’re all like me; passionate artists who moved here to pursue their dreams.

That’s what is so invigorating about being in L.A. I’m surrounded by the most courageous, talented, and beautiful people, inside and out, and, while many are annoyed by the fact that virtually everyone you meet is in the industry, I think that’s so awesome. We all have that in common. It’s like being at a party where you all know the host and can start a conversation with anyone, “So, how do you know Blahbedy Blah?”

And that brings me to my point. I see too many actors neglect this most incredible and plentiful resource crucial to their success: each other. We are each other’s greatest resource. And not just for the reasons I’ve stated in past articles and my book; that it’s your actor friends that will encourage you when you’re down, rehearse with you and put you on tape, come out to your shows, help you move, and all the rest.

We’re also each other’s inspiration. We made it here, against all the odds, critical people back home, and myriad reasons why others artists never did. And every year, actors return home, broke and broken, feeling like they have failed, and I believe that if they had cultivated a strong community of friends and support network, it would have given them the strength to carry on.

It’s a war of attrition. It can take five to 10 years out here to become a consistently working actor in film and TV if you’re doing everything right…and most people aren’t doing everything right. In order to remain strong, stay the course, and survive the early years of struggle, we need each other so much. Together, we can pool our experience and knowledge, and contribute to each other’s success.

It reminds me of the scene in “Gladiator” when Maximus is thrown into the arena in Rome for the first time, reenacting the Battle of Carthage. Against overwhelming odds, he was able to lead them to victory. He says, “Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together. Do you understand? We stay together, we survive.”

We made it here and we can succeed out here, together. We never have to fail, because we can choose to never stop fighting and die trying. We just have to keep adjusting our tactics.

In other words: We can’t fail if we never quit.