BWW Exclusive: Preview of INSIDE ACT: HOW TEN ACTORS MADE IT AND HOW YOU CAN TOO- with Eric Ladin!
Why do some actors make it and others don't? Ken Womble sets out to find the answer to this question, one that has fascinated and tormented him for years, in his new book, INSIDE ACT: How Ten Actors Made it and How You Can Too (Hansen Publishing Group, 373 pages, $24.99). To celebrate the release, BroadwayWorld will be featuring chapter previews from the new book. Today, hear from Eric Ladin!
INSIDE ACT: How Ten Actors Made it and How You Can Too identifies what sets successful actors apart. For Womble it's about the inner choices, the inside acts of working actors acts that have propelled them to thriving careers in one of the most competitive professions on the planet.
Eric Ladin is recently known from the hit HBO original series Boardwalk Empire on which he plays J. Edgar Hoover. He has just signed with HBO again in their new original series The Brink where he will join Jack Black and Tim Robbins. Often recognized for his work on The Killing, the award winning drama from AMC, Eric played political advisor Jamie Wright. He started his career in HBO's hard-hitting miniseries Generation Kill, and recurred as January Jones' brother in AMC's award winning series Mad Men, and as Chloë Sevigny's diabolical doctor/brother in HBO's Big Love. He has guest starred on Justified, Dexter, Grey's Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Suits, The Mentalist and CSI, and can be seen in the independent film Highland Park.
Eric stars as Cole McGrath in the video game Infamous 2 and, in a complete change of pace, voices History Channel's reality series, Mudcats.
A proud native of Houston, Texas, Eric attended The Kinkaid School where he was honored with the 2012 Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. He resides in Los Angeles with his wife, Katy, their son Maxfield and dog Chance. He is also a proud member of UNICEF's Next Generation Los Angeles Steering Committee and welcomes the opportunity to help UNICEF achieve the goal of ZERO!
I'm Going To Go For This
[The following is an excerpt from the Eric Ladin chapter in Ken Womble's INSIDE ACT: How Ten Actors Made It-And How You Can Too. It is available as a paperback and as an ebook. The entire Eric Ladin chapter is available as a separate ebook.]
Ken Womble: Do you think being in Los Angeles helped you start to make connections in the industry?
Eric Ladin: I do. After my sophomore year, I got a job as a waiter and started to take some acting classes outside of USC and meet people. And then I did what we used to do in the olden days-get a book of agents and managers and send out two hundred headshots and résumés blindly, which, you know, 97% would get thrown away by the assistant. And I ended up finding an agent through that. And I booked a couple of national commercials.
So once I graduated I had my SAG card, I had gotten a little work and I had a manager and an agent.
KW: What a great jump-start into the business.
EL: Yeah. I really wanted to try to make that a priority. That's what made me decide, "Okay, I'll go to USC; I'll be in LA and that'll be the advantage of having gone there," as opposed to a Carnegie Mellon or something.
KW: Would you consider your training at USC important, or were you doing it on your own?
EL: I think that it was extremely important in the sense that I became a much better actor while I was there. Working with great professors, I met a bunch of great people, utilized the world renowned TV and film school and did student films and a student television show and started to learn how to be in front of a camera.
But, you know, much like any school environment, theatre in particular is what you make of it. If you're going to go to college for theatre, I think it's important to really go in with the attitude of, "I'm going to do absolutely everything that I can and take advantage of all these resources while I'm here."
KW: A lot of actors just focus on performance, but it seems like you were also thinking in other ways.
EL: Well, if you're [only] thinking about performance that's a quick way to a really short career, especially in TV and film.
We all perform. That's why we do what we do, we love it. But that's not the hard part. I mean once you get the job, to go on set and go through hair and makeup and put on a wardrobe and act with other great people...that's the easiest part of the whole gig.
The hard part is busting your ass and trying to get the gig. And so many young, aspiring actors come out to LA and they just wait for that manager or agent to show up. And then once they get a manager or an agent, they just wait for them to call and have auditions for them. And in the meantime they go out and party and do whatever they do.
I've been here for fifteen years, and I've watched countless people go right back to Colorado and Indiana, and say, "This is not for me." I mean you have to be willing to just pound the pavement. You have to be disciplined. You have to wake up every morning and say, "What am I going to do for my career today? What am I going to do?" Not, "What am I going to wait for an agent or somebody to do for me." You know, it's not a 9 to 5. You don't have a place to go. You don't have an office. You don't have anybody to answer to. It's all self-discipline.
KW: So, you'd been on an HBO show and now you were on Mad Men which had won all these Emmys. Were you getting a reputation as a young character actor who does quality shows?
EL: Yeah, I think at that point it became, "Oh, okay, this is a great stepping stone." And then when I did Big Love, the third show in a row that I was on that had critics' acclaim. I think that was the point where it dawned on me, "Okay, now I should really focus on making this a career trajectory for myself."
I hate saying high quality because CSI is extremely high quality. I wasn't ready to say, "Oh, I'm going to turn my nose up or I'm too good for this other show," but I started to say, "I'm having the opportunity to work on shows that I like to watch and I want to try to maintain that."
