Interview – Mark Ashworth

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http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0039327

Your IMDB page talks about you having come over from UK and having worked some odd jobs and then moving to Atlanta. Tell me about your journey from UK to Atlanta.

Well, my parents bought a business in Tennessee in 1992. It wasn’t really a business move for my Dad. Rather I’d say It was more of a lifestyle change that he wanted to give us, because in the UK me and my brother were getting into trouble. So we visited Tennessee on vacation and just fell in love with it. It’s a different way of living than Manchester which is where I was brought up. It’s like a concrete jungle in Manchester you know.

 

In Tennessee, it was more of the beauty of the countryside. The people were so nice. And you know, we were horse-riding where we lived, down at the lake, waterskiing on the weekends, just a completely different way of life. A few years after our initial visits, my dad bought a business, an auto part business, something he had never done in England, just kind of a means to a way of being over here. And he did that for a few years. And then he got, he kind of got put out of business by Walmart, and then he got back into doing kitchens which is what he used to do in England so it’s kind of full circle for him. His journey really was inspirational to me, to this day.

I made the move to Atlanta in 1997. I’d lived in Tennessee at that point for fours years and I think I was about 20. And I saw Atlanta as holding the most promise to me at that time you know. It’s the closest big city to Tennessee and it was affordable and it just seemed like a great move at the time. So I came here in 97. I never said that I would stay but here we are in 2015 and I’m still here you know. It’s a great city to be in. The people are really friendly. And you kind of get the best of both worlds. It’s cosmopolitan and country.

 

Yes, it’s an awesome city.

I never thought that all the present industry work would be going on, all the film work and such. It turned just to be a real blessing that I ended up being here at this present moment.

 

So when you moved to Atlanta you didn’t think about acting?

No. Not necessarily I didn’t although acting was something for me that I‘ve always been interested in . Acting was something that I always felt like I would like to have a go at one day you know, I guess I was always under the impression that you had to go and be enrolled in a dramatic arts school, that you had to go to the big schools.

 

And it was something that at my age, at that time and doing it by myself, I just couldn’t afford. So I was in my twenties just doing things the kids in their twenties do, you know. And before I knew it, I was in my thirties. And then, I had a friend of mine who was going out with this girl and she told me about this acting class in town. It was Nick Conti’s place. She told me about that and she explained to me that it was like “You can go there at once.” There are beginners and intermediate all the way through to advanced classes and that you could go and drop in take a class without the monetary investment I had been afraid of. I went with her along to her class there and I just fell in love with the nuances of the craft. They had numerous teachers at the studio, but I really kind of gelled with my now mentor and actor here in town, Michael Cole. I enrolled in his classes and just began to appreciate everything that he was teaching. Within the first year that I was there, I was able to get an agent and start getting on some big, meatier auditions. I’ve been at it now for probably about 9 years.

 

You’re kind of a veteran at this.

Well, I’ve got my share of experiences in class and on set, and in the business itself.  But I feel as though I’m still kind of getting to know myself and getting to know the craft. It’s an ongoing journey. If you want to be an actor, it’s a whole lifestyle and a journey that you should commit to. So, I feel as though, I have got a little bit of experience and I’m somewhat cautious but I wouldn’t consider myself to be a veteran, or anything yet, you know.

 

How did you get your agent?
I’m with J Pervis Agency. I got with them right up after Joy came back from LA . She was a talent scout with The Osbrink Agency previously. At that time J Pervis were up in Lawrenceville and were expanding their adult division. I remember going up there, we used to have to drive up to the auditions and they put us on tape there. And then they moved into town. They’ve been in town now for the last 5, 6 years I think.

 

And how did you go about submitting? Did you submit to all agencies?

