Finding Work As An Actor With Christian Frazier

Actor Christian Frazier

This week on the Imperfect Podcast we are talking to actor and comedian Christian Frazier. He’s best known for his work as Henry Weaver on FOX’s Gotham. Having had the opportunity to meet Christian face to face at the MixKnowledgy event in New York, we didn’t want to miss the opportunity to find out more about his acting career.

Christian gives us insights on what it’s like day to day as a working actor. With 21 credits to his name including Gotham, Blue Bloods and Law & Order to name a few. A former military veteran and real estate agent, acting was not his first career. Listen to the full episode to hear his story about how he broke into the industry and landed one of his dream roles.

Keep up with Christian at his web site: http://christianfrazier.com

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Watch the Full Interview with Actor Christian Frazier

What did you take away from the MixKnowledgy event?

It was a networking event with actors, film makers, director and people in the entertainment industry. It was a great opportunity to meet Executive Producer Matthew Penn of Law & Order which I actually worked on. Everyone that was there was busy and active in the industry. It was good to hear something from that are in the industry because many students in school are talking to people who are retired. To hear feedback and information from people who are actively doing it was so valuable.

“When I heard they were doing a show called Gotham, I got so excited about it... I want to be on that show!” @frazierchris Click To Tweet

It’s not every day your dreams come to fruition and I actually got to work on the show. I went in to meet with them probably 10 times before I ended up working on the show. They kept bringing me in to audition but every time I auditioned it was for a much larger part. Then the Henry Weaver part came up, I went in for the audition and nailed it. I got the call before I even got home.

Did you wear that same Superman shirt in the New York Post article?

I did actually. I lost 70 pounds, that’s how I actually made it on the cover of the New York Post. They were talking about New Yorkers who had amazing weight loss stories. I used to be a lot bigger and it came down to at casting I hope they don’t ask me to take my shirt off. I made the decision to get in shape just in case they do ask me to take my shirt off.

Weren’t you also in the military?

Yes I was in the military for 8 years a long time ago. I actually joined in 1988 and went through Desert Storm / Desert Shield back in the 90s and then spent a couple of years in Japan. There is actually a group in New York and California called Veteran’s for Film & Television. Hopefully they’ll get active again in New York because they did a lot to help veteran’s get introduced to the studios and get some work.

Are you a native New Yorker?

I’m actually from Newark, New Jersey and I also lived in Brooklyn when I was younger. When I graduated from high school I went to Bloomfield Tech out in Bloomfield, NJ. I graduated on a Friday and on Monday morning I was actually in boot camp.

When did you get interested in acting?

I really wasn’t into the business. I didn’t do plays in high school or anything like that. I went to an inner city school. I think the only sport we had was basketball. So I didn’t do theater or anything and I fell into the acting game by accident. I was actually working in the technology industry for AT&T knocking on doors and I knocked on the door of a talent agency. They looked at me and said, “We don’t have anybody like your type. We need people like you here like now.”

A couple of weeks later I submitted some pictures and they put me to work and I got bit by the bug. I started in the business in Florida and worked on commercials for Disney. Seeing the whole process put together I was intrigued. Then I started to pursue work on my own. Then I got to work on a movie called Out of Time with Denzel Washington. The first movie I ever worked on, I got to meet Dean Cain. Being a big Superman fan I got to meet Dean Cain.

It was shot in a remote location in Sarasota, FL and they didn’t have catering. Catering was at a restaurant overlooking the ocean with steak and lobster and I thought this is how you always ate on movies. I was like sign me up, I’m done. This is it!

When did you attend the Stella Adler School of Acting?

I moved back to New York and wanted to learn more so I started attending seminars and looking at the top acting schools in New York. Stella Adler is always at the top of the list. I wanted to go to a school that had some clout. I really enjoyed the classes I took there. Even after being in the industry for a while I still feel like I learned a lot.

“Our philosophy is you’re always learning and always crafting your art.” – @imperfectjoe Click To Tweet

I feel like I’m learning every time I watch television, every time I watch an actor or go to a movie. As an actor I feel like we should watch movies differently. I really watch things from a director’s perspective. I feel like that’s the natural progression for an actor. I do a lot of directing on my own now. A lot of short films and music videos and that’s the direction I want to go. You’ve got to be able to learn the entire film making process. I know how to edit, I know sound, I know lighting, I can operate the camera, I’m a DP as well. It also helps you as an actor when you understand the whole process.

“The industry has really changed a lot in the last 5 to 10 years.” – @frazierchris Click To Tweet

To give an example, news reporters had to become camera men because news stations can’t afford to have a camera man and a reporter. The reporter has to carry the equipment, set it up, and get on camera and report. I hear a lot of actors still resisting the change but we’ve got to produce, we’ve got to write and do it all. If you just sit around and wait for a job to come, it’s probably not going to happen.

