When did you know acting was the path you wanted to take? How supportive is your family?
Great question. I think ever since I was a kid, I thought acting would be cool. I remember in ninth grade, when counselors came to our class to encourage us to pick potential careers, acting was the only thing I could think of. I took drama classes in high school and really loved them. But after high school, I kind of forgot about it, to tell you the truth. At the time I wasn’t a member of the Church, and I was really fascinated with learning about the gospel. That took over my life. I joined the Church, went to BYU, went on a mission, came back, and was going back to figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. And it was like this voice kept saying to me, “Give acting a shot.” Then in the summer of 2004, I had this life-altering week where I realized that if I never took that leap into the acting world, I’d regret it for the rest of my life. The moment I made that decision to go for it, so many blessings and opportunities came into my life. It’s been amazing! And my family has been so great through it all. My parents want me to be happy and succeed in life. Initially my dad was like, “Wait, are you serious?! Don’t you want to be a doctor instead?” After I told him I passed out after seeing any type of blood, he tried to encourage me to go another direction. But I was pretty insistent on the acting thing. Finally, after a couple of my roles in films and whatnot, he started seeing that not only was I happy, I was succeeding. And that was the key to helping him be a believer.
How do you see your work helping build the kingdom?
I think the biggest thing it has done is help me share more light into the world. I feel like I’ve always been a positive person. I want to share that positivity in the media. The Lord asks us to be a light unto the world and I definitely feel that acting helps me do that. I try to create that positivity not only in the projects I work on, but with people I’m constantly around.
What advice would you give to another member of the Church wanting to pursue an acting career?
Well, if you’re a member and you’re Indian, I’d say don’t pursue acting. Ever. You’d be my competition! Just kidding. No, I’d say if you really want to do it, go for it! But don’t, don’t do it to get famous. Do it if you’re truly passionate about acting. Because it’s tough sometimes. Sometimes you’re just waiting and waiting for the opportunities. And then you get the opportunity. And you’re on set. And it’s hot. Or it’s cold. Or the hours are long. Really long. Or you’re messing up your lines. And you have to do take after take after take. And the crew is getting upset. And you’re getting hungry. You’re wearing an uncomfortable costume. You have weird prosthetics all over your face. And you just want to scream. And you get it do it all over again the next day. For the next month. And the project comes out and you find out they cut your part. Or they dubbed over you. And you think, how is this glamorous? Is this what you signed up for? But then you realize how much you love it! How much fun it is to make believe and create stories, and truly be in the moment! And how much fun it is to work with other people and as a group create a piece of art that you can share with the world. So act, if you really, really want to act. If you get excited every time you think about it. Because it’s tough. :)
How does the gospel influence your work?
People have told me many, many times, when you get to Hollywood, don’t lose your way, don’t let go of the gospel. But the truth is, my passion for acting only exists when I put the Lord first. Because when I don’t, I’m the worst actor I know! I can’t do it. And I don’t even like doing it! So I have to put the Lord first in order for me to even work. That is the most major way the gospel influences my work.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in balancing your moral convictions and career aspirations, and how did you overcome those challenges?
Like the question above, I feel like putting the Lord first is the only way I can act. So if I’m reading a script or being offered a role, and I can’t seem to put the Lord first while accepting the role, that’s my first huge red flag that I don’t think I’ll be able to do it. But I’ve been blessed tremendously. I have a great manager who knows me well and is always fighting to get me the best work possible. She is very accepting of my beliefs and is willing to get me parts completely according my standards. How did I get so lucky in finding a manager like that, you ask? The answer is simple: she too is actively LDS. :)
Who is your greatest inspiration?
The Savior. Literally, I use his Atonement as I try to understand characters I’m portraying and what makes them tick. What’s more, I can feel the Savior guiding me as I try to create a character. He is actively helping me pursue my dreams. Therefore, he is and will always be my greatest inspiration.
Where do you see yourself and your career in ten years?
