Heath Harper played either the lead role or a strong supporting role in each of PlaysInPerpetuity.com’s first five productions. He has moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career and quickly met with some success, with background roles on shows such as
CSI: Miami and Two and a Half Men. He blogs from time to time about his experiences as a young actor, be it working with established stars, earning his Union card or taking part in smaller indie productions, and the following “Diary Entries” are his own words and experiences.
(A Question and Answer interview with Heath regarding his experiences thus far and his advice for young actors who plan to make the move to Los Angeles can be found here.)
A few observations about the things I love about acting on camera. :)
1) Throwing it to my scene partner, knowing they'll catch it.
3) Getting to laugh on-screen.
4) Playing crazy without laughing.
5) A smiling director.
6) Blood packets and squibs.
7) The first offer.
8) Laughing out loud during the first read.
9) Coming home still in "actor mode".
10) Putting aside bullshit.
11) Lack of fear. Of any kind.
12) Watching dailies, fixing them.
13) Getting the boom shoved in my face for a soundcheck.
14) The cosmic grid.
15) Sitting and thinking how noble the job is, regardless.
16) Scaring them.
17) Props, props, props. And finding different ways to use them that aren't distracting.
18) The research.
19) Being the subject of "last looks".
21) Free lunches.
22) No 2nd meal.
23) Off-center close-ups.
24) The studios, the history - where I get to connect with me heroes.
25) Camera angles I've never seen before.
26) The incentive to work out.
27) Always having a secret.
28) Walking into a scene.
29) The grand, greasy tradition of acting.
And more than anything:
30) Forced restraint on camera, the "ease" of film-acting, and how damnably hard that is.
After sending out my first series of agent mail-outs, Baron Entertainment shot me an e-mail telling me they would be calling me soon. In other words, they might want to take me on as a client. I would have an actual agent.
This is a really big thing for me, and I'm hoping it pans out.
That said, I've done a little research and they seem VERY above board. They have some very recognizable clients and a great philosophy. But I don't know much else about them.
One: Today I was made a regular on the show The Suite Life on Deck. Disney's been really good to me these days. I was planning on asking for said promotion, but got it without having to ask. I think that these words went a long way: "Thanks for having me on the show again. I really appreciate being here."
Two: Saw Scott Weiland of STP driving down Magnolia (few blocks from my place) in his jeep. With his baby and several Obama stickers.
"The Fate of my Last Episode with Prison Break"
So it looks like they didn't tell me that the last episode of Prison Break I worked on was actually a straight to DVD movie. D'oh.
But it was a pretty cool scene. I had to really suck it up and go to a very deep, emotional place, playing a bartender on a beach in Malibu, while scantily clad women danced to live salsa music in front of me.
I've been trying to get on that show for a year now. It's intense, intimate, and in a word, brilliant. I was told by a few people that I look a bit too much like the title character, which is almost never a good thing, resulting in my getting cast and then booted from the show at one point. So, after the AD's confirmed this for me, they compensated this time by just 'burying' me in the scene I was in.
I was elated to be on the best show on TV. What I didn't expect was Mr. Carradine.
Keith Carradine plays Agent Lundy on the show, a multi-faceted foil for Dexter, who has also had an affair with Dexter's sister.
The actor is also the brother of the recently and tragically-deceased David Carradine.
We were shooting a scene in a bar, where Lundy and Debra (Dexter's sister, played by actress Jennifer Carpenter) are meeting and clink drinks. While watching him work, I wondered how it must feel to keep acting (the family business for the Carradines), after the incredibly unheroic loss of his brother. I watched to see if it was affecting his performance much. It didn't.
During the turnaround (when the cameras are repositioned to face the opposite way), I was wandering around the set when I noticed Mr. Carradine sitting on a piano bench in front of a baby grand. He sat there for a moment, and then he started to play some of the most haunting piano music I've ever heard. He was good -- concert-level good -- and played for a good 15 minutes straight with a look of serenely intense focus on his face. It looked religious or something.
I was agog -- leaning in a doorway a dozen feet away and trying not to look like as amazed as I was. After maybe ten minutes, I looked up, and there was Jennifer Carpenter, staring at him as well. She looked over at me and nodded as if to say, "Yep. We're actually watching this."
It's incredible how passion manifests itself in the midst of grief, and I felt honored just for a chance to listen.
"Iron Man 2"
Yesterday on the set of Monk I managed to get myself cast as a security guard on "Iron Man 2." My inner 12-year-old's soul is as happy as my outer 28 year-old's wallet about the work.
Went to the fitting this afternoon -- I'll be looking pretty tough and scary. Here's hoping I get lots of shooting days and maybe that all important third SAG voucher!
