I’m about to introduce you to someone special: a real working actor – who isn’t famous and who doesn’t live in Los Angeles. Yes, you can make a living this way. Kathleen Antonia offers lots of hilarious stories about the business as well as key tips for artists in the entertainment field including:
- Not going to an audition with feces on your shoe
- Knowing your Dave Chappelle back-to-Africa moment
- Recognizing your life’s work beyond any job title
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Anthem Salgado: Today we have on the show Kathleen Antonia who is a multi-talented performer with a professional singing, acting, and dancing career that spans over a decade. She has performed in feature films “Convention”, “Jujuluv”, and Sundance winner “Dopamine” and in television shows “House MD” and “Trauma”. Antonia has also performed on stage with American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco Mime Troupe, Golden Thread Productions, San Francisco Opera, and a host of other theatrical companies. Antonia’s credits include on-camera, jingle, and voiceover work for popular video games, commercials, and documentaries.
Antonia released her own documentary titled “Getting Played” through her production company, What The…Productions, and she is a member of performers unions AEA, AFTRA, SAG, and AGMA. She is also represented by Look Talent Agency.
Kathleen, thank you for being here.
Kathleen Antonia: Thank you.
Anthem Salgado: So we have a lot to talk about, and maybe we should start with what impressed me the most about you when we first met.
Kathleen Antonia: Okay. What was that?
Anthem Salgado: Well, we were on a job, and in conversation, in-between shooting, you mentioned to me that you actually have a living in acting which is very rare, and so I’m curious to know, and I’m sure a lot of other actors, and aspiring actors are curious to know how that’s possible. Because most of the time we’re just lucky to get seen let alone to land a series of jobs in a row. So can you talk a little bit more about how you’re managing this, and how you’ve arrived at this wonderful place?
Kathleen Antonia: Well, you know it’s, well it won’t be a secret anymore. For those who don’t know, I’m a recovering attorney. So actually when I made the transition into the entertainment business, I was practicing law. So of course I was getting a steady paycheck, I was getting steady health care, getting all that sort of stuff. So what I said to myself was you know I saved up, said if I set a liquid floor for myself, that if I ever fell below the floor, then I would allow myself to get nervous and antsy. But if I was above the floor, then I was not permitting myself to get worried, or get upset, or get whatever, and I was just going to focus on getting the jobs, booking, and all that sort of stuff. So luckily I’ve been able to stay above that floor all this time. Part of that is just the privilege of being able to jump right into it, and not have to have a day job when I started. So I got to go out — you know I never had a conflict for auditions, was always able to be well rested also, if you have a day job, harder to be well rested for an audition, which of course is important. And then just you know I think the professionalism, the categories which I don’t always follow; I must admit I slip. But most of the time, I’m pretty on target with it, you know being on time, taking direction well, not talking religion or politics on set, having demo reels, and websites, and other sort of links so that people know the work that you do and keeping your resume up to date; you know there’s a list of things.
Anthem Salgado: Right. So setting up this liquid floor, was it —
Kathleen Antonia: Yes, that’s what I called it.
Anthem Salgado: — helped tremendously. So what would someone have to do that is trying to catch this sort of momentum that you’ve caught when they don’t have that same early advantage with not having to worry about money right away? Is there any advice you might have?
Kathleen Antonia: I would say definitely keep a day job that’s going to be flexible, that’s supportive of what you do. I mean, I know there are people who’s employers don’t know, and they just call in sick, and whatever it is since on the DL they’re actually an actor. It would better if you had an employer who was supportive. And then just really focus on if it’s really what you want to do, that means probably cutting out some of the nightlife because you know if I, you know having a day job, I’m better able to enjoy also like going out, or doing things with friends, but that’s because I can sleep in because I can rest. But if you have work, you might have to cut out some things just so that you can be well rested, and well prepared for the auditions that come up. So it’s just a balance of figuring out where to balance that out.
