Why My Artistic Anniversary Was So Special!

On August 26th, 2021, I celebrated 19 years of living in Los Angeles. And what made my anniversary so special, what made it a full circle moment, was that I shot a role on an Amazon Prime feature film that day!

19 years ago, I flew out to LA on a one-way flight from NYC, armed with one suitcase, my leather CD book, and a resolution to pursue my artistic dreams full-time. I had no job lined up. I had no apartment lined up. I had no car lined up. I just had my dreams that out-created what I temporarily lacked. When I landed in LAX, I got into a taxi and immediately quoted Madonna when she landed in NYC in 1977 and got into a taxi as well: “Take me to the center of everything.” Madonna’s taxi driver took her to Times Square and my taxi driver took me to Beverly Hills LOL. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I sat in my trailer on August 26th, 2021, I was filled with so much gratitude. Shooting a role on my 19th anniversary of living in LA was not lost on me. But beyond the role, I was filled with so much gratitude because I am still doing what I love to do. 19 years later and I am still actively involved as an artist. 19 years later and I am still going. 19 years later and I am still standing. And it’s such a testament to my raison d’être, my career bus that contains a community of persons, places, and things that keep me going. My community. My DOIN (Declaration of Independence aka business plan that we learn to create and build at the Richard Lawson Studios.) My DOIN is so important and I literally pulled it up two days before I booked this role to add and edit some things within it.

I am grateful to still be on this journey when a lot of people have stopped their own artistic journeys to pursue other endeavors (no judgement by the way!)

I am grateful that since I landed in LA 19 years ago, I have become a more causative, 360-degree artist. To know that 19 years later, I have weathered the highs and lows, the ups and downs. I mean, come on: The Covid-19 pandemic could have destroyed and obliterated me, but I found myself so creatively plugged in during 2020 by attending classes over Zoom, by working on my writing, by building my own rocking self-tape station and being able to film self-tape auditions, by submitting filmed monologues and scenes to various casting director open calls, by teaching classes over Zoom, by researching various industry topics, by attending artistic panels over Zoom, etc.

2021 has also been filled with artistic excitement. Some highlights:

**Self-tape auditions for TV series on Hulu, Netflix, Fox, HBO, ABC, etc.

**My feature film script placed as a semi-finalist in a big industry writing competition (Scriptapalooza) and it will be promoted to a network of 125 producers for one whole year.

**The same feature film script film script also placed in the top 15% of discoverable projects on Coverfly.

**I placed as a semi-finalist (in the top 6% of applicants) for a program with the Writers Guild Foundation.

**I’m waiting to hear back from other established industry writing competitions and programs.

**I revisited and rewrote a TV pilot script and I am now revisiting and rewriting another feature film script.

**Weekly career administration group meetings where we hold each other accountable to our artistic goals.

**Attending weekly classes.

**Writing meetings with the PDP 3.0 collective.

**I bought printer ink so that I can print up my sides (yes, even buying printer ink is a big win!)

**Relationship map building and outflow.

**In the 36 hours leading up to my film shoot, I had to complete two Covid tests, I had wardrobe fittings, I taught class, and I had to film two self-tape auditions for two different primetime TV series on ABC (one of which was due in six hours!)

So, as I sat in my trailer, the last 36 hours was not lost on me. 2021 was not lost on me. 2020 was not lost on me. My 19-year anniversary in LA was not lost on me.

Happy Anniversary!

Featured photo courtesy of: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/champagne-glasses-happy-anniversary-card/5051937310033.html

Why My Anniversary Was So Special!

On August 26th, 2021, I celebrated 19 years of living in Los Angeles. And what made my anniversary so special, what made it a full circle moment, was that I shot a role on an Amazon Prime feature film that day!

19 years ago, I flew out to LA on a one-way flight from NYC, armed with one suitcase, my leather CD book, and a resolution to pursue my artistic dreams full-time. I had no job lined up. I had no apartment lined up. I had no car lined up. I just had my dreams that out-created what I temporarily lacked. When I landed in LAX, I got into a taxi and immediately quoted Madonna when she landed in NYC in 1977 and got into a taxi as well: “Take me to the center of everything.” Madonna’s taxi driver took her to Times Square and my taxi driver took me to Beverly Hills LOL. The rest, as they say, is history.

As I sat in my trailer on August 26th, 2021, I was filled with so much gratitude. Shooting a role on my 19th anniversary of living in LA was not lost on me. But beyond the role, I was filled with so much gratitude because I am still doing what I love to do. 19 years later and I am still actively involved as an artist. 19 years later and I am still going. 19 years later and I am still standing. And it’s such a testament to my raison d’être, my career bus that contains a community of persons, places, and things that keep me going. My community. My DOIN (Declaration of Independence aka business plan that we learn to create and build at the Richard Lawson Studios.) My DOIN is so important and I literally pulled it up two days before I booked this role to add and edit some things within it.

I am grateful to still be on this journey when a lot of people have stopped their own artistic journeys to pursue other endeavors (no judgement by the way!)