5/5/09 "It is the summer...of my smile." - Robert Plant
I'm now part of an actor's union!
I just joined AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Got me an AFTRA card and everything. It seems like the shows I work the most are AFTRA - "90210," "My Boys," etc, so this means almost double my hourly rates on those gigs, shorter lines for vouchers, and no need to bring in tons of wardrobe.
AFTRA also will represent me with any legal issues with agents and contracts, too, and has a whole list of agents that favor AFTRA actors, so hopefully that will move my agent-search along.
Basically, it's like SAG, just easier to get into, less expensive dues and more Bob Barker. Something like 95% of the TV pilots this year were AFTRA, so cross your fingers.
I'm REALLY happy to be a part of an actors' union. One more dream achieved!
I like to buy from Trader Joe's. Great selection. Awesome. What could be better than getting great food and better prices?
Meeting Josh Homme, lead singer of Queens of the Stoneage, while leaving...and while WEARING a fucking Queens of the Stoneage shirt.
I actually stepped into Radio Shack to stalk him and dealt with the guy there trying to sell me a Samsung Rant. Josh was leaving, I sucked up my courage and said hi, asked him if he liked the shirt. He said, "You know what? I really do."
I am so stoked. They are by far my favorite alt-metal band
A pair of Hollywood breakthroughs for Heath
Things started out with a fantastic day on set. I was cast (not used, but still paid) on a show called 'Happiness Isn't Everything', a comedy pilot. I chatted up Jason 'American Pie' Biggs for a bit, then snuck into a table reading with the cast. What a fucking cast: Jason Biggs, Mary Steenburgen (of Back to the Future III fame - somehow, she got hotter) and Ben Schwartz. But the principle actor was who really blew me away: Mr. Richard Dreyfus.
He was so damnably cool. His readings were concise, playful, and hilarious. There wasn't a single wasted joke. I've never seen an actor work like that. Imagine that every word out of your mouth was comic gold. He would just glance at somebody - big laugh.
So, while catching my breath between takes, I walked the Sony Pictures lot for a grand total of about two hours throughout the day. I was AMAZED at how many celebs I ran into. Granted, it's getting to be old hat - you run into them all the time out here running around at Paramount, WB, etc, but
wow -- it never ended. Bonnie Hunt (whom I made cry somehow when I asked her: 'One of those days huh?' She bursts into tears. I apologize, she says it's okay and headbutts my shoulder), Louis Gossett Jr, Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover (FUCK YEAH!), James Marsden (Cyclops from X-Men)...and I'm probably forgetting someone. I left star-struck and amazed to be in the biz.
Then...I go on set for the film, "Surrogates".
I was playing (sigh) a robot. Imagine a Terminator, but no killing. The idea is, in the future you can buy a real life sim (called a Surrogate) for yourself, which appears to be a walking talking person. Usually you buy one that's really sexy, smart, whatever, then control it from your home, seeing through its eyes. They wanted only really sexy mannequin-like people in the film...so somebody must have made a mistake and I made it in, spending the next two days hanging out with models (which is more fun than I thought). Bruce Willis was very cool (talk about grace under fire), and the shoot went well. Two fifteen hour days.
But the killer part? SAG vouchers.
In order to join the Screen Actor's Guild, you have to have three SAG vouchers, which means you've worked as a SAG actor on three SAG shows and gotten paid their rates (which is usually about 17.00 an hour). Right now SAG is clinging to these things for dear life. I haven't seen anybody get one in almost a year out here.
And I came on set, ready to be non-union, and they handed me a SAG voucher. My hands literally shook. There was no explanation for why (though I think it might be SAG paying me back for a shoot on "CSI: Miami" where I was Horatio Caine's body double but didn't get a voucher). All well and good. Then, the second day, voucher number two. Again, inexplicably. So, I'm now holding two SAG vouchers, only needing one more to go before I achieve something I've wanted for more than a decade - SAG membership. After less than a year of trying.
So...I feel good. Better than good. Blessed and looked-after and hopeful.
Here's looking up.
________________________________________________________________ 1/14/09 My experience on "Cold Case" and "Samantha Who?"
"Cold Case": Great crew. I got to work with Kathryn Morris (one of TV's sexiest ladies of 2008...she mentioned it to me ?) and was a stand-in for the actor who played "Gorgeous George" in the film "Snatch" (such a close resemblance). But the best part was running into Summer Glau on the lot. She was coming off of Sarah Connor and became giddy when I called her 'Ms Glau'. She was very sweet and much taller than I thought she'd be. Today I worked on "Samantha, Who" - a decent set-up, holding, etc. Good crew. Jenifer Esposito nearly fell on me (I kinda had to put her back in her chair). But the best part was getting to talk to Christina Applegate, who seemed a little bummed out. I inadvertently made her snort with laughter, which she was clearly a lil embarrassed about. She put a hand on my arm and said: 'you didn't hear that'. And so, the ice was broken a bit and she was a little cheerier, so I figured I did something good for the show.