Anthem Salgado: Right. But now we are here in the Bay area. And a lot of people would assume that just by virtue of volume that there wouldn’t be a lot of work here.
Kathleen Antonia: There is actually quite a bit of work here. And I’ve done the LA living thing, and I do do the commute back and forth to LA as needed, although I spend much more time here now. But in LA, there are that many more people looking for that one job. So it’s not necessarily that your odds are improved in LA. There are yes, that many more jobs. If you want to do TV specifically, that’s the place that you really should be looking because as we know, TV shows don’t shoot here. But if you’re really looking just to make a living acting, then you can do that in San Francisco.
Anthem Salgado: And you do both, you do commercial, and theatre?
Kathleen Antonia: I do, yes. I do a lot less theatre now mostly because the schedules and in the Bay area, unless you’re working for one of the big theatres, you don’t get understudies. So instead of, you know the unions will allow you to shut down your theatre production if you have a better paying opportunity to do a commercial. But that’s not exactly the type of reputation you want to build for yourself is that yeah, I shut down the show one night because I was shooting an AT&T commercial or something like that. So because of that fact, I don’t do a lot of stage because it conflicts unfortunately the better paying, more commercial opportunities.
“Real” Art & Passive Income
Anthem Salgado: Right. And there’s something probably — I’m going to preface this with a story actually.
Kathleen Antonia: I love it.
Anthem Salgado: So I go to this audition, and I see some theatre friends who are also there for the audition. And for some reason it’s almost like they’re embarrassed that they’ve been caught at the audition. There was a real weird identity defense thing going on about like, well I don’t even know why I’m here because this isn’t real art or something like this. And of course I found that hilarious because they were there, I was there, there was no reason to really be embarrassed. But also commercial work financially if you get a gig that will pay residuals, it’s super beneficial to keeping you afloat, and possibly developing that liquid floor that you talked about. What would you have to say, one, about the differences in commercial, and theatre acting, and also how people’s understanding of passive income could really benefit them if they take advantage of it?
Kathleen Antonia: Well, the first one, I love the real art comment because when you’re doing theatre, projecting to the back of the house isn’t necessarily like real life the way you interact with people. So none of it is really, real. And then the art aspect is always, well it’s all maybe art; some is commercial art. Not any of it has to be particularly acting. Just because it’s stage doesn’t mean you’re doing a great acting job or even the role that calls for that. So that’s always very interesting to me; more on that later. The liquid floor business, absolutely, if you’re getting, you know I still get residuals for work on “House”, work on “Trauma”. I don’t have any national commercials running anymore but certainly in years where I may not have been booking the bigger jobs or enough industrials, or enough film, or whatever it is, absolutely it has supported me, and my life. And there are people who I know, I can’t remember the commercial actor’s name, but he uses the money that he gets from commercial work to support his work in the theatre. So that’s it’s the only reason he can do community theatre, that he can afford to do it is because of the every now and then commercial that he gets. So it absolutely supports you. And if you’re going to be the — it sort of depends on what your goal is in the business. If you want to community theatre, if you want to do local theatre for the rest of your life, which is fine, just know that you’re going to probably be struggling financially for a while. But if you actually want someone to see you to make it to some other production, maybe make it to Broadway, have someone actually notice who you are, then you absolutely want your face in film, you want it in commercials, you want your voice in voiceovers, you want to sing jingles; I mean, you really want to have your resume reflect all of these different opportunities.
Anthem Salgado: I would love to ask you about something that I just thought of. Because I’m not as familiar with film work, how important is it after all for an actor to have a good reel?
Kathleen Antonia: Oh my gosh, it is so important, especially when people are casting, I don’t think they do it very much in theatre but certainly for everything else, they’re casting based on the reel or they’re calling you in for the audition based on the reel especially in LA, not so much in San Francisco, but they look at your reel online to decide if they even want you to walk in the door. So it absolutely is important to have a reel, and let people see the work that you do. I know it’s very hard to get copy, I still have very hard time getting copy of what I want. But you know try to be diligent about getting copy in any way and get your reel posted, get it online.