I am grateful that since I landed in LA 19 years ago, I have become a more causative, 360-degree artist. To know that 19 years later, I have weathered the highs and lows, the ups and downs. I mean, come on: The Covid-19 pandemic could have destroyed and obliterated me, but I found myself so creatively plugged in during 2020 by attending classes over Zoom, by working on my writing, by building my own rocking self-tape station and being able to film self-tape auditions, by submitting filmed monologues and scenes to various casting director open calls, by teaching classes over Zoom, by researching various industry topics, by attending artistic panels over Zoom, etc.

2021 has also been filled with artistic excitement. Some highlights:

**Self-tape auditions for TV series on Hulu, Netflix, Fox, HBO, ABC, etc.

**My feature film script placed as a semi-finalist in a big industry writing competition (Scriptapalooza) and it will be promoted to a network of 125 producers for one whole year.

**The same feature film script film script also placed in the top 15% of discoverable projects on Coverfly.

**I placed as a semi-finalist (in the top 6% of applicants) for a program with the Writers Guild Foundation.

**I’m waiting to hear back from other established industry writing competitions and programs.

**I revisited and rewrote a TV pilot script and I am now revisiting and rewriting another feature film script.

**Weekly career administration group meetings where we hold each other accountable to our artistic goals.

**Attending weekly classes.

**Writing meetings with the PDP 3.0 collective.

**I bought printer ink so that I can print up my sides (yes, even buying printer ink is a big win!)

**Relationship map building and outflow.

**In the 36 hours leading up to my film shoot, I had to complete two Covid tests, I had wardrobe fittings, I taught class, and I had to film two self-tape auditions for two different primetime TV series on ABC (one of which was due in six hours!)

So, as I sat in my trailer, the last 36 hours was not lost on me. 2021 was not lost on me. 2020 was not lost on me. My 19-year anniversary in LA was not lost on me.

Happy Anniversary!

Featured photo courtesy of: https://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/champagne-glasses-happy-anniversary-card/5051937310033.html

I. Am. Superman.

Hello fellow actors, writers, producers, and other fabulous artists! You’ve heard me say this before and I’ll say it one more time: Superman is the reason why I wanted to become an actor. I too wanted to save the world and possess super powers!

Looking back at my life, I see how I have become my own version of Superman and how that has manifested itself in different ways: As an actor, a writer, a producer, a family member, a friend, a partner, a teacher, a student, a human rights and political activist, a HUMAN FUCKING BEING. I have truly demonstrated the qualities I see in Superman: strength, resolve, positive change, give, protection, and yes, fun times. Yes, fun times (Superman can have fun too!)

Being Superman is part of my raison d’être. It’s what keeps me going in my career because in everything that I do, “the world will see that Superman can also be brown and queer because I AM THAT.” Always have. Always will. It’s always been there and I’m utilizing it. I remember being told at a young age that I could never be Superman because I have brown skin. And I made a commitment to myself to become my own Superman. To not limit myself.

Superman can exist in all forms, and throughout my artistic journey, I keep affirming to myself that I am Superman. And hopefully, others around the world will be inspired to become their own Superman (or Batman or Wonder Woman or Spider Man or whatever you want!) Don’t limit yourself!

So who is your own personal superhero that inspires you? Which superhero are you, if any?

Thanks for reading!

Fun fact: I decorate my daily planner (no pun intended with The Daily Planet!) with Superman stickers! It helps to reaffirm my artistic administration.

***Clip of Superman is property of D.C. Comics and I pulled the video from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0D7ovW5_nM

Spending My Summer With Ryan Murphy, et al!

Hello artists! As we quickly approach the beginning of summer, I decided to pull out an exciting blog entry from the vault and share it with all of you again. Below, I shared how I was preparing to spend my summer with the likes of Ryan Murphy, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Steven Canals, Tanya Saracho, etc. to discover the shows and movies I would have killed to write on. And as I sit here today, I celebrate how far I’ve come since the original blog posting. It’s happening, folks, it’s happening! And I hope that my journey below helps you in formulating the kind of shows and movies you want to write, plus the literary reps and production companies to target.

Original post below:

On June 15th, 2019, I met with a mentor of mine for coffee in the Hollywood Hills. As countless luxury vehicles pulled in and out of the parking lot, I told him that I needed some help and direction in the TV literary world. A fellow Vassar graduate, I’ve known him for several years now. The writers retreat he hosted at the Sturtevant Camp in Sierra Madre, CA, is still one of my fondest memories.

I told him that I needed to navigate the TV literary world with more focus and clarity because I was a little bit all over the place. I also asked him how to obtain a literary manager. We spoke for a while and he gave me a lot of homework that would help me get more focused in this area, more focused on which literary managers would be best for my writing voice, and to discover opportunities for myself as a minority writer.

After taking pages of notes, I was excited to tackle the homework he gave me. One of the homework assignments was to identify 25 TV shows/movies that I would have killed to work on as a writer. He told me to create a spreadsheet and to include different columns of information for this particular homework assignment (e.g. the production company behind each show, the literary reps behind all the writers, etc.)

Side note: At the time of our meeting, I could only identify two TV shows that I would have killed to work on as a writer LOL.

After our meeting, I immediately got to work. I started watching lots of TV shows and movies to find my voice in them. Does this TV show or movie sound like my voice? Does this TV show or movie sound like what I’m interested in writing? I would watch at least two episodes of each TV show to see if I would add it to the list or not. I typed in specific genres that I was interested in. I looked at recommendations from Netflix, Hulu, and IMDB (i.e. “If you liked Black Mirror, then check out…”) Next thing I knew, my list of shows started to grow.