A great couple of back-to-back experiences!
________________________________________________________________ 12/14/08 My life as "Producer/Host" of a Sci-Fi show
I'm now a host and producer on an online video show called Think Hero.
According to our manifesto, thinkhero.com "focuses on Sci-Fi/Comic Book/Fantasy/Supernatural movies - television - video games and more."
It concerns you people because it has previews for the following movies: Dragonball Z, Terminator Salvation, Friday the Thirteenth, Star Trek and a buncha others.
AND video game previews: Batman: Arkham Asylum, Halo Wars, Prince of Persia and my favorite: GHOSTBUSTERS.
Oh...and also, you can see my op-ed piece on Forrest J Ackerman, and an upcoming op-ed on the Matrix.
So, go to http://www.thinkhero.com/ You won't regret it.
________________________________________________________________ 11/10/08 Magic
This week I had one of the greatest acting experiences of my life.
I was cast to play a prince for the Make a Wish Foundation at an event here in LA. I went to a costuming company where they set me up with a simple little frock and tights and boots and was on my way.
I knew there would be a little girl involved, which probably meant she would be a princess. But I didn't know the full story. When all was said and done, I played Prince Charming to a 6-year-old girl's Fairy Princess - a 6 year-old-cancer survivor. Her wish was to be a princess. And I got to help her be one.
There were three others there in prince gear, and we went along with her in a carriage, waving to the crowd. For whatever reason, they refused to be in character - just pulling the carriage along, checking out the girls. I couldn't believe how little they put into it. Everyone could tell how important the work we were doing was - everyone except them. I sat there thinking: this little girl, after a struggle with one of the most heinous diseases known to man, will believe in magic, tonight at least...because of us.
So, I found myself there: cheap costume, rickety carriage on loan from Warner Bros, waving my white-gloved fingers at the suits, with my only other real performer to work with a six-year-old girl. And I was more motivated than when I've done Shakespeare.
She was incredible, a beacon of strength - all smiles and kind words and loving thoughts. For her it was real - I was a prince, she was a princess, and she was going to live happily ever after, because she had faith that that's what happens to good people. And if there is an ounce of truth to that, I knew that she and her sister and her mom and dad would have a very happy future indeed.
I walked out that night knowing that acting is the finest profession in the world (my apologies to those not bit by the bug). Everything felt right with the world, and I was proud to be an actor. And more so, I was honored, blessed and humbled by the bravest little girl I've ever met, who taught me something about the power of wishing, willpower and this little thing called acting.
(A lot of you dug this blog...so...here's Kiara, the real star: http://www.aseasonofwishes.org/)
________________________________________________________________ 10/23/08 Turning down my 15 minutes
I was offered $50.00 to be in a music video for youtube. They said they wanted someone with a theatre background capable of expressing themselves well with their hands.
They wanted someone with lots of energy and rhythm.
They said they wanted me to to bring in a suit.
Then they said that I was to dress up in an Obama mask (along with someone there for Bush, Cheney, and McCain) and be in a rap video about how we're taking over the world.
I was to have lots of rhythm and be able to "do a lot of rap gestures".
In the words of Lewis Black, I'll repeat that. Because it bears repeating.
"RAP GESTURES"? What year is this again?
So I told them that I'd have to pass.
Their response: Wait? Is it about the suit? We can get you a suit!
And that is why...I love LA.
________________________________________________________________ 9/29/08 Going Home Again
Last night found me back in the place I've been trying to get back to since the day I first left it.
All those years ago when I left LA, I was drained. No creativity - just a kind of depressive hole after spinning my wheels with my father. Returning to Texas was a bitter candy to swallow, and it came with more than its share of heartache, lessons I suppose needed learning. In the end I had a degree, a revamping of the most important relationships, and most importantly, a woman willing to make a go of it and return to the City of Angels with me, bumps in the road aside.
And now, I've given life to my cheery delusions and am cooking spaghetti on an LA stove again.
There's an infectious potential energy to this place - even now I feel it crawling over my feet. I feel like I should be writing, learning lines, lifting weights...conquering. I feel...ready. And it's a readiness that has lain impolitely vocal for far too long. I want so very much to do so very much - for all the things I've trained for, and sweated for, and plead for and begged for and fought for and sacrificed for. There's nothing left but to stab at the darkness with more finesse than I had in my bitter, misplaced youth, though now with better eyes and a sweetly ticking clock.
I'm safe and warm, the skies aren't gray. I don't intend to lose this round.