Anthem Salgado: And how does one get a good reel? Because most of the time when people, from what I’ve seen anyway, when they’re developing their reel, they’re basically doing student films that are just sometimes shot really poorly. So how does one get a reel that actually makes them marketable?
Kathleen Antonia: Well, there are a couple of options. I edit reels actually, I got to edit Michael Learned’s reel, I don’t know if you know her. She’s an Emmy award-winning actor. And that was actually a lot of fun. And the editing of the reel is actually very important too because whoever edited her reel before it was this long, it much too long. And there are ways to edit and cut. So if you have a film editor editing your reel, that’s really want you want. You don’t want to just cut and paste. But if you’re doing that, that also means that if you’re doing, if your shooting a student film version, and you want to get it on your reel, if you can get that into the hands of a reel editor who actually, and I mean r-e-e-l editor who actually knows color correction, who knows how to do that sort of work, they can make it, they can boost it, and make it better. It can’t change the acting necessarily, but there are things they can do. They can add their score, they can do a lot of things that will make it seem higher end. If that’s all you have to go on, do it anyway. You can hire out, I mean there, there are directors. If actorsaccess.com which I used to post my reel, it’s free to post your stuff, to like have our resume on there. If you want to submit to any jobs that come up, it’s $0.99 or you can pay the annual fee. Like most of these places now are charging a fee for submissions. But it’s at least somewhere where you can house it, house your work, and send someone to go look at your headshots, resume, and that sort of a thing. They often have directors posting, they want to do a director’s reel, so they’re looking for actors to act in their director’s reel. If it’s a director’s reel, they’re probably a lot better than if you just sort of do, grab your friends together and shoot something unless your friends are actually DP’s, and they’re great lighting people. But go for that. If you don’t have a reel, ask, submit to a director’s reel, and because they’re going to make it look good, because that’s what they’re trying to market, and then you get copy.
Anthem Salgado: That’s actually a genius idea. And there’s something —
Kathleen Antonia: Thank you.
Anthem Salgado: — and there’s something really important to think about in this particular field with acting is it’s very much about a team effort. It’s not like, you know actors might get the shine or a director might get the shine. But at the end of the day, there’s like a billion people working on any given project just to make that thing look good. So that’s a wonderful tip to basically find your partners.
Kathleen Antonia: Yes, absolutely.
Anthem Salgado: Now when you made this giant leap from lawyer to actor, how did you envision it would all pan out? Did it go as smoothly as you thought, were there bumps in the road?
Professionalism and Not Having Poo on Your Shoe
Kathleen Antonia: You have to ask. It’s entertainment, so there’s always bumps. I mean, and that’s part of it. If you’re in this industry, know that it is not going to be fun all the time. In fact a lot of the time, it’s going to be no fun at all, and you have to make your fun. So for me at this point, you know auditioning I actually, I like auditioning. I learn something always whether it’s more and more about how directors don’t actually direct you, or — which I always think is astonishing. Or just various things. I actually went to an audition last week and they usually have only you in the room, and if you’re reading with someone, maybe that person. But we actually sat around while the other people auditioned in front of us. And it was crazy looking at some of the things these actors did. The thing that I thought was really hilarious because it happened with more than one actor was that — casting I wont say where it was. But the casting office — also a lot of them have databases of photos and their actors that are available if people want to look at them online. And then after these people finished their auditions, they said, “Can you take my picture for the database?” And I thought, what are you talking about? You’re in the middle of an audition. Are you seriously now asking, I mean, what are you thinking? But it made me understand because you know I’m a really good actor, I don’t always have a great audition, and I sometimes am like wow, I think all these people would book equally or whatever. But then you see people do stuff like that, and you’re like, “Oh this is why they might choose me over this person because I wasn’t stopping the audition process by asking for a database picture.” It wont have — because it’s not only — when you get cast, it’s not as you know, it’s not always about how good you are in the role, there are a host of other reasons some of which are very negative and enraging. But there are also just these other things. Like you came in there, and you forgot that you stepped in some poo or something, which actually happened to, who played Ally McBeal, what was her name? Calista Flockhart, she walked into an audition with poo on her shoe. So they smelled this poo, and so she didn’t get the part because they were like, she stunk. It didn’t have anything to do with her acting, it had to do with the fact that she walked into the room, and it smelled. So I mean, there are a lot of reason you can get a role. So just try to maximize. Don’t ask them to do things for you, it seems obvious, don’t ask them to you know like hey validate your parking or something in the middle of an audition or whatever it is. Know your lines, be on time, if you’re going to be late for any reason, call ahead, don’t just think, I mean, don’t just hope that they’re running late. I mean, just be professional and that sort of thing. I don’t remember what your question was, I’ve rambled on, I’m so sorry.
