David has been an actor in Atlanta since 2000. Some of his work has included such shows as Sleepy Hollow, Drop Dead Diva, Prison Break and Satisfaction, to name a few.
When did you know you wanted to be an actor and how did you go about getting started?
The first inkling I knew I wanted to be involved was when I was in middle school. They had a Magnet Performing Arts troop come around to our middle school. Each county has a magnet school and in Cobb County it’s Pebble Brook. For some reason it just called to me, I don’t know. Then I went through the process of auditioning, got accepted – that was the beginning of my education. I went to that high school for four years. I was blessed with the best teacher imaginable. It was competitive. I liked that. It helped. That was the beginning of it right there.
You are originally from Georgia?
And it’s worked out well because Atlanta has picked up so much in terms of acting?
I never expected it to. Around the time I started acting, there were just one or two TV shows here – I’ll Fly Away and In the Heat of the Night. After I graduated from Florida State, I went out to LA and some of my friends came here. I’d get in touch with them and compare stories. They all had agents here and had auditions. I didn’t have an agent out there. I didn’t have auditions except for theatre stuff and living in LA is expensive too. After a couple of years, I came back. I had great opportunities in LA outside of acting, with production stuff. I fell into a job logging video for Mark Burnett’s show Eco Challenge. It’s what he was doing before Survivor. That was my day job. All the doors were opening there. They asked if I would come back and be an assistant producer the next year but acting was still pulling at me.
I knew I had to really give it a good shot so I came back here in 2000. That was the best thing I ever did. I never thought I’d come back here. Didn’t want to, but I’m glad I did.
You studied theater at Florida State University?
Yes, I got a performance degree. I started off going to college in Colorado for a couple of years as a ccommunications major. I chose that as a safe route thinking I could always pursue theatre later. However, I found myself doing plays with the theatre department at the college I went to get a broadcasting degree from. Soon I realized I couldn’t do journalism, took a couple years off to figure things out, and save some money for the last couple years of school in whatever capacity that was. I spent a couple years working and was passionate about nothing else as much as theatre so I decided to go for it. That’s how I ended up at Florida State as an acting major. The setting truly felt like home. It was an incredible experience. It was the next phase of solid education after high school that I really needed. The program and the teachers were excellent.
After you completed that, went to LA and returned here, did it really pick up in Atlanta right away or did it take some time here too?
It took some time but there were signs that it was a good place to be because I was able to audition for good things and there was the ability to make money at it. From 2000 until 2006, it was mostly part-time and from then on things picked up enough to be full-time.
When you started out initially, did you have a survival job? Did you do other stuff to supplement your income?
I was a substitute teacher and I still do that when time permits. There were a number of theatre gigs that helped bring in some money too.
What else do you do to keep your acting skills sharp?
I’d say doing theatre is one of the best ways to stay sharp. To each his own though.
What do you do in terms of trying to stay positive and being grounded?
My faith is a big thing for me. It’s what keeps me grounded. It keeps things in perspective and from not getting too wrapped up in it. There are so many things beyond my control.
When you moved to Atlanta, how did you go about finding work? How did you get an agent?
I’d kept in touch with a friend of mine, Jamie Renell, that I went to college with at Florida State, who came here when I went to LA. He was with People Store and offered to take my headshot and resume to Jen Kelly. She offered to represent me so I moved back and got started that way.
Were you SAG by the time you came back from LA?
While I was in LA, I was working towards becoming SAG. Everything out there is union-based but here it’s not necessary. I became eligible but had not joined.
What do you do in terms of marketing and networking?
I don’t do as much as I should or could, that’s for sure. Houghton gets me out there quite a bit. After time, you build relationships with casting directors and people that you have worked for. Every chance I get, I try bringing the best I can for what is called for. Networking is definitely not my strength. I wish it were because I think I could benefit a lot more from it. It’s a great skill, especially in this business.
You’ve booked a recurring role on Drop the Diva. Do you think the opportunities are going to keep increasing so that eventually they book series leads out of here?
As time goes on, it seems that larger roles are being booked in Atlanta. There is so much work here now that the opportunities have increased greatly. It’s looking like it to me. Before the tax incentives, the roles seemed smaller…just a few lines. Now you have more scenes. So yes.
No move to LA planned in the future?
I think I’m cut out for Atlanta. I don’t think I’ve got enough to be out there in LA or New York to stand out the way I need to. I make a comfortable enough living that I don’t feel like I need to change anything. I really just want to make a living out of it. I can’t see myself changing anything as far as moving unless something was already there waiting that was worth it.
Do you do any writing or try to put projects together that give you more opportunities for yourself?
No. If I had more time on my hands, I might. It’s just enough right now, it’s the perfect balance. And I get enough creative fulfillment through the stuff that I work on.
Do you ever go through any periods of self-doubt or handling a negative mindset?
To some degree, of course. But I’ve also tried to train myself over the years to do the best I can and then just forget about it. Of course, there are some things that I remember but overall I just get ready for the next thing.
Looking back, what decisions could you have made differently?
That’s tough to say but being a better networker would help. I was trying to learn from my mistakes. I think that as long as I can do that, I’ll be okay.
You believe that the formal degree has helped you?
For me, it has helped tremendously. There are many people who don’t have formal degrees at all but still have great success in the industry.
If you can’t afford to get into a proper film or drama school, the other option is also to immerse yourself in theatre?
If you really want to learn your performance craft, yes. You could do theatre anywhere, anytime, very close to you. Some are better than others but there’s always the opportunity, especially for somebody who’s starting now. The experience will teach you. You will start meeting people with the same interests and things will develop. Atlanta is a great place to get started.