Well, you know, there’s no better place for networking with fellow actors and filmmakers than in the class room. So I went to a lot of classes and workshops. I did a lot of Southern Casting calls. It seems like it has turned into a page for hiring extras now but, you used to, you could find good roles on there you know. Student films, I would do a bunch of that stuff, so I kind of built my resume single-handedly to the point where I felt like it showed that I did have some experience. When I was in class I learned how to properly do a cover letter, how to submit without coming across as needy. Focusing on the fact that I’m trying to better their business at the same time. It’s a business, we work together. As much as it should be, you both need each other.

 

Absolutely, it’s a partnership.

So I guess I just submitted. I submitted to the top tier agencies, the top five. After a while, I was with Real People for a little while and had some really good success with them doing commercials. I just felt that they didn’t really have at the time as much as film and television. I felt like that’s really what I wanted to be doing, more film and television. Then I went over to J Pervis and asked them if they would represent me. But you know I think I submitted a good cover letter, just short, sweet, to the point, telling them who you are, why you are drawn to their agency, what you think you could book with them. Just something real short, and real sweet. What I did as well when I submitted my headshot and resume was put them in a clear headshot envelope.

 

It’s just the small little things like the clear headshot envelope. I think it tells the agency that you care about their time. They don’t have to open the envelope if they don’t want to in order to see the head shot. It kind of makes them want to open the headshot envelope up.

 

That’s a really good tip.

Yeah, so many people submit all the time and sometimes peoples’ headshots are done by on a phone or done by somebody who has no idea what they’re shooting. You know I’ve noticed my headshots over the years have improved just because of my vulnerability to the camera. It’s not about just point and shoot and me smiling. There has to be something going on there in the eye that the camera has to capture.

 

Do you think you’re getting the auditions for meaty roles with all the big projects in town, as many as you are fit for?

Yes. I think so but as an aspiring actor it’s never enough! I wish I could have more meatier auditions but I think I’m getting my fair shake of the stick, I don’t ever complain. I think complaining just opens up a whole world of negativity that you don’t need. I think the way that you think, the way that you project, enables you as a person. Do I wish I was auditioning more? Of course I do. I wish I had auditions every week but I don’t. It’s up to me in my downtime to be proactive and to do things that I need to do for me, whether it be going in front of class, working out with a teammate, with a fellow actor, and being put in on-camera. Just doing something that keeps my hands dirty, that keeps the muscles moving, keeps the universe working for me and in the direction that I want to go.

 

How do you continue to train and take classes and what else do you do outside of acting?

I’m currently in class over at the Rob Mello studio with a fellow actor, Jayson Warner Smith. I just thought I’d do his class because he’s somebody that I respect as a fellow actor, somebody that is working. So yeah, I think it’s important to go and get different teachers’ perspectives on the craft. There’s so many different methods that you can pick up along the way and there’s not one specific one that is right for you, you know. You may take a piece of one person’s thoughts. You may take another person’s thoughts as well. There’s not one special thing. We’re all so different you know so it’s important to get a good grasp of what everybody has to say.

 

And coming back to Michael Cole. One of the things I really like about Michael Cole, and I stay in his classes too. He does a really really good ‘On-camera audition technique class’ in town. It’s over by the Renaissance Project on the east side of town. It’s an ongoing workshop. It’s for the working actor and when I say the working actor it could be just even the one-liner. When I say working I mean auditioning, because that is the real work, when you’re auditioning, you’re working. That’s the work. When you’re on set you play. So I always go to Michael’s classes over at Nick Conti’s. I always kind of gravitate back to him. He’s just somebody that I have a special connection with.

 

I’ll take workshops that come up in town. I think if I want to be seen specifically by casting directors that I have not been seen by, I’ll take a workshop because those things work, they do. They can’t take your headshots at the end of the workshop anymore. It gives false hope I guess. But they will remember your name and you know, I think I’ve done probably like five of those workshops and each and every time I’ve been called in for an audition by some. They do work for me. As long as the casting director is working in your region then you’re in good shape.

 

So workshops do work.