Anthem Salgado: No, that was an awesome Ally McBeal story actually. I had no idea about that. But I guess what I was trying to get at is what kind of maybe misconceptions do you think new people have entering the field that you can help not make the mistake — besides being professionally presentable, are there things career wise that structurally people should be implementing early on so that they don’t end up falling into a hole along the way to their dream?
The Myth of Getting Discovered
Kathleen Antonia: Well I think a lot of actors think they’re going to be discovered. That someone is just going to right out the gate give them their big break and that it’s going to be smooth sailing. Like I just think a lot of people think the entertainment industry is going to be that way. And I think one of your later questions is my answer to that. But I was the Cher auction, and I think it was the Beverly Hills Hilton, I think that’s where it was. Anyway, it was a the pre-auction so we were looking at all of her stuff that she was selling. And by the way, anybody out there who knows that bought that armadillo snakeskin lamp, I want to know who the heck would buy such a hideous thing. But anyway — so give me a call.
But anyway, we bumped into Jennifer Tilly, and I was hanging out with some writer friends of mine, and so they knew her, and she came up, and was talking and said, “Someone at the auction had come up to her and asked her if she was Meg Tilly.” And she said, “No, but I’m her sister.” And they said, “Well, can we get your autograph?” So she signed her autograph, and they walked away, and she heard them say, “Well at least we got the autograph of someone who’s related to someone famous.” This is Jennifer F-ing Tilly. Okay, so, and so she’s telling this story, and talking about needing to get work. And she was off to Hawaii I think and was going to be hustling for a job or something. Just understand that even when you get to a certain level, and I think good and bad when I got to LA especially I ended up hanging out with a lot of like A/B listers, everybody is still hustling, like everybody is still hustling. The only people who I met who were not hustling were producers. They were the ones that seemed really chill and happy because they’ve got the money. But the writers were hustling, directors were hustling, the actors were definitely hustling; everyone is still really struggling, and fighting. So just know that that’s what it is, and that’s what it’s going to be if you — you know no matter where you are, whether you’re just making a living on industrials, and voiceovers, and no one knows your name, which happens to a lot of great actors. There or if you’re at, on a B list, you are still going to be fighting forever to make sure that you can keep that entertainment life alive. And I think people who start out don’t envision any of that. I think they envision the red carpets, and oooh a private jet, or someone’s going to discover me and put me. No, that’s not what’s going to happen.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah, no, totally good point, totally good point. So what does it take to keep that longevity? Anything in particular? I mean as far as like staying relevant whether you are famous or not.
