I thought it would be useful for readers of IMTLA to hear from some relative newcomers to LA that are doing quite well. I chose two people to interview that I think are making great progress in the relative short periods of time they have been here. Although these two are focused in the entertainment business, I believe the drive and attitude they possess could apply to any industry. I have chosen for the first part of this two part series, an actor, P.J. King and filmmaker, Sara Newton, will be interviewed for the second part of the series.
P.J. King – Actor
P.J. King is someone I have come to know through mutual friends and is a great guy who grew up in Connecticut, moved to New York City to study and pursue acting, and then eventually drifted to Los Angeles. He has been in LA for 11 years (a relative newcomer). He is starting to show up on television in different formats, and like most actors has struggled to get some level of consistent success. P.J. is a very likable and humble guy, without a hint of arrogance or ego.
Tell me about some of your recent successes?
P.J. : Recent successes for me, well, BAR RESCUE, the reality TV show that I narrate on Spike TV recently aired its 100th episode. That is a huge accomplishment for a reality show that has only been on the air for four seasons. We actually shot 50 episodes last year, and will start its fifth season in a couple of weeks.
In 2015, I shot a national commercial spot for Subaru called “Making Memories.” It aired on all formats, including network television.This year I have already shot three commercial spots, including a German Beer commercial that filmed in Chile, a political ad for Facebook, and a Johnsonville Sausage spot. I am about to start a voice-over job for a popular video game, which I am not yet able to disclose. I have also been cast in a couple of indie films that are in development, and a play written by a very exciting pop star. So, things are happening. I am very grateful.
Are there any mistakes you have made that may have hindered your career?
P.J. : Oh, I have made many mistakes that have hindered my career. I remember one time as a young actor I was given a meeting with a bi-coastal agent in New York. I performed a monologue from the play, “Lone Star,” for her. She was impressed and invited me to perform in front of the whole agency the following week, but she wanted me to choose and perform a different monologue. She explained that the monologue from “Lone Star” was done at too many auditions and was a bit staid. In my young arrogance, I said to myself, “F…that!” I’m doing this piece.”
Well, the next week I was led into a large conference room at the agency. The entire wall was lined with representatives from the agency. The first agent I had met with introduced me to the head of the agency, asked some inane questions, and then they asked me what monologue I had prepared for them. I stammered and said I had not prepared anything new. When I proceeded to tell her why, that it was my best work, blah, blah, blah, she grinned in the most disagreeable way and said, “Thank you for your time, Mr. King. That will be all.” I don’t think I have ever gotten over that one!
Similarly, many of my mistakes were based in fear. I had a passion for acting, but my own internal fear destroyed that passion. That is why I spent nine long years trying to deny what I desired most. I let personal battles dictate whether I could act or not. Acting is a very venerable art form. You can’t hide behind a computer screen, a canvass, or a camera lens. It took me a long time to come to terms with that.
Talk about “day jobs”. What kinds of jobs have you done to supplement your acting?
P.J. : I want to point out that I have a family to support. I still work a day job as a waiter, because frankly, I still need a steady source of income. Fortunately, I work at an amazing restaurant that supports my pursuit as an actor and allows me the flexibility of schedule for auditions and shoots. As accommodating as the management at the restaurant is, it is still a bit of a juggling act, believe me. Over the years I have worked as a car salesman, bartender, in construction, you name it.
What was the turning point – when success started happening?
P.J. : Success started happening for me when I was out of options. It started happening for me when I realized that being an artist has nothing to do with success, fame, or making money. Being an actor meant for me, that yes, I am not going down a conventional road. Sometimes it’s like being on a tightrope. Sometimes I wake up at night and question my sanity. I say to myself that I am wasting my time and my talents. I believe that you either are an actor, or you are not. When I embraced that I am an actor, that is when I started gaining some modicum of internal success, which in turn translated into some modicum of material success.
Any advice to actors coming to Los Angeles?
P.J. : I am not going to lie to you and say that it will be easy. If you want to pursue acting don’t delude yourself. Get hip to the fact that not everybody gets to be Brad Pitt or Jennifer Lawrence. Most actors in LA have to work survival jobs to support their careers. There are many expenses, like head shots, reels, acting classes, and lost time going all over town to auditions. Even working actors struggle. Please do not come to Los Angeles to become famous, or because you didn’t get enough love or adoration as a child. Hollywood can’t fix that. If you come to Los Angeles because you know you can’t do anything else, make sure you create strong relationships, always come prepared, and involve yourself with other artists that share your sensibilities.