Yeah, yeah. I think so. You have to go in there specifically with a plan of attack. What do you want? You’ve got to know. You want to go in there to get an audition hopefully. You want to go in there to impress. I think, with workshops too you have to be very diligent with your time over. If it’s like a two day workshop a lot of times they’ll give you a lot of home work to do that night. So it’s important that you’re fully focused on that homework during that time so you can go and give the best impression possible to the Casting Director or agent or whoever is leading the workshop. You got to put your right foot forward and if you don’t put your right foot forward, there’s no point of even going.

 

Absolutely. You don’t just go, waste time sitting there.

Yeah. You can’t want to go to a workshop to spend all that money just to get feedback on a headshot. You can ask your industry friends, or somebody you respect and admire, somebody who does have experience with those things, for that kind of feedback. But that’s not the right reason to go to a workshop. You want to go there to knock somebody’s socks off so they got no choice but to call you in for the scene, for the audition.

 

And about what I do outside of acting…I just got a baby girl about ten months ago.

 

Congratulations!

Thanks mate. Yeah I’m so in love. I’m hooked. I’m hooked on my own daughter. She’s the most beautiful little thing. I’m so happy. That’s my best work! I have my wife. I’m happily married, living over at East Lake. I wait tables as my consistent work. I find it’s important to have a consistent job, for me right now, anyway. Until such time as I’ve been booking richer roles and series regulars. It’s important to me to have another source of income.

 

It’s one of those “farm-to-table” restaurants in town. I work with one of my best friends who happens to be my boss now. He’s been my boss for about fifteen years and he knows where my heart is. He knows where my passion is and he does everything he can to help. When I need to get off of work, he’ll let me take off when I book something. You have to be adaptable in this industry because they’re not going to wait around on you. You have to be ready to go at the drop of a hat. Whether it be auditioning, whether it be booking, whatever it is you just got to be ready to go. In order to deal and get ready to go, and be updated you got to, you go to have updated headshots. That’s important too. There’s a lot of cost involved. There’s a lot of investment involved but you know, you’re investing in yourself so it’s important, it’s good.

 

And it’s the holy grail, isn’t it? To find a job that you can support yourself and your family with while having the flexibility.

Oh man. Absolutely. That’s one of my short term goals, is to be able to act and just to be able to support my family by doing that. I’m getting warmer. I’m in year 2 of a 5 year plan and I’m really focusing on my vision. Last year I made more money acting than I did at the restaurants so that’s a real step in the right direction.

 

That’s great man.

Yeah, I was really shocked to get that news from when I did my taxes the other day.

 

Your family, your wife and parents supportive in this career?

Yeah absolutely, everybody’s been just so good. My mom and dad love it. I’d like to credit my mom for giving me the inspiration to actually get off my ass and do something about it. We sat down one day over cups of tea and we were talking about dreams and aspirations. And she said “You know how many people have dreams to do something. 75% of the people do, they’re fortunate thinkers. People that have the ability to be able to think, and to aspire to achieve.” But she said “Do you know the amount, the actual percentage of people who act on those dreams? Less than 5%, jump in and take action.” I don’t know actually where she got those numbers from but it was enough and what I needed, enough for me to get up off my bum and stay up off my bum. It’s not going to drop in your lap. You have to go out, seize the day.

 

If it was easy, everybody would be doing it right? For you though it has been a bit of a niche here, in terms of your British background. Do you think that it helped you?

I think it helps as much as it hinders, you know. It’s nicely thought of when specific roles come through but here in Atlanta, I’ll probably only ever have 3 or 4 auditions for a Brit. I think the casting directors can look beyond my accent, and now that I can do my American accent, with a little bit of work.

 

I think my beard, as much as anything, got me a lot of work. You know how it’s so funny about that. I’ve got my beard now for a while so it’s like I get those specific roles like some crazy man, nervous guy, biker, bartender, crazy guy, homeless guy. Get a load of the homeless guy, roles you know. Which is good. I don’t care what. I don’t care how you think of me, just me.