Ten years from now, I see myself ten years older. Hopefully wiser. I’d love to have a family, so I think I’m going to start getting on that bandwagon. As far as career goes, I’ve focused a lot of time on producing and acting in independent movies. I think I might still do a few more of those, especially if I’m just acting in them. But I really want to get into TV. Stories on TV seem much more compelling to me. You can really find out about characters and have deep storylines. Not to mention, having a career in TV can also be more stable financially than acting in the occasional independent film. So I definitely want to explore the TV option. But after that, I want to start acting in studio big budget pictures, like the epic kind you see on the big screen. There’s something really sweet about that.
If you could describe your dream role, what would it be?
Gosh, there are so many different roles I could consider my dream role that I can’t give an exact definition. However, I do think that if the character I play gives hope to the world, that would be a dream role. Someone that brings light into an otherwise dark world. I’m just a hopeful kind of guy, you know?
Besides acting, I know you’ve produced a lot of your own films. Is producing something you’d like to do more of?
Yes, definitely. But I tend to only produce projects I get to act in, because I really, really love acting. However, producing gives me the control to tell the stories I want to tell. It lets me set the standards for the show.
I understand you’ve been working on an HBO pilot. What’s the story there? Will we be seeing your face on HBO soon? What other projects are you working on right now?
Yes, I was privileged to act in one episode of a new HBO show coming out called Silicon Valley. It’s written and directed by Mike Judge, who is known for creating the King of the Hill series as well as Office Space. The show is about the tech world and a group of geeks who start their company. I had a really fun, awkward character to play. I’m a CEO of a company that’s made a lot of money. I’m throwing a house party and the main characters come in and get super jealous of my success. Although I was only written for one episode, Mike liked me and told me if the show is successful, he’d like to have me back on season 2. So here’s hoping! The show airs on April 6th, right after Sunday conference. So get your spirituality on for that weekend, then a few hours later, catch me on HBO! I’m literally in the beginning scene for like a minute or so.
As far as other projects go, I have a movie coming out this year that we’ve been working on for the last three years! It’s time to get that out in the world. That film is called The Last Man(s) on Earth. You can find the trailer on YouTube. I also have two other films in the development phase that are my own projects. And finally, I’m also putting together a TV series that should hopefully be pretty fun. So I definitely have my hands in a lot of different places at the moment.
Of all the movies and projects you’ve been involved in, which has had the greatest impact on your life?
Man, that’s tough to say. Every project I’ve learned something meaningful. I can’t say one is better than the other. I had a great time on the HBO shoot. But I’ve had great times on almost all the films I’ve worked on. I think the biggest thing I can take away is, I love creating positive and fun memories with people.
When I was in high school, I had a friend named Mike. He and I would get together and make dumb video projects for school. They were so dumb but we laughed and laughed. We thought we were so hilarious. He always said, “Hey, guys, let’s make memories!” And we did. And they were awesome. After high school, Mike was involved in a longboarding accident and passed away. Instantly all those videos we made became priceless. Now they mean something far greater for me.
So the greatest impact I’ve had from my projects has been the memories I’ve created with people. Those will last forever. That’s why I try making them positive ones. :)
2013 was a big year for you, and it appears 2014 is going to be even bigger—congratulations. How do you stay grounded in the midst of success?
Yes, I’m definitely blessed, that’s for sure. I have a lot of fun projects coming my way. I guess I stay grounded because I remember why I do what I do. I love to create memories with people. I also have a personal belief I live by. I used to think, “Man, I can’t wait till that happens,” or, “Man, I can’t wait till I book that role.” It’s like I had this wishlist of things that I wanted to have happen before I allowed myself to be happy. It’s like I was always looking for the next big thing. I’ve learned to be happy now. To have complete joy in the journey. And it’s crazy, but the happier I am now, the more success comes my way. It’s like the fruit of the joy and happiness I have now is the success that follows. I think that’s an important lesson to learn, because the Lord wants us to have joy right now. 2 Nephi 2:25 emphasizes that men are that they might have joy. I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m pretty sure this applies to women as well! And having true joy now comes from being grateful for what you have right now, living presently, and developing your relationship with God. You do that, and you’re just happy. You spend time with God and you become more like him. And as you do, not only are you happy, but success follows you. I really applied that principle in 2013 and it was the most successful acting year I’ve had to date. I’m excited to try it again in 2014. And this type of joy keeps you grounded. ❧