Early on in my career, I was fortunate enough for someone to share with me the three ingredients to success in this order: politics, personality, and craft. Craft is the most important, but by itself, it is not enough. Success is only attained by mastering the other two as well. Let’s take a look at what the components are of each.
Everything in life is about who you know. It’s about your contacts. This is a business that runs on relationships. When you first come into this business, you start with the people that you know and you begin to grow your relationships from there. It’s imperative that you stay in contact with the people that you meet and stay interested in what they’re doing. Ken Kragen, a well-known manager of some of the top artists in the world, wrote a book called Life Is a Contact Sport, in which he talks about the key to his success as a manager, is his contacts. People tend to hire the people they know.
“Attitude monitors talent.” My mentor, Milton Katselas, would say that all the time. The more I teach and the more I act, the more I realize just how true that is. I realized that no matter how good I was, my attitude was everything. Nobody wants to work with someone who has a bad attitude. On the other hand, sometimes people will get hired because they’re just great people to be around. As a teacher, I have realized that it is easier to teach through a smile than a frown. A smile is open and vulnerable. If a person’s gratitude is higher than their expectation, then all things are possible.
This is the most important dynamic of all. Once you get in the room through politics, and you stay in the room because of your personality, and you are fortunate enough to get a chance to do the job, you must be able to deliver. Your craft will keep you in the room and it will keep you and them coming back.
Rather than “Do as I Say”, I believe in “Do as I Do”. Being a working actor is one of the best teaching tools there is. As Gandhi suggested, I want to be the change that I want to see in the world. As a successful actor in the business for over 40 years, and a master teacher at the Beverly Hills Playhouse for 30, and for the last 15 years at the RLS, I bring a unique wealth of knowledge about the craft and the business based on my success on both sides of the aisle as evidenced by my work in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls and the HBO/BBC miniseries, Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys.