Ethan Hawke’s Advice to Young Actors

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Ethan Hawke wants to give advice to aspiring actors. In recent interviews with CNN and The Off Camera Show, the star revealed what lessons he learned along his acting journey.

Indeed, Hawke’s actor resume seems to go on forever. After all, he’s been dedicated to the craft–and busy–for almost 30 years. The Texas native starred in films like The Magnificent Seven, Boyhood, Training Day, Before Sunrise, and the Generation X drama Reality Bites. He’s also branched out to theater, directing as well as novel writing.

After watching Top Gun as a youngster, Hawke knew he wanted to be an actor. “I knew that I wanted to be involved in the arts, and it didn’t feel far-fetched to me. I meet some young people and it just feels so far-fetched to them. I sometimes wish I could just give them the DNA, the gene that says, ‘Nobody else knows what they’re doing either. Don’t worry.'”

In their early teens, budding stars Hawke and River Phoenix, made their film debuts together on the same major Hollywood production. They were cast in the 1985 sci-fi movie Explorer– which turned out to be a box-office flop. At the time, Hawke found the disappointment hard to bare, and he decided to quit acting. Now Hawke reflects, “That was a great lesson for me. You know, just to have failure right off the bat, and to see that everything’s not going to get handed to you.”

But as he withdrew from acting, he observed Phoenix move on to starring in the hit movie Stand By Me. Hawke felt assured if his acting partner could do it, then he could do it as well. Remembering Phoenix’s tragic and premature death, Hawke now shares the following insight:

“River Phoenix was one of the brightest of my generation, but if you don’t take care of yourself, it doesn’t matter. Punishing yourself does not hurt the people that hurt you or the situation that hurts. All it does is hurt yourself, and so that would be my biggest advice: Love yourself. It sounds corny to say, but it’s incredibly hard to do–to really believe you’re worthwhile and that it does matter what you do.”

Hawke’s persistence paid off with his breakthrough appearance as a shy prep student in Dead Poets Society at the age of 18.

He recently told CNN what has served him well throughout his career: “I’ve always just tried to never be a professional. I try to always see it with a kid’s eyes.” He continued, “It’s easy to have humility if you see yourself in service of the arts. If it’s in service of Ethan Hawke, it immediately becomes smaller, and not as interesting, and limited.”

As for those considering entering the field, he advised, “If you would be comfortable being 58 and teaching it, if that’s what you mean when you say you want to be an actor, then I’m really excited for you. And if what you mean is you want to be at a party or be celebrated then I would say that you should think twice. If you really love telling stories and being a part of an artistic community, and you would imagine yourself wanting to learn it so you could teach it to others, then I’d be really excited for you.”

 

Study Finds Oscar-Nominated Films Are Ageist

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The Academy Awards has received many public outcries over the years to honor more diverse talents. Hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale sought to call out bias of the Academy’s voting membership. But according to a recent Humana-sponsored University of Southern California study, senior citizens need to be added to the list of cinematically underrepresented.

Examining senior characters in the 25 films nominated for Best Picture from 2014 to 2016 revealed several key findings. First of all, only 11.8% of the 1,256 speaking characters were 60 years of age or older. This reflects nearly 7% below the percentage of seniors in the United States, according to the U.S. Census.

Looking closer, 77.7% of these senior characters were men, and 22.3% were women. This amounts to a gender ratio of 3-5 males to every 1 female. Additionally, 89.9% of the senior characters were White while 6.1% were Black, 2% Asian, and 2% from “Other” ethnic backgrounds.

“The outcry over the lack of diversity at Hollywood’s premier award show has failed to recognize the value of senior voices on screen,” asserted Stacy L. Smith, the director of Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC Annenberg. “While 2016 best picture nominated films are more diverse when it comes to gender and some racial and ethnic groups, ageism is still an accepted form of exclusion in cinematic storytelling.”

In addition to speaking characters, researchers analyzed how often senior characters occupied leading roles in the films. They discovered only one leading role was played by a senior character, and that was Michael Keaton in Birdman. Looking at ensemble casts, only one leading character was a senior citizen as well. “Ironically,” the study states, “the sole lead in an ensemble was Michael Keaton in ‘Spotlight.’ Thus, the only two senior leads across the 25 films were played by the same white male actor.”

Looking at the senior characters who occupy prestigious jobs, it was clear males overwhelmingly had the political, law-enforcement, business, and law-professional careers. Indeed, only one female character held a high-level job. This reflects a gender radio of 33:1. For this reason, the study’s authors wrote, “Senior characters–in particular females and individuals from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups–rarely have the opportunity to wield occupational power on screen.”

In six or the 14 films, senior characters were referred to in negative terms such as, “You look so old in person,” “mentally feeble, sick old ladies,” and “…just sit there and let Alzheimer’s run its course.” The researchers assert that this kind of language has a harmful effect on the well-being of older people.

Besides encouraging more inclusion of senior characters, the study also points out that many audience members are indeed seniors themselves. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, in 2005 15% of frequent moviegoers were 60 years and up. So Hollywood might do well to incorporate more senior characters to increase box-office profits.

Humana Vice President Dr. Yolangel Hernandez Suarez reflected, “We hope you’ll begin to question not just film portrayals, but how these inaccuracies and demeaning remarks are reflections of social norms. There is still more work that needs to be done in order to make aging Americans feel valued in our society. We believe that popular culture has the ability to transform social views of aging and fuel a sense of optimism.” 

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How To Break Free From Typecasting

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Important questions actors should ask themselves are:

What is my type? What are the parts that I would readily be cast for? Am I the girl next door, am I an Action hero, am I a sensual leading lady, am I a law enforcement officer, can I play a villain?

In the studio days there was a list of actors that would always play the same parts: the doctors, the inspectors, the bad guys, the lawyers, and the workers. To understand how it works and to get a little bit of history, a great documentary to watch is “Casting By.”

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Does typecasting exist today? Yes, it still does that is reality. An actor that portrays an FBI agent in a popular TV show plays a variation of another CIA agent in a movie. You will see an actor play a prostitute in another guest role only to see her play another prostitute of a different nationality in another show. There is always a perception of what you can play.

What can you do to break free from typecasting?

It is crucial that an actor knows the roles they would be cast in and excel at, and should know the parts that they would not readily get cast in, but that they know deep down they can play because today actors can break through the glass ceiling. We see it all the time. I for one am more interested in seeing casting that is off kilter than right on the nose. I like casting against type. Professional actors want to ask themselves: What part have I not played that I would be passionate about playing? And also be realistic about what those parts can be.

Find what you have not played and audition for indie films, web series, shorts, and stage plays. Take chances! Challenge yourself!

Actors can break free from being boxed in from playing a certain type and size of role. You’re not necessarily destined to play the sidekick forever. You would have never thought that Brie Larson, only having played supporting parts like the sister in “Trainwreck” would win an Oscar as a leading lady in Room. You would’ve never known that she had those dramatic chops. She showed us her range.

To be an actor by definition is to be a chameleon and be challenged to play all kinds of characters. Recently an actress sent me a picture resume and described herself as a good actress that can only play drama with no mention of comedy.

An actor wants to be able to do both comedy and drama. It’s true, some people are born to be funny (they have that comedic timing) and even if they are blessed with that gene, it doesn’t mean that they would not or could not want to play something else. Like Sarah Silverman who is well known for comedy getting great reviews for a dramatic turn in the movie “I Smile Back.”

You have materials that support the parts you know you get called in for. To not be typecast, change people’s perception of you. Start with shooting a different kind of headshot: an edgier one, a friendlier one, or a sexier one. Create a scene in your show reel that shows you playing a character you’ve never done before. Steve Carell did it with “Foxcatcher” so did Charlize Theron in “Monster.” They showed a different side of their talent and it wasn’t just prosthetics.

Pretend no one has an imagination, and that you need to educate him or her as to what all the types are you can play. The number one way to not be typecast is to be known as a really good actor that has range (ex. Bryan Cranston and Melissa Leo). If you stay stuck playing the same thing over and over again as many actors do, you also stop growing as an artist.

Stella Adler said actors can play at least 200 characters. Find them!


MicMICHELLE_DANNER.jpg.300x450_q100helle Danner is a renowned acting coach who works with A-List Actors privately as well as on set. Michelle trained with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen and was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers and featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  Michelle has two books coming out in 2016, The Daily Ritual and The Golden Box.  Please find more about Michelle and her acting programs and classes at michelledanner.com.

17 tips for Actors in 2017

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I thought we would bring in 2017 in appropriate fashion. In no particular order, here are 17 tips for actors to help you navigate an acting career in film and television!

  1. Be early to everything. Make being early your new habit. Be early to classes, jobs, dates and absolutely everything. People who are late are late habitually. If I see you arrive late for anything, I assume you will be late for everything.
  2. Stay positive or stay home. Negativity never created anything but more negativity.
  3. Train every week of 2017 to become a better actor. Mix it up. Be in multiple classes whenever possible. Do not just sit in the same scene study class for the next twelve months.
  4. Try it. Never taken a commercial class? Try it. Never done a workshop? Try it. Student film, print work, Movement class, stand-up? Try it. Make 2017 your year for trying new things.
  5. Try it again. Don’t write off things like student films because you had a bad experience once a long time ago. Booking a student film is a lot better than booking nothing. Did a bunch of seminars but didn’t get called in? Try it again a few years later. Hopefully, you are a better actor now than you were five years ago. Show people that.
  6. Work for free. Only under the right circumstances, of course. Student films, shorts and indie web series are all acceptable freebies. The idea that no one should ever work for free is ridiculous. Most successful people have worked for free at some point. There’s a huge difference between working for free and being exploited. Is anyone else being paid? And is the project being made for money or exposure?
  7. Only do minimal extra work. You are not getting closer to that first series regular job by being on sets as an extra. Do it a few times and then move on. You can only learn so much by doing it a hundred times. Look up the term “diminishing returns.”
  8. Shoot great headshots. Every actor should have great headshots. Any less and you are not being competitive. Meet with fifty photographers if you have to, but wait to shoot until you feel confident that you have found a great one.
  9. Read a minimum of one book related to acting each month. Read more if you like, but commit to at least one per month. It’s harder than it sounds.
  10. Submit every single day of 2017. Make a commitment right now not to miss a single day. There is at least one project on this site that you can submit for every day.
  11. Add to your special skills. Learn a few things this year that you can add to your resume. Work on accents, learn to surf, ski or ride a horse. Pick a martial art. Learn to tango. Learn yoga.
  12. Network at least once a week all year long. Plan it out right now for the next couple of months. If you commit to being seen by industry members, industry members will see you. Don’t wait to casually bump into us.
  13. Do for others. Expect nothing back. Just do. Refer people to your agent or manager. Help your actor friends on social media when they post about their projects. Share their news. Drive somebody to his or her audition. Expect nothing back and watch what happens.
  14. Post your acting news on social media on a regular basis. It isn’t enough to post things once. I have 900 FB friends. Post it once and I will probably never see it.
  15. Find things to post about on social media. Not just bookings. Go to screenings, panels and networking events and take some pictures. Post about your love of acting, not just those times when you work.
  16. Give 100% to anything you commit to all year. Hold yourself accountable. Keep a journal if need be. Make sure you follow through on plans and commitments.
  17. R-E-L-A-X. Stress is a career-killer in this town. Another great reason to take that yoga class. Whatever works for you, find ways to regularly decompress. You don’t have to leave town to do it. Just relax.

If you can follow these 17 guidelines, 2017 is going to be a great year for you!


Sikes_PicMark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles and can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

‘This Is Us’ Star Chrissy Metz’s Long Journey to Success

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In a recent Glamour article, Chrissy Metz shared a heartfelt account of her nearly 20-year struggle to succeed in Hollywood. Indeed her talent, belief, determination, and help from her supportive friends have paid off. Last year she landed a part on the critically acclaimed drama This Is Us. At the time she left the audition room for the role of Kate Pearson, she was convinced it was a “miserable and terrible” audition–not to mention she was down to 81 cents in her bank account! And yet, after landing the part, she went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for her performance. And last month, NBC renewed the series through its third season.

Metz is from Florida, and while growing up her family struggled to make ends meet. “After high school I really wanted to act, but I didn’t even know how to begin. I didn’t know anybody with connections, I didn’t come from money, I didn’t go to Juilliard. But I never was afraid of the odds, even though they were seriously stacked against me,” she told the magazine.

Early on, Chrissy accompanied her sister to an open-call model-and-talent search. One of the scouts asked Chrissy if she could sing or act. “I sang Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’–Lord knows why I chose that big ol’ thing. The following day she called my sister for a modeling contract and told me she’d introduce me to managers and agents in Los Angeles.”

Chrissy traveled across the country with five other young women. Once in Los Angeles, they all shared a two bedroom apartment. Still, money was tight, but she got by with nanny work and taking on odd jobs. As for her dream of acting, she admits, “I had two auditions that pilot season, maybe. I cried a lot.”

The plus-sized star has said she battled her weight since she was about three years old, and has described how there are only so many roles that require a plus-sized actress, so opportunities to audition are hard to come by. However, Metz was able to land episodic television roles over the years on various shows like playing a counter girl on Entourage, or the character Chunk on My Name Is Earl.

To her elation, Chrissy procured a recurring role in 2014 as Barbara, aka Ima Wiggles, on American Horror Story: Freak Show. She was hopeful the new exposure would springboard her career.“But when it wrapped, there was…nothing,” she said. “I almost moved back to Florida, but my mom said, ‘You can either be miserable here and not pursue your dreams, or you can be miserable in L.A. and at least pursue what you want.”

Fortunately, she decided to remain in Los Angeles. Chrissy said of those enduring months:

“I kept auditioning, with no savings and no money, credit card debt gaining interest. I went on unemployment. I bought ramen noodles at dollar stores. I never had to–God forbid–live on the streets; I moved in with a roommate who told me, ‘Stay with me until you can afford rent. Don’t give up.’ People who supported me were like, ‘If you don’t have money for food, I’ll cook you dinner. You don’t have money for acting class? Let’s get together and read lines.’ I am so grateful that I had such an amazing support system, but when I booked ‘This Is Us,’ I had 81 cents in my bank account. I could cry right now just thinking about it.”

Success has come to a grateful heart in Chrissy Metz. She now says, “Sometimes I cry on the way to the set still. There is something that happens when you are grateful: You continue to keep receiving blessings. So I will always be grateful.”

Naomie Harris’ Advice: ‘Use fear as something positive’

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In this BAFTA Guru interview, Moonlight actress Naomie Harris speaks on behalf of the merits of the fear and doubt that so many actors experience. And what triggers fear in this British star? First off, Naomie admits she feels scared “every single time” she lands a role. As she describes it:

“There’s that exhilaration at first of all when you think, ‘Oh my gosh! I’ve got an amazing script. Wow! I’ve got this incredible part. How exciting! And then it’s like [gasp] how am I going to find them? How am I going to do this? Where is this person? Perhaps this character won’t come to me. Like, oh my gosh, maybe I can’t act this time! I have that one every single role that I do. And I think if I didn’t then I wouldn’t be choosing the right roles because I wouldn’t be challenging myself.”

Insisting that all of her acting colleagues have expressed experiencing this same kind of apprehension, she shares this golden nugget of wisdom: 

“Actors should not feel scared for the fact that they’re scared. I think it’s a good sign. I believe that fear is a motivator. And I also think it’s a challenge to learn to use fear, and to use it as something that’s really positive for you, and works for you, and that makes you better.”

With this in mind, one of the roles that made her better was playing the crack-addicted mother, Paula, in the film Moonlight–a part that earned her Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for best supporting actress. Harris’ other roles include the flirty and playful Tia Dalma in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films; the agile Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre; and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The 40-year-old actress has worked in over 70 films, and has appeared in television shows and video games as well.

Naomi purposefully tries to procure roles that take her out of her comfort zone in the pursuit of feeling challenged and finding something within that she didn’t know existed. And when working with other actors, she believes it’s key to allow yourself to be vulnerable, completely open, playful and “willing to make a fool of yourself.” She says, “I think that’s really brave, and I really admire that about acting–that people are constantly willing to go, ‘This is me.” And not to hide behind anything.” 

The self-help author Dr. Robert Anthony once said, “The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.” And if there’s anything that great works of art do, it’s break away from conformity. Likewise, great acting performances require the courage and will to take risks. Bravery is essential during auditions, while crafting a character, when working with other actors, and all the way through the production. Fear can certainly be a hindrance, but framing it as a motivator has certainly been effective for Naomie Harris. By embracing it, she’s proven to herself–and to a worldwide audience–she’s got grit and is full of surprises.

How Tom Brady Fuels His Engine

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Matt Ryan, the highly-rated quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, had a great statistical and competitive season this past year which culminated in his first Super Bowl appearance. Matt passed for a whopping 4,944 yards with a completion percentage of 69.9, as well as 38 touchdown throws, making his overall QB rating a stunning 117.1. This is truly rare air. Not surprisingly, Mr. Ryan won the 2016 MVP award in a landslide!

Kudos to Matt for his 2016 performance. He truly had the best year in the league–for many reasons and from many different perspectives. But his Super Bowl rival, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, may very well be the best quarterback of all time. He’s the only NFL quarterback with five Super Bowl victories. And according to Wikipedia, “Brady has been awarded four Super Bowl MVP (Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIIIXLIX and LI), the only player ever to do so, and two league MVP awards (2007 and 2010), has been selected to 12 Pro Bowls, and has led his team to more division titles (14) than any other quarterback in NFL history.” But beyond all those accomplishments and accolades, what’s most impressive is the guy’s still going! Indeed, Tom wants to play the violent and unforgiving game of football well into his forties. This is practically unheard of.

However, Brady’s got a secret weapon! Tom’s enduring dynamism and ongoing achievements are apparently, in part, due to his strict, ascetic diet. Tom is a proponent of the alkaline diet, which he claims “maintains balance and harmony through the metabolic system.”

Practically speaking, Tom eats 80-percent vegetables, whole grains, and beans along with 20-percent fish and lean meats. He does not eat processed sugar or white flour, and he stays away from iodized salt, dairy, coffee, fungi as well as nightshade fruits and vegetables. He only drinks alcohol and eats fruits occasionally. And if that’s not enough, he’s never eaten a strawberry or had a sip of coffee in his entire life. And when he wants a treat, Tom’s been known to occasionally enjoy a bowl of avocado ice cream.

With that being said, Tom’s dietary regimen is not without controversy. Eschewing antioxidant-rich fruits as well as nightshade veggies packed with vitamins is a bit extreme for some nutritionists. However, the salient point is that a balanced diet featuring nutrient-dense foods and plenty of clean water can do wonders for one’s energy and sense of well-being and confidence.

Now, it’s important to note that much of Tom’s success is due to his incredible genetic makeup, his work ethic, and his competitive spirit–not to mention that golden arm! But it can’t be denied that Tom himself credits his strict diet and disciplined lifestyle with affording him the opportunity to reach his maximum potential.

How’s your diet been? Are you putting high-octane fuel in that tank of yours? Are you eating to produce the energy and enthusiasm that will make you the best actor you can be? Hey listen, food is to be enjoyed and no one should deprive themselves of a little gusto; but, you might ask yourself, as an actor, am I living to eat, or eating to live?

Please share your nutritional tips–and eat well!

Denzel Washington Wins SAG Award for ‘Fences’

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Denzel Washington’s impressive career has been rewarded over the years with a wide assortment of honors for his exemplary performances in film and on stage. And last week, the accolades continued with the star winning his first Screen Actors Guild Award. It was his sixth nomination by SAG-AFTRA which celebrates the greatest performances of the year as selected by fellow actors.

Washington won Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in the film Fences for his portrayal of Troy Maxson, a garbage collector in 1950s Pittsburgh. He both directed and starred in the adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Washington and Viola Davis reprised their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival of the play which received a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Stage Play.

When accepting the SAG Award, Washington said, “I’m a God-fearing man. I’m supposed to have faith, but I didn’t have faith, God bless you all, all the other actors. I said, ‘You know that young boy is going to win, Denzel, you ain’t gonna win.’ So I didn’t even prepare, but I am prepared!” Backstage, he admitted he indeed was prepared–for rejection.

Among the thrilled audience members was Viola Davis who just happened to be overjoyed for her Fences co-star. Washington continued his acceptance speech acknowledging his dedicated fellow castmates, saying:

“SAG, listen, we’re just actors. I’m famous and all that kinda stuff, but I have the same fear opening night or first preview that anyone else has. We all have the same job and this is not a testament to me, but it’s a testament obviously to August Wilson, Stephen Henderson, Mykelti [Williamson], Saniyya [Sidney], Jovan [Adepo]–you know, the guys that don’t get recognized. So fellas, here we are!”

Backstage Washington elaborated that he gets more out of seeing others do well. “Man gives the award, God gives the reward. My mother taught me that years ago, and it’s taken me a long time to understand it.”

Shortly thereafter, Denzel was confirmed to receive the Hollywood Legacy Award at this year’s upcoming BET Presents The American Black Film Festival later this February.

Indeed the Hollywood veteran has been nominated for an Oscar seven times, two of which he won for unforgettable performances in Training Day and Glory. Presently, Denzel’s Fences earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, Best Actor [Washington], Best Actress [Davis], and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Besides being recognized for his movie-making talents, Washington is also known for his honesty and wisdom. He once gave graduates of Dillard University the following advice in a commencement address:

“Say thank you in advance for what is already yours….True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you sent beforehand that it’s already yours….When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.”

And he recently told The Hollywood Reporter one of his first jobs was being a garbage man–like Troy. Certainly, his aspirations have made all the difference in his life. But, always humble, when comparing movie making to a soldier’s sacrifices Washington asserted, “Making a movie is a luxury. It’s a gift. It’s an opportunity. And most importantly, it’s a gift…Don’t get it twisted; it’s just a movie. It ain’t that big a deal.”

 

 

‘Moonlight’ Actor Mahershala Ali Wins at SAG Awards

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Mahershala Ali won the SAG Award for outstanding supporting actor with his portrayal of a Miami crack dealer in the coming-of-age independent film Moonlight. But the star was given another reason to celebrate during the night when all of the cast members of the film Hidden Figures took home the best cast ensemble award. Ali played military officer Jim Johnson, a supporting role, in the film depicting three brilliant female African-American mathematicians at NASA.

The SAG Awards were held at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles over the weekend, honoring the greatest performances from 2016 as chosen by other actors.

Ali’s accolades reflect the momentum that his acting career is building. The 42-year-old star’s other roles include the District 13 soldier, Boggs, in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes in the Netflix series Luke Cage, and the suave lobbyist Remy Danton from House of Cards. Among Ali’s many stage credits is the off-Broadway dramady Smart People.

Raised in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay area, Ali entered college on a basketball scholarship. But as his interest in basketball faded, he developed an interest in acting. After performing on stage, he landed an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theater after graduating. It wasn’t long before he was accepted into NYU’s acting program. Within months of receiving his master’s degree, Ali booked a role as a regular on the series Crossing Jordan.