When my list grew to 15 shows, I hit a wall. I was like, “There is no way I’m going to find 25 TV shows/movies.” I emailed my mentor and asked, “Is 25 a hard number? Or can I have less than that?” I asked him this question knowing fully well what his answer would be. I knew that 25 was a hard number. And that he gave me 25 TV shows/movies to push myself, to explore, and to think outside of the box. He emailed me back and he confirmed everything I already knew. So, I recommitted to reaching the magic number of 25. And I’m glad I did because I didn’t want to take any shortcuts. I wanted to fully comply.

On July 27th, I reached the magic number! When I found my 25th show, I cheered! I was so happy and ecstatic. It took me almost a month and a half, but I got to spend my summer with Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Steven Canals, Tanya Saracho, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ryan O’Connell, and so many other amazing creators! And, I was also able to identify the literary reps behind them and behind all of their staff writers. These literary reps represented writers who represented my voice. Plus, I identified production companies that produce the kind of work I want to create as a writer.

I discovered/reconfirmed a few things with this assignment:

*I am interested in the following areas for TV: urban dramedies; stand alone sci-fi episodes; comedies where the lead character is truly an outcast.

*My writing heart resonates with half-hour TV shows.

*When it came to identifying movies, urban dramas made the list. Although, I also love comedic apocalyptic films like Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End (both written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg)

*ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! When I saw the amount of creativity in each show, the storylines, the kind of different and dynamic leading characters, etc., I realized that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! There is an audience out there for any show and storyline. There is no way that my own TV series can’t be picked up. All of the shows I watched (whether they made the list or not) reconfirmed that my series has a place on TV. No one can ever tell me that there isn’t an audience for my work after all of the TV shows and movies I’ve seen.

So, ladies and gentleman, here are the 25 TV shows and movies that I would have killed to work on as a writer because they resonate with my writing voice. In no particular order:

  1. Pose
  2. Black Mirror
  3. Pen15
  4. Room 104
  5. Electric Dreams
  6. Weird City
  7. The Twilight Zone (the reboot)
  8. Special
  9. Bonding
  10. Shrill
  11. Difficult People
  12. Schitt’s Creek
  13. Ramy
  14. Barry
  15. Atlanta
  16. Fleabag
  17. Vida
  18. When They See Us
  19. Tales of the City (the reboot)
  20. Looking
  21. Moonlight
  22. Gun Hill Road
  23. Quinceanera
  24. Roxanne, Roxanne
  25. Culture Shock (part of the Into The Dark series on Hulu)

Header picture by Anete Lusina: https://www.pexels.com/photo/crop-person-standing-near-fence-and-old-tv-5721863/

Writing Competitions: Where To Start????

Hello my fellow artists! If you’re in the United States, I hope you are having a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend. For my fellow screenwriters and TV writers out there who are interested in submitting content to writing competitions, but don’t know where to start, I hope that my quick blog entry will help.

As with film festivals, there are a PLETHORA of writing competitions. It can seem and feel daunting when looking at the myriad of choices out there. For example, when I recently logged into my Coverfly account, the dashboard revealed 154 writing competitions available for submissions. 154?! What?!

And if you don’t know what Coverly is, here is some info about this platform: https://www.coverfly.com/brief-introduction-coverfly-writers/#:~:text=Coverfly%20is%20an%20opportunity%20for,your%20competition%20successes%20to%20work.

Submitting to writing competitions (and film festivals) as a way to get your work out there, to get noticed, to receive feedback or coverage, can become a very expensive endeavor. Don’t just submit blindly. The best advice I can give to you before you begin your journey is to do your homework. Research. When I started submitting my films to film festivals, yes, I submitted to some of the big ones (Sundance, Cannes, Tribeca, New York Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival, etc.) cause why not? However, once I got the big festivals out of the way, I also did further research to find the festivals that would be tailor-made for my films. For example, if my film featured a Latinx cast and storyline, then I knew that I should find film festivals that were geared towards Latinx-based projects. If my film was directed by a woman, then I found film festivals that celebrated and encouraged films directed by women. If my film was sci-fi, then I found film festivals that focused on this particular genre.

As a result, my submissions became more targeted. More focused. My films fell within the zip code of those particular film festivals because I was speaking their language. Writing competitions are no different. Do the research. Aim for the big ones (cause why not?) and aim for the ones that are targeted to the type of script you have for a more specific, bullseye approach. Not all competitions are equal and built the same way. Some have been around for a while and are highly-regarded and respected. Others are brand new and have only been in the game for one year. Some competitions come and go.

Some factors to consider: how long the competition has been in existence for, its mission statement, its end goals for the writers who enter and win, the judges involved in the competition, the sponsors behind the competition, etc. By the way, I’m not here to say which ones to submit to and which ones to avoid. It’s up to you to do the research and decide for yourself. Listen to your instincts and use your common sense.