I think that as an actor you have to listen. One of the major powers that you have, when the time comes in your career, is to say no to certain work and try to specifically choose the projects that you want to work on.
And that comes at a price, you know. HBO and AMC and Showtime don't pay as well as CBS and NBC and ABC. And they don't work as long. They're typically ten or twelve episode seasons, as opposed to twenty-three episode seasons. So, I mean, you're sacrificing that for doing work that might be more important to you.
You have to work hard to be able to be choosy. You have to have guts to be choosy because it might mean turning down things when you need the money. I mean, it's a very difficult, delicate thing to try to balance, but I think you've just got to go with your gut.
Tracy Steinsapir: Manager
Ken Womble: Eric and I talked about being relatable in auditions, as he called it, "being great in the room." How important is auditioning well and being great in the room for an actor?
Tracy Steinsapir: I think that's really, really important. That's one of the most important things.
I think that when you get a job as an actor it's for three reasons: it's because you do a good job and because you were great in the room-and when I say great in the room I mean work the room, be nice to the casting director, maybe crack a joke, be personable-and the third reason, I think, is luck. You know, there's always a little bit of luck when you are successful.
So I think that working a room is super important because a lot of those producers, creative people, whoever's in the room, it endears them to you, and they can see what you're like to work on a set, that you're really easy. And it just shows that you're honest and you're real.
A lot of the actors that I've represented, that are no longer with me, think they know better and that they don't have to go the extra mile to work a room. And they're bitchy and they're not nice and I don't think that those kinds of people succeed as much as the other kind of people. There are some people like that who succeed, but the ratio isn't as high.
KW: Eric and I talked about talent and he said, "Everybody might be given opportunities at the beginning of their career, but you have to be good to stay in the game." How important do you believe talent is for an actor to be successful? And how important has it been for Eric?
TS: Well, first of all I think that acting can be taught but not everybody can learn it. Most people can learn acting, but believe me, I've had some beautiful, beautiful people that cannot learn it. And maybe they'll book commercials, but other than that, they're not probably working that much.
And I think what Eric means by that is when you first get to town, if you have someone good representing you, you'll get in rooms, there's no question. The casting directors, the first people that see you, the first gatekeepers, they'll see anyone if Stewart and I recommend them. But to get in the room a second time you can't fail the first time. Or maybe you will, but it'll be a year or two later.
You know, these people don't forget, so if you're bad...I think talent's really important, but I also think that there are people like Brad Pitt that probably weren't the greatest actors in the beginning but learned and got a lot better. I think that happens a lot in Hollywood. It just goes to show hard work pays off.
Ross Dinerstein: Producer
Ken Womble: Eric talked about being proactive in looking for acting work. He said that "It's all self-discipline." From your own experience, how is Eric proactive in his career?
Ross Dinerstein: You know, he's in it to win it. He's out here for his career. And I know way too many actors that come out here because they want to meet girls and they want to have fun and they want to go out, and it's not a job for them.
Whether Eric's working or not, he's up every day at the same time. He has this routine: he reads the trades, he reads scripts, he goes to the gym, he goes to acting class, he coaches, he does everything. It is a one hundred hour a week job for him.
Other people that I know sleep 'til noon, they go get lunch, they take a nap, they go out, they party, they drink, whatever. And Eric's never been like that. It's always been a job. I would say that Eric works as hard, if not harder, than anyone because he knows he needs that edge. And those are the actors that are successful. Not the ones that are out at the club on a Tuesday night.
KW: Eric and I also talked about talent. He said, "Everybody might be given opportunities at the beginning of their career, but you have to be good to stay in the game." However, sometimes when you turn on the TV you see an actor who you may not think is that great. So, how important is it for an actor to be talented to be successful? And how important has it been for Eric?
RD: I think talent is the most important thing. There are always other factors that come into casting decisions-foreign value and studio decisions and political things and friends of friends. Sometimes a director will like somebody and a producer will like somebody else, and sometimes the directors win and sometimes the producers win; most of the time everyone's on the same page.
At the end of the day if the actor's not talented, they might be given one or two opportunities, but they're not going to last. And if you want to have longevity in your career as you evolve from a twenty-two year-old kid to a thirty-five year-old man, you've got to be talented.
And that is something with Eric. He's going to have a long career because of his work ethic, his perseverance and his talent.
Ken Womble interviews actors Debra Monk, Eric Ladin, Krysta Rodriguez, Tony Yazbeck, James Earl, Gary Beach, John Tartaglia, Robert Clohessy, Jose Llana and Richard Portnow about their inside acts, the important choices of their acting careers. The interviews explore the intriguing journeys that have led these actors to successful careers, and to Tony, Emmy and Screen Actors Guild Awards, the most prestigious acting awards in theater and television.
Actor interviews are followed by interviews with two of each actor's success team, the agents, managers, directors and coaches who know them well. Womble then identifies the actor's most frequently used actions, skills and beliefs the keys to each actor's success.
INSIDE ACT is available as a paperback and as an ebook. Each actor chapter is also available as individual ebooks. Click here to purchase now!