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So You Want to be a Movie Star?, 02.07.01 ...

Over the past several months, has asked actors about the Hollywood experience. What is it really like? We’ve all heard about the pitfalls of Hollywood, the second-rate gigs while waiting tables in some forlorn restaurant, manipulative agents, the string of b-rated movies, the wild parties, the shoulder-to-shoulder schmoozing, but really, what’s behind all that? Should I give up my college aspirations for bright lights, big city?

So let’s start at the beginning. The big break. The one role that sends you to the moon and leaves your friends back home saying, “I can’t believe you’re on 'insert popular TV show or movie here', that is so cool!”

Consider Alexis Bledel of The WB’s Gilmore Girls. We spoke with Alexis last September before her new WB show hit the airwaves. It was her big break, the role that would make her into a TV star, and when asked, Alexis wasn’t sure how she felt about it. All she really knew was that her life was about to change dramatically.

One of the first things Alexis noticed about celebrity was that everybody wanted her opinion.

“It’s weird because I was never asked to define myself so much before,” said Alexis. “I just want to live each moment but it is kind of hard to do that when you are asked to analyze yourself constantly. I think it’s strange.”

A natural talent, Gilmore Girls was Alexis’ first professional role. A model who possessed the right look for the Rory character, Alexis also had a lot of luck on her side. It belays an interesting fact about Hollywood; some people are there because that’s where fate placed them. They didn’t intend to become an entertainer, but there they are, entertaining.

Leslie Grossman of The WB’s Popular tells a similar story. “This is something that has truly fallen into my lap,” she says.

Interested in continuing her college career in New York City, Leslie suddenly found herself sidetracked after a successful role in a play called Cereal! It was her acting debut, but luck and natural talent took Cereal! to off-Broadway success. Soon, Leslie was in LA auditioning for Mary Cherry on Popular.

Now a teen star, Leslie says she enjoys spending every 16-hour day with her Popular co-stars, but just because she made it to a series on the WB doesn’t mean she’s made it in Hollywood, she still auditions, still worries about money, still hopes she’ll have a career three years from now.

“You can’t ever get too comfortable because it can all get taken away in two seconds,” says Leslie. “It’s really a luxury to earn a steady living as an actress but you always have to know in the back of your head, don’t buy too much, don’t get too excited, because in a year you might not be making anything.”

Actor Anthony Anderson of Romeo Must Die and Me, Myself & Irene talks about his journey to Hollywood. Like many of us, Anthony wanted to be an actor since childhood.

“I first realized what I wanted to do when I was nine years old,” said Anthony. “It was either this, be a lawyer and eventually become a judge, or play football for the Dallas Cowboys. Those were my three things. I’m only here because I saw myself at this point.”

Perseverance is the key.

“At nine I saw my mom in a production of Raising in the Sun. I sat in on a rehearsal and realized that this is what I wanted to do,” says Anthony. “From then on I prepared myself by going to the High School for the Performing Arts and then I got accepted to UCLA and Howard University on a talent scholarship. So I was preparing myself for this moment. Just never letting go of my dream.”

Sometimes, however, that dream is found for you. The entertainment industry is full of child actors, many who become major stars. But as the child grows up they often go through a time of scrutiny when fans and critics assess their worth. It’s a transition that often leads to problems and many actors simply quit acting, or take a break and do other things with their lives.

Soleil Moon Frye, current actress on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch played the main character on the enormously popular comedy Punky Brewster throughout the 1980s. Soleil has experienced major stardom in life but remains happy with that experience because the people around her kept control of the situation and her own self-esteem.

“I haven’t been jaded by it all,” says Soleil. “This town has its ups and downs but you just have to rise above it. The strong survive and you have to be a survivor. But there’s some beautiful elements too and when you’re doing what you love there’s no greater feeling.”

Similar to Soleil, Joseph Lawrence found success at a young age with the comedy Blossom. So successful was his character “Joey” that it caused considerable backlash whenever he tried something else. Exasperated with the industry, Joseph took considerable time away from acting, returning in 2000 to mainstream success with Urban Legends: Final Cut.

“Over the past three years I could have done a lot of crappy projects and made a lot of money doing the same thing people already know me for,” says Joseph. “But you have to fight that. I could make money now, but have no guarantee in the future. And I want to be here thirty years from now.”

Intent on eventually moving into directing and producing, Joseph understands that the cult of celebrity is something every successful actor must come to terms with.

Joseph explains, “People watch you, people judge you, they want to know everything about you, there’s very little privacy. That leads to losing a sense of yourself if you’re not careful.”

Certainly, acting is a tough career. But despite the obstacles, thousands of people make their way annually to Hollywood hoping for fame and fortune. But really, acting is an art form, and aside from the money and power that can be had in this industry, most people do it for the love of the job.

Fame, I don’t care about that,” says Anthony Anderson. “I just want to be an artist remembered for his work. If you want to celebrate me or don me a celebrity and I become famous because of that, so be it. But that is not what I strive for.”

Lastly, when we asked actress Jodi Lyn O’Keefe what a person should be ready for when making those first timid steps into Hollywood, she said, “Don’t be afraid to fall on your face, don’t be afraid of fake blood, and always wear padding when working with retractable knives.”

Good to know.
Credit: Teen Hollywood

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