Below, I have listed a few established, industry-recognized writing competitions. I found these writing competitions based upon industry colleague recommendations and through my own research. There may be a lot more established, industry-recognized writing competitions, but at least this list will get your wheels going (If you know of other established writing competitions, please leave a comment below so I can add them to the list.) And with the exception of the Academy Nicholl Fellowships which only focuses on screenplays, the other competitions listed below accept both screenplays and TV scripts.

Academy Nicholl Fellowships: https://www.oscars.org/nicholl

Austin Film Festival: https://austinfilmfestival.com/submit/screenplay-and-teleplay-submissions-2/

Final Draft Big Break: https://www.finaldraft.com/big-break-screenwriting-contest/

Page Awards: https://pageawards.com/

ScreenCraft: https://screencraft.org/screenwriting-contests/

Scriptapalooza: https://scriptapalooza.com/

Script Pipeline: https://scriptpipeline.com

Shore Scripts: https://www.shorescripts.com

The Black List: https://blcklst.com/

Tracking Board Launch Pad: https://tblaunchpad.com/

Featured image courtesy of Suzy Hazelwood: https://www.pexels.com/photo/black-and-red-typewriter-1995842/

How To Respond To Your Friends’ Successes

HELLO! HELLO! HELLO! (as RuPaul says!)

It’s so nice to be back. I hope everyone is thriving both personally and professionally. I have been missing in action because I have been focused on both the acting and writing sides of my career from self-tape auditions for co-star and series regular roles to submitting my writing content to various competitions and writing programs to just being fabulous 🙂 I am grateful that I was able to stay connected and grounded with everything that occurred in 2020.

I hope to continue blogging on a more consistent basis so that I can include all of you on the journey I’m on to have the career I want, while also sharing the lessons and advice I am learning along the way.

The major catalyst that brought me out of blog hibernation was a friend and colleague of mine who I had the pleasure of talking to over the phone recently. A powerhouse of a person and artist, we caught up and by the end of our conversation, she asked, “What happened to your blog?” She proceeded to tell me that my blog was a way for her to stay connected and in the loop.

And so here we are. Do it now! And because we both had a synchronistic week that helped us to reconnect, I knew what I wanted this blog entry to be about. You see, before we called each other and caught up, I had been wanting to write a blog entry about how to respond or react when your friends are winning and succeeding. So, here is my take, my advice, on that. Because the way I responded over the phone when hearing my friend’s successes is a way you should respond as well.

When your friends are winning, be happy for them! Celebrate with them! Cheer them on! Because what goes around, comes around. If I react with a sense of jealousy or resentment, then I’m just putting out a negative energy that A) They feel and B) The universe feels. And I’ve just cut myself off from any abundant, wonderful inflow that can come back my way.

Be happy for your friends! Today it’s them. Tomorrow it’s you. We are coming up together. They are not better than me. I am not better than them. We are in this together. And so when my friend shared her wins, I was truly enthusiastic and proud of her.

I remember attending an alumni panel in LA. The panel was made up of industry types from actors to TV executive producers. I saw some friends of mine in the audience and this was the first time we had seen each other since graduation. Afterwards, we caught up during the reception portion of the event and we got to the famous question, “So, what have you been up to? What have you been working on?” When it was my turn to share, I did so with enthusiasm, excitement, and a real sense of wanting to share. When I was done sharing my recent wins and successes, there was a silence in the air before they said, “Well. What have you been working on?” and they proceeded to the next person. I didn’t receive any acknowledgement. They were filled with jealousy, envy, and resentment. As if I had done something wrong. It feels shitty when you feel people resenting you for the hard work you’ve done. Needless to say, I kicked them off of my career bus with the quickness.

If you’re struck with jealousy, ask yourself why. There are plenty of opportunities out there. There are plenty of jobs out there. There are plenty of doors that can open. There are a myriad of ways to create for yourself and get yourself noticed. Stay the course. It takes work. A sustained effort. Keep track of your journey so that you know where you started, where you are now, and where you are headed next.

So when your friends are winning, respond like Queen Meryl Streep below:

Featured image courtesy of cottonbro at: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-toasting-wine-glasses-3171837/

31 Days Of Christmas

I’m BAAACCK! Reunited and it feels so good.
 
2020. What a fucking year. I’ve been away fighting the good fight for racial equality, preserving our democracy and continuing to administrate my career. Hope all of you are well and also fighting the good fight.
 
In looking at creating a new blog entry after being away for a long period of time, I couldn’t help but circle back to the power of art and of being an artist. Amongst other things, staying connected to my art has kept me sane, present and grounded in the midst of all of the incredible challenges that 2020 has brought to all of us. I’ve had many wonderful wins despite the crazy twists and turns of 2020.
 
As 2020 quickly comes to an end, I wanted to challenge myself to do 31 things for my career over 31 days in December. I call it “31 Days of Christmas” because quite frankly, doing administration for my career is fun and rewarding. It feels like Christmas every time I’m in the driver’s seat of my career. And I wanted to create this challenge because I know how easy it can be to slow down and take it easy during December. To think that things are over. However, I want to maintain a sense of outflow to create inflow…inflow that will pay off immediately in December and also in 2021…plant those seeds and water them!
 
And it won’t be 31 things just to do 31 things. I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy. These 31 things will be influenced by my raison d’etre (purpose; reason for being; reason for existence) and to advance my postulates. So I am moving and administrating with intention.
 
