would you like fries with that

– . – Would You Like Fries with That?


Would You Like Fries with That?


Steve Braun in THE MENTALIST episode “The Thin Red Line”

January 10th, 2000, was the day I served my last entrée as a waiter. Meatloaf, if memory serves correctly. And it was the very moment that followed in which I became a working actor, making my living solely from acting work.

That said, a working actor is always haunted by the restaurant, the frightening reminder of what could happen if the acting work dries up. In fact, I still define my success relative to my proximity to needing a restaurant job. And some years I’ve been close. But through hard work, thrift and a little luck, I’ve managed to maintain my status as a working actor for some time now, first in Canada and now in Los Angeles.

I am a member of a little-known hybrid breed—neither a multi-millionaire, Hollywood celebrity nor a roving player—scraping together a living by picking up odd jobs so I can discover the emotional truth about “Security Guard #2”. I’m the guest star that Security Guard #2 leads into the CSI interrogation room because I slit that old lady’s throat and every once in a while I get my own TV show. I’m in the game. And though the life of a working actor offers both moments of creative and financial bliss as well as lavish, star-studded Hollywood parties, they are the exception to the rule.

Los Angeles can be a cold and unforgiving place, a crusher of dreams and a shatterer of hopes. Nonetheless, it is possible to be a happy, working actor in LA. You’ve got to understand the city and the business. And that isn’t easy. Above all, you have to maintain balance or in a few short years you will be an old, aspiring actor with no marketable skills relegated to the Hollywood garbage heap trying to impress anyone who’ll listen with fabricated tales of how close you came to being a star.

That would be tragic. But fear not! I will be your guide. Following my three easy steps will make you rich and famous and most certainly lead to a long and fruitful career as a Hollywood actor.

The last time I saw Paris Hilton was about two months ago. She and celebrities like her are sort of like the local wildlife. She is not like most actors. She is at one end of a spectrum and I, for instance, am closer to the other. One end represents the creative core of acting, the craft of it, and the other is the celebrity of it, the fame.

If you work hard and put the time in, you can expect a paycheck and an ego boost from time to time but you can’t expect the business to leave you feeling whole. That’s not its function.

In this day and age both sadly lead to the same place. In fact sometimes the path Paris Hilton walks leads to a much more fruitful result. I know at least two beautiful, Yale University-trained actresses who auditioned for the part that Paris got in HOUSE OF WAX. Why did they opt for Paris? Because people know her name. She attends more red carpet events than there are days in the year and she films and releases her sexual exploits. She hasn’t bothered to work at any of the craft required to back up the shiny exterior but so far it hasn’t really gotten in her way.

Show business is a business after all and a name actor attracts money from investors who believe that name actors put butts in theatre seats. So it might stand to reason that creating one’s “name” might be the path to being a working actor. That said, there is a threshold past which Paris is unable to proceed. Given her obvious lack of talent, she won’t be offered the title role in The Helen Keller Story, for instance. Heck, she probably won’t even be offered the title role in The Tara Reid Story. Talent matters. And I maintain that you can scam your way into the door but if you want a career as an actor you have to do the work. Given that three per cent of actors are working at any given time, an actor must study her or his craft consistently, maintaining a high level of performance.

Entering into the business by making a name for oneself without laying the foundation ensures nothing but embarrassment. Do the work!

Yesterday, Wednesday, I woke up with nothing to do. No meetings, no appointments, no conference calls, no schedule of any kind similar. The inaction of the business can lead a man to feel like he’s not accomplishing anything or like he’s useless. Frankly, an actor can feel like he has no balls.



You lack purpose until the moment your agent or manager call with an audition and like a dog you go where and when you’re told. And once you reach your destination, you walk into a room and have to perform like a dancing monkey in the hopes that some kid fresh out of film school will put you in his horridly written movie, which no one will see. Then you go home to your apartment and spend the rest of the day thinking about what you could have done differently to make them love you more.

The next day your agent calls with the reason you didn’t get the part. You were too tall, too short, too light, too dark, too funny, not funny enough, you reminded the producer of his cousin’s friend who was mean to him when he was five, etc. And that’s where the Xbox™ gaming system comes in! You see, in order to feel useful, we need to engage right brain functions: tasks that involve “doing”, moving forward. Most of the time being an actor doesn’t give me that so I play Halo 3 or Call of Duty and my brain doesn’t know the difference. As far as it’s concerned, I really did just save the universe or take on a whole platoon of Nazis. And that feels terrific. But there’s a fine line. You can emerge from a video game coma and realise that two weeks have gone by and you haven’t left the house. That’s not OK. You have to play in moderation.

Still, that leaves a whole lot of free time that must be filled. Being a working actor in Los Angeles is like being a sniper or an NFL place kicker. There are hours of inaction interrupted with short minutes of gut-wrenching action, which have the potential to turn you into a famous millionaire. So, beyond impressing computer-generated women on my Xbox™, I have engaged in meaningful activities that even out the highs and lows of the business-that-is-show.

Lacking discipline and focus as an actor and a resident of LA is a career killer.

I go to the gym. It gets the endorphins pumping and makes an actor more confident during shirtless love scenes. I teach acting. It uses some of the same muscles as my own acting but lacks the personal heartache involved in one’s own career and it diversifies my income. And more recently I worked on Barack Obama’s campaign for President in Nevada and California. That was two years of intense, challenging work with some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. What engaging in these activities has made me realise is that I can achieve fulfilment here in LA but I can’t look for it solely from show business. It lessens the blow when the producers liked Married With Children’s David Faustino better than you.

If you work hard and put the time in, you can expect a paycheck and an ego boost from time to time but you can’t expect the business to leave you feeling whole. That’s not its function. It’s on you to find it elsewhere.

This is something I struggle with. They’re just so lovely to look at. But actors are crazy. I’ve yet to meet a sane one. It’s not surprising really. Anyone who enters a business in which you’re rejected 98 per cent of the time is either deranged from the start or becomes so shortly thereafter.

It’s no wonder that some of the most beautiful actresses on the planet starve themselves because they think they are grotesque. It breeds insanity. When you date an actor or actress, you double that insanity. You double the instability, the narcissism, and the hypersensitivity. Actors and actresses should only date accountants. Or models. But preferably accountants.

Balance is the key. The poverty and the economic windfalls, the ego boost and the feeling of worthlessness, the free time and the hours of intense activity on set: it’s a constant balancing act. Lacking discipline and focus as an actor and a resident of LA is a career killer. But if you work hard and put the time in, you too will be able to endure as much rejection as I have… Good luck!

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