The Story of How I Got Here (Part 2)
This is a continuation from Part 1 (Click Here to see where we left off.)
We had gone to high school together in Flippin, but went to separate colleges. She graduated from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville a year after I graduated from UCA in Conway. I lived in North Little Rock at the time (2008), so every time I wanted to see her it meant a three hour drive to Fayetteville. (Oh, and $80, because gas was $4 a gallon at the time. Ouch!)
It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t want to live my life without Amanda in it, and that being in separate parts of the state just wasn’t going to work. So I proposed.
We were at Noodles Italian Restaurant here in Fayetteville and I was so nervous I was shaking. Which was a disaster because I was trying to do this slight-of-hand magic trick where I made a quarter disappear and then reappear, but when it reappeared, it was a ring! She was so confused by it all, and by my nerves, that when I produced the ring, she just said, “What’s that?”
(Just a side note: It wasn’t a diamond ring because she had seen the Leo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond, and told me she didn’t think she would want a diamond ring. But that further complicated things.)
She snatched the ring and started trying it on. She still didn’t get it. I was really messing this up. I was so nervous, and she had grabbed it so fast, that I had completely forgotten to drop to on one knee.
She said, “It only fits on my ring finger…”
And I said, “Yeah, I want to be with you! Will you marry me?”
“Are you sure!?” We had only been dating for about three months.
“Yes.” I said. Then she said “Yes!”
A few months later, our families came together for the wedding. Most of her family is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, so we had a big Cajun feast and a great time with friends and family. It all came together so quickly. But it turned out so well.
We had big dreams and a bright future ahead of us. For the next year, we put a plan together to make the jump to Hollywood so I could pursue acting. We kept our budget small, we both worked, and through hard work (and a lucky severance package when her company got bought out) by the end of 2009, we had enough money to make the move.
When we landed in LA, because of the year of planning, we were able to hit the ground running. And we worked as a team. Amanda was able to land a job as an assistant at a home health agency, and I went to work on the movie lots.
My “day job” was being a professional “extra.” You know when you watch a movie and you see people hanging out in the background of the scene, like sitting in a restaurant or walking across the street or standing in a crowd? Yep. That was me. Professional Background Actor!
Not the most glorified position, to say the least. But it got me on the TV and movie sets, which was where I wanted to be. About 4 days a week, I would get a call or email early in the morning, “You need to be at Paramount Pictures at 9 am. Bring your ID. For wardrobe, bring the following options…”
Over the months of doing this, I worked on almost every major Studio Lot: ABC, CBS, Warner Brothers, Paramount, etc. I worked on a lot of different TV shows including GLEE, Grey’s Anatomy, Greek, Rizzoli & Isles, and CSI: NY. I worked on music videos for Lifehouse, Kylie Minogue, and others.
I even got to work on some big feature film projects. The first time I walked onto the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, the one with the iconic water tower (from Animaniacs), I checked in with security and then was directed to the wardrobe department. Taking the stairs down to the basement, I walked past row after row of costumes from some of the biggest movies of all time. I even recognized the armor used in 300.
When I got to my final destination, the wardrobe assistants started pulling clothes and putting a costume together for me that made me look like I had come right out of 1985. The project was called Hot Tub Time Machine. And it turned out to be a really fun time.
On set, I remember being amazed at how quickly Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson could come up with one-liners. These guys were true masters of improv comedy and would play off each other’s words like it was a tennis match. They were hilarious, and they could go on and on, but only a small portion of that magic could make it into the final cut of the film. I also got to meet Diora Baird and William Zabka (the bad guy in The Karate Kid) on that set. Good times.
Within a few months, I also discovered a way to get in front of the biggest casting directors on the planet. They’re the people who decide which actors get to audition and help the directors and producers find the right fit for each role. When people say “it’s all about who you know,” these are THE people you need to know to make it in Hollywood.
More on that next time, along with how I landed my first movie role…