 

You just gotta get the work.

Yeah, put me to work. But yeah I think it’s a blessing as much as, well it’s not a curse. Sometimes people that know my work, but don’t know I’m British would call me in for a Southern role, which I love doing, I love Southern. I lived in Tennessee for a few years. I think the English accent’s not too far from the Southern just cause it’s got so much pitch. So up and down you know. So is ours.

 

So you are able to turn it on off as needed?

You got to have it, when you need it. But you got to be able to lose it when they ask you to, you know.

 

What else do you do in terms of marketing? Do you do any mailers, any emails, etc.?

Yeah I do a little bit of digital marketing you know. I do a little bit of flyers. When we do the work we hope that people will see it. Part of the payment of being an actor is having people put their eyes on it. So I try to let people know via my social media platforms you know, that I’ve got something coming up. I usually give a little flyer of the season of the episode, or whatever, of the show that I’m on. And then I put my name with my agency on there and I just send it out across social media. I used to send postcards. I’ve kind of gotten away from that. I’ve met a few people telling that they just go straight to the bin. I think digital is kind of the way to go. It seems like everything’s kind of leaning in that direction.

 

I’ll get on IMDB. I’ll get on twitter and I’ll try and connect the dots between pre-production stuff and stuff that’s in production, and just try and put myself in their mind. If I can find out who the casting director is, I’ll shoot them a tweet and I’ll say “Hey I hope pre-productions’ going good for ….project,” and just leave it at that. “Hope to see breakdown soon. @JPervisTalent”. So I’m just going to try and connect the dots, as far as that goes.

 

That’s a really smart way to do it.

Yeah. It’s just one of the ways to be proactive you know. Rather than just sitting around waiting for a door to open you got to just knock on a door and see if they open. They’re not going to open if they don’t hear you knocking. And if they do, don’t leave it. They’re not going to stop to talk to you if you already left.

 

Do you think that there’s a chance that they might start booking series regulars out of Atlanta?

Yeah, I definitely do. Things are changing rapidly here. And I’ve noticed the difference in the last couple of years. I’ve had more season regular auditions this year than I have in the last nine years put together. It’s constantly changing because the work is here. I think there are a lot of people who are moving here for work. There’s people moving into our market which strengthens the talent pool locally. So these production companies, they’ve got no problem with looking for local actors here. I think the stereotype of there only being seven actors here is not the case anymore. There are people from all over the place. They’re here and they know that the market is hot.

 

Do you compete with the actors from LA? Do you see that happening?

Oh yeah. I was at a callback for a PlayStation show. And there were a few actors that were in the callbacks from LA. And it was so funny because they’re from Atlanta but they moved out to LA and here they are now back in Atlanta. For the callbacks for the show that’s going to shoot in Atlanta. It’s kind of funny to see that happen. But yeah, I felt great for that.

 

Do you think you might consider or want to move to LA or is this where it’s going to be at for the next couple of years?

Yeah. I’m staying put. I’m not going to go. There’s no reason to go anywhere. With so much stuff coming here, I’d be foolish, it’d be like losing the last 9 years of networking that I’ve done here locally. I might have to just start again you know, which I’m not against doing. But I’m not going to go out there to do that. It’s not that I’m afraid of the work. I would go out there if I was offered work you know. But I’m not going to go out there to look for work.

 

Right. You’ve got good momentum here.

Yeah. I recently have been repped management wise by Gail Tassell. And one of the reasons why, because I feel as though, with a manager it can be a little bit more focused as far as getting work outside of my region, something that my agency can’t or don’t do that much. For the people at my level anyway. I’m happy to work outside of my region as a local which is what it would take to book a role.

 

Do you have agencies representing you in New Orleans or North Carolina or LA?