I’m excited because a lot can happen in 31 days!
 
And no worries, I’ll still make sure to celebrate along the way, take in the holiday spirit, drink some eggnog, play Christmas music, read some good books, relax, have some champagne, watch some Christmas movies, etc.
 
So come on. Does anyone want to join me? Let’s do this!

Being Myself & Finding My Voice (2020)

I originally posted this blog entry on August 2nd, 2015 and with everything going on in the world, I felt compelled to share it again:

“Thank you for always being you. It’s refreshing.” This was said to me by casting director and human being extraordinaire, Twinkie Byrd, on July 16th, 2015. When she said that to me, I felt really good. It also made me pause for a second to reflect on how much I HAVE changed as a person. To take stock on the journey that I have taken to become the person that I am today. “Thank you for always being you.”

Because there was a time where I wasn’t being me. At all.

I was born and raised in the projects in Brooklyn, NY. Let me be more specific: I was born and raised in the projects in Brooklyn, NY as a gay man. Not an ideal scenario. Growing up in the dangerous projects, and knowing that I was different since the age of five, I was afraid of being killed. So as a result, I shut down and became incredibly shy. I had no voice growing up. No point of view. Whenever I DID speak, I had to be really careful how I sounded. Too feminine sounding? Death.

I was also the fifth child out of six children. My older brothers and sisters didn’t want to hang out with me because they were all teenagers or young adults by this point. They did not want to be seen hanging out with a kid. And so I felt that being me wasn’t valuable or worthy. The only way I could stand out and be seen and heard was to act out. To be somebody else. I think that’s part of the reason why I became an actor. To be seen. To get attention. To feel worthy.

Having no voice and pretending to be somebody else became a recurring theme in my life and it got progressively worse. I desperately wanted to fit in and be liked in elementary and junior high school. I wanted my classmates to see that I could be a cool straight kid. I failed miserably. Students would tease me and not be friends with me. I ended up doing school plays because it gave me a voice. It gave me an opportunity to be seen and to be a star in a way that I couldn’t be at the school cafeteria or on the school playground.

Going into high school, I kept pretending to be somebody else because I still desperately wanted to be accepted and to be validated. Being ME was never valued and high school is all about appearances and all this other ridiculous peer pressure. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to fit in. So much so that I even denied where I came from. Up until high school, I attended an elementary and junior high school that was within walking distance of the projects. So the majority of the school population was made up of students from the projects. We all knew we lived in the projects, so whatever. There was no need to pretend we were rich.

But high school was a different story. I had to take a train into a better, residential part of Brooklyn to attend school. I went to a really good public high school that wasn’t a block away from the projects. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by white students. And these white students came from middle class to upper middle class families. Many of these white students lived in houses; had working parents who owned one or two cars; had material things; had intelligence; had an outlook on life that was more positive and abundant vs. my projects outlook of negativity, scarcity and death.

So not only did I hide my sexuality, I also hid where I came from. I became Molly Ringwald’s character in “Pretty In Pink”. Molly played a high school character from a working class family who falls for and begins dating an incredibly wealthy student (played by Andrew McCarthy) She was ashamed and embarrassed to reveal to him that she came from the poor side of town. He would give her a ride home, but she always had him drop her off somewhere else so he wouldn’t see where she lived. She always had an excuse as to why she didn’t want him to drop her off at home. Finally, when he insisted on knowing why he couldn’t drop her off at her home, she exclaimed, “Because I don’t want you to see where I live, okay!” She bursts into tears, and even right now, I’m getting emotional writing about it. Damn muscle memory! So, I didn’t tell anyone where I lived.

I even started acting and speaking “white” because I feared that my Latino heritage wouldn’t be valuable. I had an uncle who called me “Kunta Kinte” when I was 12 years old because I’m the darkest in my family. So, I thought my skin color, my Latino heritage, was a bad thing.

June 14th, 2020 Update: How could I forget the time I booked the role of Tulsa in my high school production of Gypsy and the makeup artist made me a few shades lighter so that I could be more passable and more accepting as Tulsa. I remember looking in the mirror after the makeup job was done and thinking to myself with pride, “Wow, this is how I should look.” Thus reinforcing the notion that being darker is bad and that being lighter is everything. With this makeup on, I could not be called Kunta Kinte anymore.

It got even worse in college. I went to Vassar College. Vassar College! A Sister Ivy League School! Vassar declined Yale University’s invitation to merge with them back in 1969! That takes balls to say no to Yale! Vassar is currently ranked #11 amongst colleges in the United States! Vassar had even MORE white people everywhere and a higher economic status: upper middle class to wealthy individuals. On the extreme side of the economic spectrum, I knew a guy who drove a luxury car, who would fly in and out on a private jet and who would wear Gucci, Armani and Valentino as CASUAL wear to CLASS. Girls would go clubbing on the weekends at our underground dance bar in designer dresses, purses and heels during the middle of winter in Poughkeepsie, NY. It is FREEZING cold in Poughkeepsie during the winter! Hell yeah, in this environment, I ran for mayor big time and became Molly Ringwald’s character times a hundred. Ironically, I became open about my sexuality when I went to Vassar, but I sure as hell didn’t say where I lived. I acted and spoke even more “white”. I would say I was Puerto Rican, but not Dominican as well. Why? Because my older half-siblings, who are Puerto Rican, would sometimes make derogatory remarks about Dominican people when I was a kid. And because I wanted to be accepted by them, I believed that the Dominican side of me was wrong. So, I denied that part of me.