Don’t Be A Diva
Kathleen Antonia: I would say keep learning. Usually when I’m on set, I’m watching lighting, I’m watching camera, I’m watching a lot of things, and sound and all that. Make sure you understand how everybody’s role works on set. It helps you seem more fun to work with number one, like if the sound person, if you’re actually really conscious about making sure that you don’t jiggle your clothes or something, or do other things that really annoy sound people like you crinkle or something, or you jingle your jewelry. If you’re really courteous to them, they will remember you, and then the next project they’re on, you know maybe it might be a lower budget project, or an indie film or something. If someone is saying, “Hey do you know any actors?” “Oh yeah, you know Anthem, he was really great.” And it’s because you were considerate. and I think that’s really — if you want longevity, be considerate and understanding of what people are going through. And understand the stresses of being a producer when it looks like you’re going over budget. So if they’re cranky pants, you’re sort of, you know you can shrug it a little better rather than them start getting really angry at them than you know, as actors do so much, the talking behind the back stuff; which is also just stop doing that. Like if you have an issue with that, please tell them to their face. Like, yes, you are in the field of drama but keep it in the work. Like don’t — like if there’s anything just tell — and there’s so much stuff going around like, he said, she said, dah, dah, dah, and people are — it’s like oh my gosh, just talk to each other. But I think that’s the biggest thing. If you’re not courteous to people, if you don’t treat them like adults, then you can’t really expect them to want to work with you again.
Anthem Salgado: Right. Don’t be a diva. And —
Kathleen Antonia: Don’t be a diva.
Anthem Salgado: And this seems to be a recurring thing, and I love that it is, that people should really just be mindful of basic human kindness as they’re working towards their profession. I mean, the name of the show obviously is “Art of Hustle” but I always have to remind people that the hustle I’m talking about isn’t about like stepping on people, and like fighting your way through a crowd, you know, it’s just, it could be a little bit more smooth than that.
Kathleen Antonia: Yes, absolutely.
Anthem Salgado: How do you maintain optimism in your work? I mean, it is a long road, and like you said, it’s not like it ever finishes. So what do you do to stay motivated?
Kathleen Antonia: Well, my motivation is I’m sure very different than other peoples. I got into the entertainment field not only because I thought it was going to make me happier than the law practice than I was in at the time, but also because it became very apparent to me, I got into law because of justice, and because of having a real dedication to justice. And it really, I wanted originally to just be a physicist, and not very social at all. But then seeing how the world works, it’s like oh my gosh, there’s so many things that need to be fixed so I can’t complain about them unless I try to fix them was really my, for myself. It’s like, if you don’t try to fix it, then shut up. So this is what I’ve been doing. And I thought the entertainment industry has such a bigger influence on how people learn about each other, and how they respond to each other, and how they think about each other than law, just period, it does. So for me in the entertainment industry what keeps me going, is this vision, which every now and then I’m very down about because I think it wont ever happen. But this idea that somehow I’m going to be able to figure out how to motivate the people involved in entertainment to really use the power they have, because it’s a lot of power over populations; to have people advance in how they think of each other, and how they deal with each other. And so for me that’s sort of this prize that I keep my eye on. So success for me will be if I ever get there, but it’s also as long as I don’t sell myself out, as long as I don’t take roles that offend me, that would offend so many other people. As long as I’m still doing that, and I’m still having a good time, for me that’s success. I don’t need people to know my name, I don’t need to be on billboards, I definitely don’t need tabloid articles about me. In fact I really don’t need tabloid articles about me, that sort of thing. I’m not really looking for this sort of fame, fortune idea. I want to be able to make a living doing something that keeps me happy, and doing something that I think will eventually influence the world for the better.
Anthem Salgado: What do you do then to stay sharp? So if you were an athlete it might be running for your cardio. Is there something that a professional actor needs to do to stay sharp as far as maybe taking classes, or workshops, or reading up on certain things, or understanding certain parts of the business?