You still look for gigs but at the same time I feel like you can actually do a lot more meaningful work in the indie world doing it on your own. I can work on a major television show or film but unless you’re the lead character your interaction is going to be limited. In order to get more depth out of yourself as an actor, write your own stuff.  Who’s going to be able to write better material for yourself than you? You know exactly what you are capable of.

We understand you’re a standup comedian as well?

My friend is Richard Pryor’s son, Richard Pryor Jr here in New York. I was watching Richard Pryor when I really shouldn’t have been watching Richard Pryor. I remember recording Richard Pryor on a VHS tape and my mother finding it and flipping out and she ended up recording some soap operas over it. I’ve always watched comedy since I was a kid and it just became very natural to me. When I moved back to New York about 6 years ago I decided to do my first standup routine. What was interesting about it was that the casting director from The Chris Rock Show was there. When I finished my standup she said I was funny and that gave me all the confidence in the world because she worked with Chris Rock, JB Smoove and Wanda Sykes.

I don’t do it as much as I would like to because there’s not a lot of money in comedy. You always hear about comedians touring the country, living in flea bag motels and hamburgers and fries six days a week. I choose to not really live that life. I do a lot of comedy on my own with groups of friends on the weekends and to me it fulfills my passion.

I did a comedy show a year ago called Black Don’t Crack and it’s kind of like my slogan because people look at me and they don’t know I’m a grandfather of 3, father of 4. People say I look really young and I tell them, “Black don’t crack, unless you smoke it.” My comedy shtick is about being in your 40’s  and not looking like you’re in your 40’s but still feeling like you’re in your 40’s.

Tell us about the Broke Ass Game Show?

It was kind of random but not random. The people I was running up to and singing to, I did not know them. There’s an extended clip you didn’t see where I swear this guy wanted to knock my lights out.

What is day to day like for a working actor?

At the end of the day, every day, whether you’re working or not, you are unemployed. You’re always looking for a job. Looking for a job is a full time job. It’s not about sleeping in late, you have to get up early every morning. You have to have a life outside of acting. So many actors get consumed in the industry and then reality is it doesn’t matter how good you are, how good you look you are not going to work on a consistent basis.

There are so many different reasons why they don’t hire you. You may be too tall for the other actor, or maybe your presence out stages the other actor when they’re the lead.  If you have a life outside of acting then helps bring balance to your acting. If acting is the only thing you do and you’re not working on a consistent basis, when you audition you’re going to be desperate. That desperation is going to come across in your performance 90% of the time it won’t be your best performance.

Being able to take that rejection is a lot easier when you have something else that you can fall back on. I’m not sitting around waiting for them to call me because the reality is there may be a major star going for the same role. It’s a business and ultimately it’s about more eyeballs on the television and more ticket sales in the theater.

What’s your proudest acting role?

The Henry Weaver role stands out a lot to me and I would love to be able to go back and expand on that role. Henry Weaver didn’t die which is a good thing. It’s always up in the air what the writers want to do. Day to day the writer’s don’t know what they want to do sometimes. I’ve gone to work on major television projects and they’ve said they don’t have a script for the day. Things are being written on the fly. You’ve got to be prepared as an actor, mentally to be able to handle that and it’s a lot of pressure

Have you ever taken a role just for the paycheck?

No I haven’t had to go there, yet. I haven’t had to do anything for money because before all this I was a big time real estate agent in Florida. I was the 4th highest agent in the state for Century 21. Money doesn’t motivate me as much. I turn down roles all the time because I feel like it’s not a right fit or it’s not going to advance my career.

What tips would you give for an actor auditioning for a role they want to land?

I’d like to give a shout out to the guys at Bowling Miscia Casting. One of the things I notice that they always do is they always ask the actors do they watch the show. You’d be surprised at how many times I hear a lot of actors say no. For me, I was a fan and watched the show and understood the characters I was playing against. I think that really helps to give a great performance because you understand what that character is all about.

I think that’s what helps to get you cast in any role for any show. Doing your research. Researching the show. Watch the show, understand the pacing. Researching the directors, the producers and everybody that’s involved. Understanding their style so you can bring what they are looking for. You already know what they are looking for when you come in the door so it makes their job a lot easier.

What’s in store for the future?

I’ve been talking to a lot of different television shows, some franchises and some movie franchises. I’m kind of waiting in the wind to see what’s happening. I’ve auditioned for some recurring shows. A lot of times the casting process is you may have to audition for a show more than 10 or 12 times. A friend of mine told me he auditioned for a show 18 times but he ended up becoming a series regular and worked 7 episodes.

Sometimes the casting director really likes you but they are trying to find the right fit for you. Coming from the actor’s side sometimes it sucks! You have to look at the positive side that this casting office is calling you back in over and over again. When they put a casting notice out they get up to 10,000 submissions and then they have to narrow it down to who they can bring into the office.

The fact that you made it to that point and made it to the office and they are calling you back over and over again really says something about you as a performer. They see something in you that they like but not necessarily the perfect fit. It may even take a season or two before you actually get cast on a show.

 

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