An Actors Confession
On the Job Training….
During the first pilot of Mayans MC, I was just excited to be a part of it. No matter how many episodes I got, I was just honored to be a part of the team. I was the new guy on set and I can admit I felt that I was punching out of my weight class since I had just came from doing YouTube and an independent film that my closest friends and I had made.
(personally proud of what we did, but It’s not an award winning film by any stretch of imagination)
I was called up from the minors and this was the big leagues…
Mentally I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime, but I also knew I was so far out of my element I wasn’t sure if I would be able to keep up. I have always loved film and television. Growing up in LA you always heard about people in acting. It felt so far out of reach for me to be an actor because my family wouldn’t even know the first thing about it, so the dream was suppressed. Throughout the years watching people on stage for school plays or talent shows, I was always envious of those who had the courage to perform in front of others. I wanted it so bad but couldn’t bring myself to sign up. I remember the feeling in my chest and it was painful to submit to my fears.
In junior college I finally enrolled in my first theater course. Looking for an easy A to help balance out a shaky 2.0 eligibility GPA for Baseball, and an opportunity to come to terms with the dreaded idea of a public performance… My first scene was a teenager trying to sneak back into his parents house after a long night of drinking…. This wasn’t hard for me to visualize since it was a very honest portrayal of my life at the time. My performance was applauded and I was proud to have finally stepped into the field I have struggled for so long to accomplish. My professor gave me praise and a small part of me thought I might have a future in this…
Now there I was, in my first season and taking the most extensive acting class I have ever imagined. Faking it until I make it the whole way. The fortunate opportunity for someone as myself is to be in the room or on set during one of these extremely intense scenes.There have been moments I have been blessed to watch unfold.
For example, when Danny Pino (Miguel Galindo) flipped the switch and turned himself into a dark menacing psychopath, I have only had the opportunity to speak with him in passing at the time. A true gentleman… Legitimate great soul. Then, to see him as Galindo and partake in a gruesome scene displaying the fundamental struggle of being in the position of power and keeping order. This was the moment I knew I was surrounded by professionals.
Or the moment Emilio Rivera (Marcus Alvarez) had an intimate moment with Michael Irby. Making the hardest decisions to step away from the very club he started to see through the wishes of an old friend. This was emotional… Profound and hard to watch… In the back room watching on a monitor. The room was silent… the scene felt like it lasted forever and yet not long enough… This still doesn’t sit well with me… it will forever be an open wound.
There were many many more times I was blown away by an actor’s performance and then studied, took notes, and went over their scene repeatedly in my head. For me being the actor on set with the least amount of experience, I soaked up everything I could from every single person on set. I sat back and watched their characteristics on and off camera and paid close attention to their process. Everyone has a process, the act in which prepares them for their scene.
The journey to Hollywood had been an introduction by force feeding by sling shot of ‘on the job training’. There are so many moments that stand out, but none stand out more than two specific moments I witnessed during the taping of Season Two, and out of respect I will not name names.
The first scene was emotional in the most common sense of that word. The ‘father-son talk’, the very human side of the show. Something most of us can relate to and the pains of life, the unknown and all in life that keep us all filled with questions. This was a moment I don’t think anyone else in the room felt as much as myself. Maybe because it was so relatable to my personal life. Years of living selfishly left me always making the wrong choices. Maybe this character wasn’t experiencing this pain because of his own decisions or circumstances, but his emotions made me lost in the moment. With luck on my side, I was wearing sunglasses to hide the personal angst with this one and I found myself losing control of my own emotions during the scene. If you understand filming, there are multiple takes to catch all the angles needed for editing. There is a set up that pushes in closer to the most important dialogue of the scene. During this scene, some of the other actors on set had loosened up and during one of these moments, I allowed myself to feel the scene… and it left me sobbing at my own life choices.
I hope the audience feels this, I hope they aren’t distracted by life and they give this moment the undivided attention it deserves.
I asked this actor afterward what was his motivation for the scene. Unbeknownst to me was that he thought about the close relationship my father and I have. This left me broken. That night I headed to my father and said “I love you” I said it blatantly and directly. I needed him to know and I went to my bed and fought the tears again.. You don’t really appreciate what’s right in front of you. I have to be more appreciative to what I have and show those around me the attention they deserve.
This was something I will talk about for years to come, something I am still trying to process. The work and the trust that allowed this actor to let go was breathtaking. You know it’s a powerful take when the room is almost holding its breath as they watch along, and the second they hear ‘cut’ it’s as if the hand was removed from the neck of the crew. It’s easy to ‘act’ when your next to a guy who isn’t acting but experiencing the moment. Meaning it was easy to be in the moment acting when actually I was just reacting to his performance.
This actor took himself to places I personally don’t know if I could. I would like to believe I can and at the same time hope to be given an opportunity to try and reach this level of commitment. I can tell you this, while holding this man I felt his pain pour into my heart and felt so sorry for his character. I could feel how vulnerable he was and how much was going through his mind.The confusion and almost self pity gave me a remorseful feeling I can’t seem to place. There was something in my life that has made me feel like this before and it wasn’t a great memory. Empathy… probably the only way to describe but with a left hook to the gut.
You will feel this… you won’t get a chance to be pulled away from it, it’s not subtle and it’s going to leave you wanting to hug the person next to you. I asked the actor about his process, but part of me already knew. His answer was simple: “I was that character, in that moment, feeling that pain and questioning what will life be like now… after all this.”
I hope I can be as good at this as these men and woman who inadvertently have become my teachers.
Now we are a few days away from the world getting a chance to experience these special moments not only in film and television, but a reflection of some of the realities and consequences of our own lives…
Come ride with us.. Tuesday, September 3rd on FX