New to the business aspect of acting, he adapted by approaching it with deliberateness. He told the SAG-AFTRA Foundation about the frame of mind that he believes helped advance his career, saying:

“You have to be cognizant of what it means to be in show business. There’s parts of it that, at a certain point, if you deny their presence, then you’re just being foolish. And so that job [‘Crossing Jordan’ ] was the first of many that began to educate me on the expectations of me, and me taking personal responsibility. And not having expectations of anyone outside of myself. Because then you’re expecting the business to be fair. Right? And it’s not here to be fair. And I can’t control that. You leave yourself going home frustrated a lot. So what I can do is just try to be my best self, and to be a professional when I work, to treat people well, make friends and allies, and nurture those relationships in an organic way. And I think it’s helped me.” 

Ali also described the relative ease that he experienced finding work as an actor after receiving his master’s degree. “In some ways to some degree, things happen really fast for me. I know I got into this business with certain expectations of it,” he said. “As much as you hear horror stories, you always want to believe and hope that you can transcend and go beyond some of the issues that the person right next to you is experienced…You’re just hoping, okay, but I’m hoping I’m going to have the remarkable experience.”

As it turns out, Ali is surely having a remarkable experience as an actor. And he’s been nominated for an Academy Award for his Moonlight performance to boot!

Celebrating Mary Tyler Moore’s Trailblazing Career

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Groundbreaking actress and producer Mary Tyler Moore recently died in the company of her dear friends and husband at the age of 80 from cardiac arrest after she contracted pneumonia. She was famous for turning the world on with her smile as the iconic Mary Richards in the newsroom sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Moore is widely regarded as a pioneer for professional working women both on and off screen.

Although her childhood has been described as tumultuous, Moore loved the limelight and aspired to become a dancer. “I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do. Some people refer to it as indulging in my instincts and artistic bent. I call it just showing off, which was what I did from about three years of age on.” In the 1950s, the cheerful aspiring talent landed her first job in television dancing as the elf “Happy Hotpoint” for TV commercials promoting Hotpoint appliances.

It was Danny Thomas who discovered Mary’s acting abilities when she auditioned for the role of his daughter on The Danny Thomas Show. Interestingly, she did not land the part; as Thomas later explained, “She missed it by a nose…no daughter of mine could ever have a nose that small.” But Thomas remembered Moore, and brought her in to audition for the part of Laura Petrie, the wife of TV writer Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Carl Reiner was certain Moore was right for the part and cast her in the role that would go on to catapult her to fame. The sitcom showcased her acting, dancing, and singing abilities and introduced the budding star to comedy. The show went for five seasons starting in 1961.

Soon afterwards, Moore and her then-husband Grant Tinker founded the production company MTM Enterprises. Together they produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show in which she played the iconic character Mary Richards–an independent, single woman navigating her career as a TV producer in Minneapolis. During the transformational decade of the 1970s, Richards’ conflicts included timely topics such as equal pay and workplace politics.

Moore’s beloved character was both strong and vulnerable, and proved to be aspirational for many female audience viewers. Indeed, Moore inspired women to be influential leaders in TV. In fact, two of her biggest fans were Tina Fey and Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey once told PBS, “I think Mary Tyler Moore has had more influence on my career than any other single person or force.” 

The Mary Tyler Moore Show raked in a whopping 29 Emmys. And MTM Enterprises went on to produce several more TV shows including Rhonda, Lou Grant, The Bob Newhart Show, and Hill Street Blues.

Fans of Moore’s trademark perky roles were introduced to a much darker character with her acclaimed work in the film Ordinary People. Directed by Robert Redford, she portrayed Beth Jarrett, a chilly housewife who alienates her son after her eldest son dies during a tragic accident.

Regarding her career, Moore reflected that she wanted to be remembered “as somebody who always looked for the truth, even if it wasn’t funny.”

Moore is survived by her husband Robert Levine.

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