So, there was always this sense of incompletion and not really being me at any given moment. You always got a percentage of me, but not 100 percent of me. I could be gay in certain situations, but not in others. I could be from the projects in certain situations and around certain people, but not in others. I could be Puerto Rican, but not Dominican. Fuck me with a mental spoon.

Pretending to be someone else was about survival. Literally and figuratively. Both just as terrible. Literally surviving from being killed in the projects. Figuratively surviving from being humiliated and ostracized by my friends, colleagues and peers.

It has taken me a long time to be the person I am today. When I sit down and take a look at myself, I really enjoy my sense of humor, my sense of subversiveness, my intelligence, my wit and my point of view. I’m proud of my sexuality and my heritage. I’m grateful for all the wonderful blessings that I have and that I’m able to share with the world. I’m happy that I’ve gotten to a place where I really don’t give a shit what anyone says about me. The moment I stopped running for mayor, the moment I stopped caring about what other people thought, the moment I stopped wanting to be everyone’s friend for all the wrong reasons (for THEIR validation), is when I truly experienced freedom. What you see is what you get and that’s it. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’m done growing and evolving. After all, my intention is to continue becoming a better form of myself, a better version of who I was yesterday. I still have things to work on. This will be a life-long journey to continue being the best, most evolved version of me I can be.

Here are some turning points that were instrumental in helping me get to a place where Twinkie could say, “Thank you for always being you. It’s actually refreshing.”

**After I graduated from Vassar College, I met my best friend Geri at work. We were customer service representatives at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan. We were required to do two weeks of training before we could officially start. On the first day of training, she arrived two hours late and she marched in like a grand diva wearing big sunglasses, high heels, and a huge purse dangling from her arm. My first reaction was, “Who the fuck is this bitch arriving two hours late?” We eventually warmed up to each other and hit it off within a couple of days. She later admitted that her first impression of me on the first day was, “Who the fuck is this yahoo wearing a cowboy hat?” Hey, Madonna’s “Music” album was all the rage at the time and the era and imagery was all about urban, modern cowboy culture. So when the Queen of Everything speaks and begins a trend, I comply.

Geri and I are still very close to this day. She’s beautiful, smart, funny, has great taste in style and has such a foul mouth–which I love. We would hang out often after work, and sometimes, she would drive me home. And yep, Molly Ringwald’s character possessed me once again. I would have Geri drop me off in a good part of Brooklyn, and then I would walk several blocks home after she drove away. This charade kept going successfully until one night, she asked me if she could use my bathroom because she really had to pee. I could’ve died right there in the passenger seat. I started to panic. I started thinking of alternative bathrooms that she could use instead.

But I couldn’t say no to her when I failed to think of alternatives. I didn’t want her to pee on herself. So for the first time in my life, I came clean about where I lived. And after I was done apologizing for where I lived, and then expecting her to throw me out of her car, she looked at me and said, “Jorge, I don’t give a fuck where you live. That’s not why I’m your friend. I’m your friend because I love you. And if anyone is going to judge you based upon where you live, then they’re not your fucking friend.” In that moment, I finally knew what a real friend was. I knew that I had a friend for life. That moment was instrumental for me. I wasn’t ashamed of being from the projects anymore. We parked in front of my building, she met my mom, my mom loved her and probably thought there was still hope for me (Oh snap! More on that in just a second!) Geri got to pee and the rest is history.

**Another turning point was moving to Los Angeles. I now had to become an adult and support myself. To make my own rules and live by them. As soon as I moved to Los Angeles, I had the blessing and honor of studying with and being influenced by two incredible acting teachers. First and foremost, Richard Lawson. He has been INSTRUMENTAL in my journey of self-discovery and empowerment. I always speak about Richard and how he has changed me. But I also need to acknowledge my very first LA acting teacher, Gary Imhoff.

Gary started my LA journey of being myself and finding my voice when about a year into my studies, he told me to connect with my sexuality and to put it up in class as a personal monologue. He recognized that I was acting through a filter because I was afraid of being discovered or outed. So my work was not as rich and fulfilled as it could be. I would act cautiously and carefully. A year later, he told me to reconnect with my roots and put it up in class as a personal monologue. He recognized again that the denial of my heritage was causing me to act through another filter. How could I be personal and real with my acting if I was drawing from a fake place? Connecting to my heritage meant connecting to me, to my home, to my history, to my genetic makeup. Drawing from who I REALLY am and not who I was PRETENDING to be. These denials were not only negatively affecting my work as an actor, but they were negatively affecting my life as well. Both personal monologues became these John Leguizamo-inspired, mini one-man show extravaganzas that received standing ovations. Turning points indeed. Shortly after the second personal monologue, I put up a scene for Gary and during his critique, he said to me, “You sound different. You are more grounded and centered. You even look more black.” I laughed out loud, as did the class. Gary got the ball rolling for me accepting my sexuality and my Latino heritage.