Yeah. I’m with Joe Chavez at ‘Bold Agency’, down in Louisiana. They’ve got an office down there. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on in Louisiana too. They’ve got great structures. And they’ve got great infrastructure. You know, there’s a lot of stuff going on there, always has been really. But most of the work is right here though, for sure. That’s really the short term goal, is to be auditioning regularly for things outside of my market. I’d love to travel, see the world. As an actor it would be great.

 

Are you SAG?

Nope. I’m not SAG. I’m SAG eligible. Here in Atlanta I’m afraid of becoming SAG right now because it’s so up and down for me. If I could consistently book studio work. I love doing indies. They keep me busy, they keep me focused.  They keep me working my muscles. If I didn’t have indies, I’d be just running around in circles and just go crazy. There’s so much opportunity to learn and to delve into character. Like an opportunity to create a character that I just wouldn’t be able to do on big budgets. Not for a long time yet. Character arcs. Stories. Play the lead. Get a feature.

 

Have you ever been through phases when you’ve been facing a lot of rejection and you feel like “what am I doing?”. Are you going to think of giving up? Has it ever happened?

Yeah. Of course man. It happens everyday, you kidding me? In one respect or another, of course it does. We face up to rejection square in the face every time we go to an audition. There are many things that I go through. It may be slow, maybe no auditions. And I’m second-guessing myself. But like I said before, it’s those times that you really need to start bunkering down and be doing some more work. You can’t say “I’ve got no audition, it’s my agents fault.” No it’s not. It’s not my agent’s fault. It comes down to you and your work ethic, at that point to just dig in.

 

But yeah of course I think every actor gets down because the highs are so high, you know. The highs are so high that when you come down, it makes the lows even lower. All it takes is just going for a barren two weeks. No audition and then not shooting anything in a month it’s like…”What’s going on?”, And then of course self-doubt creeps in. There’s the importance to be in classes ongoing. Because that keeps you focused. It keeps you in front of a camera.

 

One of my short term goals was to be in front of a camera twice a week. In whatever respect that is, whether it be the classroom, whether it be an audition, whether it be helping a friend out. Just putting yourself in the creative mold that you want to form. Doing it, doing work. I’ve been released from four projects back to back pretty much. And this was going on about a month or two ago. Yeah I just go so frustrated. I think I posted something online about it. I was like “Got released today, fourth time, it’s a joke”. My agent said “Oh you’re on hold.” I was like “Really?” I said “How long do we have before they relieve me?” It’s kind of funny to me but in a sad kind of way. It’s great to know that you’re on hold. Albeit you’re first refusal, that’s great. But when you get relieved, and you’re not booked, it doesn’t feel great.

 

It’s the booking that you want. It’s just a part of what we do man. Once you get that call they say you’re on first refusal, it’s like yes, that’s great. They check your schedule, ask if you can shave your beard, and you get up because you’ve got something there. There’s something! And then sure enough you get relieved it’s like “God….. Rejection. AGAIN, I’m not good enough, I should have don’t this or that differently, I’m not worthy. I knew I should’ve done a different bow in the end of the audition. Maybe it was too much. Was it too much?” And then, you know finally you just have to let it go, learn something, always learn something from rejection and you’re winning…. You just got to stay focused man, Stay on the path. You just have to have faith.

 

Any final thoughts?

The one thing that I want to say is don’t complain as an actor. Don’t complain. And if you hear somebody complaining, walk away. Not necessarily in a rude way but just you know, don’t entertain their thought. If you’re upset, don’t talk shit about anybody. Don’t complain that you’re tired. Don’t do anything negative, just be there and be grateful for what you are, for who you are, for who you are and what you’ve got, the blessing to be able to do. There are those people on set that work twice as hard as you behind the scene and don’t get to sit in a trailer and have a doze. Don’t complain about hours. Don’t complain about anything. Just enjoy the journey, and show up to set with great work ethic and a great attitude. Make it to where people enjoy working with you because of how you don’t complain, you work hard and are always open to just creating. Be that person and you’ll go far in this industry.

 

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