Film Courage: How did you spend your first few years as an actor and then how do you spend them now?
Choice Skinner, Actor, Director and Acting Teacher: Good question. My first few years as an actor was hard work. I told my actors the story about eating eggs, water and donuts, but making sure I had money for my acting class. I didn’t even have a car, but I would take the bus to get there. I didn’t know how I would get home, but God blessed me with someone who would give me a ride.
It was all about just being the best that I could possibly be. I wanted to be in the ranks of the leading men of my caliber: Denzel, Wesley Snipes, Cuba Gooding. Those were the scenes I worked on and I knew who I was as an actor and I worked towards playing those authoritative roles. I didn’t have a problem playing thugs or you know, gangbangers. I loved those characters. Those are the guys I grew up with so I understand it.
But I’ve never been jaded in the sense of like not having the opportunity to play certain roles. Listen, in my beginning as being an actor I worked on as many roles as I possibly could. If the roles didn’t exist, I wrote them and I would bring them into class.
And so for me it was just being the best that I could possibly be to understand the process of acting and to be great at it and to be a joy to be around because I understood that’s how people continue to work with you.
Where I am at now (as an actor), I really don’t care for the auditioning process. I don’t care for it. I do it. My manager is always on me about it. So I do it, I go in.
One of the things that made me not care for it is knowing the politics behind it because I’m a producer and a director now. I know what I didn’t know back then when I was just acting and that is sometimes even if you’re auditioning for a role, you’re already not going to get it because they may be on the phone talking to the person that they just offered the role to. So that’s kind of tough.
Where I’m at now, I create my own content. I direct. I write and I have people who call me up and put me in projects because they remember me as an actor and they remember my work. It can be a little funny sometimes for me because it’s like listen, do I really want to waste the time and audition for something that I may not get or do I just continue to do the process because that’s what that is, auditioning is part of the acting process. Yeah, I don’t know?
I just love having something that I write or someone write for me say “Hey let’s come do this!” It’s easier. There’s no pressures, no stress about it and I enjoy that a little bit more than yeah…I’ve never been a competitive person. Even in the marital arts, fighting in tournaments wasn’t for me. So with acting I don’t look at it as competition, I look at it like they say as love. There can’t be competition in love.
If the role is right for me, give it to me. I’ll show up for you and I’ll do a great job.
Film Courage: Do you think that audition grind is what sends a lot people home or somewhere else?
Choice Skinner: Somewhat. I think what sends people home mostly is lack of money. People get into the entertainment industry thinking that they’re going to make a lot of money and I always tell actors if you got into the entertainment industry to make money, you can do anything else. I mean you can do porn and make a lot of money.
Acting…it’s a love/hate relationship for some people because they may have gotten out of college or they left a corporate job or they left pharmaceuticals. I knew an actor who was a rocket scientist, but he wasn’t happy unless he was doing acting. And they get into the acting world and they want to make a lot of money and two, three years go by, four years, maybe five and they’re not making any money and they’re working a dead-end job and they start to battle with that.
And I think typically that’s usually what sends people home. The auditioning process has a different experience. When you hear these stories of like Angelina Jolie or Mark Ruffalo, they say he went out fifty times until he got his first role. I believe that everybody’s resilience is a different level. I didn’t have to go out fifty times. I think I went out three times and I booked my first audition.
I was that type of actor but I could see how the rejection…because like I said everybody’s looking for love and even if you were going out with somebody that you like or you’re attracted to and you get that rejection, there’s a thing you go through. There’s a catharsis, there’s a hurtful period you go through. And I think if you’re going for auditions and you may be right for them and you are being told “No, no, no…” You start to question yourself “Is this right for me? Is this really what I should be doing?”
Listen, if we’re all climbing up a mountain, we don’t know what is at the top of the mountain until we get there. The climb is just part of the journey. Auditions are just part of the journey. And I do believe that there’s a point where actors need to know if they are auditioning actors or not. Which basically means this, if you go in and you cannot defeat the nervousness, maybe auditioning is not for you. Unless it helps you to book the audition. Maybe being nervous books that audition? Maybe you go in, you feel like you did a horrible and then you get the callback and you book it? Like “I was horrible?” That happens.
But I do believe that there’s a sense that actors need to know if they are auditioning actors. Is this auditioning process for you and if it isn’t what adjustment are you willing to make in order to be great at it? So that way you are not missing out on opportunities or you’re not wasting your time.
Question for the Viewers: How long can you pursue acting if you aren’t making any money?
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