**The community of true friends I have built and nurtured out here has been another turning point. Pulling in the right friends based on love, respect, integrity, drive, passion, fun, no judgements or criticisms, but willing to express tough love to help me get to the other side and be all that I can be. I love you all.

**But the biggest turning point was in December 2009. I came out to my mom…again.

LOL!

I was in a relationship that I was happy with. He was someone that I knew I wanted to introduce to my family. My mom’s birthday was coming up in February and I thought that would be a great opportunity to introduce him to everyone. Only one problem: I needed to make sure that my mom knew I was gay. I first came out to her the summer after my sophomore year at Vassar. She was completely shocked. She was trying to comprehend my sexuality and the Catholic guilt flowed through her: “God made it to be man and woman. Not man and man. God does not want it this way.” After that conversation ended, my sexuality was never brought up again. Neither by her nor by me. And so for years afterwards, I continued living in a blur, in a fog, in front of my mother and in my life in general. Even though I made steps forward in the area of sexuality with Gary Imhoff and Richard Lawson, I was still incomplete and hiding somewhat. This time, however, I wanted to make sure that she was crystal clear about my sexuality. I was prepared and willing to lose the love of my mother so that I could be ME.

I wrote a letter in which I came out to her again. I told her I was in a relationship with a great guy and how happy I was with him and with my sexuality. The letter was positive. It was not about blame or pointing fingers. It was not about dwelling in the past. It was my intention to clear up any confusion or ambiguity. I mailed out the letter and decided to wait at least a week before I called her. It was the holidays, so I took into account how busy the post office would be. When I finally called her, it was the most amazing phone conversation I’ve ever had with her. She told me she received my letter and that she didn’t care that I was gay. She loved me as her son and she loved me for who I was. She also added that she didn’t care what anyone else thought about me. That if they had a problem with me, they could go fuck themselves. She was very happy for me and my relationship and could not wait to meet him. She also said that she never forgot when I first came out to her. She said the reason why she never brought it up again was because I had never brought it up again. Since I never brought it up again, she figured I went through a phase (And that’s why I could see her excitement when she met Geri.)

LOL Jesus, Mary, Joseph, God! If only I had spoken on this sooner, I could’ve saved myself years of—Ahhh fuck it. No point dwelling on the past and what could’ve been. The point was that my mom and I were now on the same page and her unconditional love and acceptance blasted the door wide open! I immediately came into focus. I connected to who I was because I was no longer hiding. I was no longer pretending to be someone or something else. With her love and support, I didn’t care anymore what others thought about me. My brothers and sisters love me as well by the way…the gay AND the Dominican sides of me 🙂

The walls finally came down! I started settling into my body. My true voice started to emerge. I had a point of view. I expressed myself. My true being started to emerge and affected all areas of my life including my art: I’m a better actor, writer and dancer as a result. Other dynamics and colors came to the forefront and made me a complete, whole person. Being gay is just a wonderful part of my make up. It’s not my entire life. Or as one of my good friends, Lindsay, said to me recently, “You’re a power gay. You don’t show it off. You don’t make a big deal out of it. You just are and get shit done.” But I don’t apologize for being gay, nor am I ashamed of it.

Growing up in the projects is no longer a source of shame. Being Dominican is no longer a source of shame.

I am me. I don’t apologize for it anymore. I inspire people. I make people laugh. I am handsome. I am dangerous. I make people uncomfortable. I am a listener. I am a rock. I am a leader. I am a lover. I am subversive. I am light. I am dark. I am tough. I am vulnerable. I am masculine. I am feminine, etc.

I am a HUMAN being living my God-given purpose on this planet: To be an artist.

I hope that this blog entry inspires you in some way. Perhaps someone out there is currently experiencing what I have experienced before. Just know that there is a light on the other side. When you find yourself and your voice, honor it and protect it! Or, if you are already being yourself, I hope you advance that further too because I’m on the journey of self-improvement for life.

I love being myself and my voice 🙂

Is Typecasting A Good Thing?

Typecast:

According to Google: Assign (an actor or actress) repeatedly to the same type of role, as a result of the appropriateness of their appearance or previous success in such roles.

According to Lexico: Represent or regard (a person or their role) as a stereotype.

According to Wikipedia: In television, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character, one or more particular roles, or characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for them to find work playing other characters.

There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for them to find work playing other characters.

After working with, acting with, coaching and teaching many actors, this is a fear that comes up. And I’ve been asked many times what my point of view is on the topic of typecasting.

For ME, the best advice I can give is:

Get typecast. Get typecast so you can get in the door. And as you’re getting in the door, create the evidence for yourself that reveals what else you can do (and, most likely, what you’re more interested in and passionate about.) So that when you’re on hiatus from your series regular role or after you’ve booked X amount of roles as a particular casting, then you’re creating and distributing content to your team, your followers, your relationship map, etc…that reveals another aspect of your casting that you are probably more interested in, more connected to and more passionate about.

Again, that’s just me. You have to make your own personal decision at the end of the day. If you don’t feel comfortable being typecast or if you have strict policies and principles against that, cool. Then be about creating and carving out what you want to do, what you want to play and how you’re going to achieve that.

Ultimately, what do you see for yourself and how do you get there? Follow your instincts.

Revisiting My Oscars Speech

Oscar

Happy Oscars day! Today is my Superbowl! And I love that the Oscars were scheduled earlier this year (February 9th) so that we can enjoy and wrap up awards season sooner rather than later. I revisited a blog entry I posted on March 10th, 2018, in which I shared the experience I had delivering my Oscar speech for Best Actor. And what stood out for me was that what I wrote in 2018 still rings true today. My career is still real and alive for me. My postulates are still real and alive for me. I am still in belief with what I see for myself, with what I am creating for myself and with the wins I am having.

I recently did a video testimonial for the Professional Development Program at the Richard Lawson Studios and when I slated with my name and what I do, it was with full belief and conviction: “Hi, I’m Jorge Ortiz and I’m an actor, writer and executive producer.”

So, take a stroll down memory lane with me below. Have you wavered on your dreams? Have you lost belief in your dreams? Two years later, are you in more belief or less belief in terms of your dreams?

Original Post:

On Sunday, March 4th, I attended what I call the Super Bowl of all awards shows: the Oscars. I live for awards season and the Oscars is the culmination, the peak, of this exciting and hectic season.

I attended an Oscars viewing party at the WACO Theater Center and it was hosted by Richard Lawson. We were asked to come dressed in our Oscars best. I chose to wear a black blazer, black pants and black shoes. I was going to wear a crisp, button-down shirt underneath, but I quickly discovered that dry cleaning stores are closed on Sunday (I was going to drop my shirt off the day before) So I quickly improvised and decided to wear a simple maroon t-shirt underneath. Rock and roll, baby!

As we settled inside the theater to watch the Oscars, Richard made an announcement. He said, “Now you know…because I teach about the power of postulates, I’m going to randomly call up a person to deliver an Oscars speech during each commercial break.”

(By the way, here is the definition of a postulate: A self-generated truth. A prediction. A proposition that requires no proof, being self-evident, or that is for a specific purpose assumed true, and that is used in the proof of other propositions. To demand or claim something.)

I could feel some people in the room shift uncomfortably in their seats and I also heard slight groans and murmurs of protest. Perhaps they felt this was some hokey pokey nonsense. Perhaps they don’t have belief in their own abilities to reach this pinnacle of industry recognition.

Not me. I wanted to lean into and embrace this opportunity! Winning an Oscar is on my DOIN’ (Declaration of Independence aka my business plan) and what better way to get closer to my postulate of winning an Oscar than to deliver a speech in front of a live audience of artists. What better way to assume the position and believe and experience.

On the second commercial break, Richard called my name over the speaker system! “And the Oscar goes to…JORGE ORTIZ!”

As soon as I heard my name, I was in instant belief. I jumped up to my feet and grabbed the glass bottle of mineral water I was drinking so that it could represent my Oscar. I remember seeing people around me giving me a standing ovation and cheering very loudly and happily for me. I remember walking with energy down the stairs and Jordan Bull giving me a hug along the way. I got to the stage and then quickly got off of it and ran back upstairs to give my partner a hug and a kiss! I made my way back to the stage and soaked in the applause and cheers. The lights shone brightly and warmly on me.

I heard Marlo Stroud yell from the front row, “I love you Jorge!”, and I quickly pointed to her and yelled back, “Thank you Meryl Streep!” When the applause died down, I began my speech. The first thing I said was, “Well I guess this means one thing: My IMDB star meter will FINALLY be number one tomorrow! I’ve always wanted that!”

My speech flowed. It was moment to moment and it had equal parts humor, charm, irony and earnestness. I was impinged. I impinged the audience. I would look at my glass bottle Oscar with pride and joy. I ended my speech, and to pay homage to the winners who sometimes walk off the wrong way, I did the same. When I realized I was exiting the wrong way, I played up the mistake and then pointed to the usher who helped me exit the right way.

I walked down the hallway and made my way into the lobby where I was still in absolute belief as people congratulated me on what a great job I had done. So many people congratulated me and I felt like I was in the press room that winners immediately go into to answer questions from the press.

Someone asked me in the lobby, “What kind of film do you think you would win an Oscar for?” I immediately said, “I could see myself winning a Best Actor Oscar for being in a film like Moonlight. A movie that pushes, provokes and inspires.”

This was such an incredible and real experience!!!!!!!!!

As the night continued and I watched other speeches, it was interesting to see who was in belief and who had a judgement about it. And all I can say about the latter approach is that this judgement, this non-belief, this doubt, this feeling of it being hokey pokey nonsense are all postulates. That’s right, these are postulates too. Negative postulates. You’re putting that negative belief out there. This self-generated truth, this prediction, this proposition that requires no proof, being self-evident…is all rooted in negativity and doubt. What you put out there is what you get back. So if you don’t believe that you can have an Oscar, then you won’t get it. You won’t ever put yourself in a position of belief to get closer and closer to the postulate of getting an Oscar.

And it’s just not about the belief in getting an Oscar. I’m curious to know where else you have doubts about your own career. Do you have doubts that you can have wonderful representation? Do you have doubts that you can put together a great demo reel? Do you have doubts that you can be a working actor? Do you have doubts that you can do a great audition or put up a great scene in class? Do you have doubts about the power you have as an artist?

“The man who says he can, and the man who says he can not. Are both correct.”-Confucius