Kathleen Antonia: Well I think for me, since I get, I’m lucky enough to audition a lot, I don’t need to practice auditioning. But I think for people who don’t audition a lot, they need to keep practicing what that means, and what that looks like so that when they go in, they’re ready, and they’re not nervous, and they’re just, it’s like old hat for them. So you basically need to practice. In general, you need to be who you envision the goal is. So if you’ve envisioned that your some big celebrity who’s hanging out with like Derek Luke or whomever, then that means, if you work with Derek Luke, don’t act all star struck, please don’t bother him for an autograph, you know be the person that you actually — you know so other people see you that way too. So be in the world the way that you want to be eventually whatever that looks like. But that does mean if you want to be someone who auditions on the regular, make sure you practice on the regular. If you want to be someone who’s able to cry at the drop of a hat, make sure you practice being able to cry at the drop of a hat. And because everyone has at this point, they have some technology they can put themselves on film, on video, take a scene, and videotape yourself. If you have other actor friends who want to get together, and do it, do it with your friends, and then look at yourself with an honest eye, and say, “Yeah, that was a little stiff, yeah, that was really not believable” and work on that because it’s going to help you so much more to see yourself — you know you can sit at home in the mirror or whatever and read your scripts, but it’s not going to have the same impact as watching yourself on video. I think that’s what people really need to do, and what people don’t take advantage of as much as they really should.
Anthem Salgado: That’s an amazing tip. I actually have an acting coach that every class he gave was videoed and it was torturous to watch. But it was such a great learning experience. What about books? I mean, are there any books that you would recommend to folks either on the craft side or on the business side of acting?
Kathleen Antonia: I don’t know of any specific books that I would recommend. I was going to say I’m a huge fan of Hugh Laurie’s “A Gun Seller”. And the reason I say this is because Hugh Laurie we all know is on “House” and he wrote this amazing book. And I actually think reading his book should help people to understand that he’s not limiting himself to this, but also to understand how his craft has made him the actor that he is. You can see it, you can feel it in the writing. So I mean, it’s not really a book of how like to keep your accounting, or how to really get that technique or something. It’s not really that, but it’s, but it does I think give a really good impression on the reader about this person is obviously a great writer, but they also have envisioned this in such a way and it helps — I don’t know, for me, it made me really put Hugh Laurie together in a way that I hadn’t before. I just think it’s amazing. So that’s my own plug for Hugh Laurie’s book. But I would say read, you know I do know accounting, so I’m sure I’ve read some tax book somewhere, unfortunately in law school had to read the tax code. So that was forever ago but the change is —
Anthem Salgado: But that’s got great for writing things off.
Kathleen Antonia: Yeah, and I know contracts, this is also something I would say is very important for people to do is to understand contract law. So if you can find, you know Nolo Press has a million books on law. So if you can figure out how to read a contract to understand what you’re signing because I think a lot of actors have no clue what they’re signing. Every word in your contract, you are bound to. It’s not like you can say, I mean, you can say, “But I didn’t know” but a court is really not going to want to hear it. And you don’t want to go to court. So understand contracts, know what you’re signing. I’m not a big fan of like the Meisner technique stuff, and all of those techniques. I think there are things to learn from them, but I would say, you know employ method acting or do, you know any of those things. It’s like be in the moment of where your character is. And some techniques may help you better than others. I also agree with you, I had a, Cliff Osmond was my first acting teacher, and he put everything on camera.
Anthem Salgado: That’s who I was talking about.
Kathleen Antonia: Oh my god. Hey another plug; Cliff Osmond rocks. But and he really did, he made me stuff that I was like, I hate this. But that was why he made me do it. But I would say that’s really, get in touch with acting coaches if that’s where you’re going, and you know that you need the help, who are really actually going to help, who aren’t going to baby you, who aren’t going to tell you, “Oh you’re so great already.” Yeah, that sort of thing.
Anthem Salgado: Right, no, that’s great certainly. What about marketing? We’ve touched on contract law, and accounting. And I know a lot of artists either market themselves in a really obnoxious way, that’s annoying, particularly actors. Or they do so in a way that isn’t marketing at all, and then no one really knows what they’re capable of because they’re embarrassed, or shy, or something like this. How would you balance marketing for artists in this field?
Kathleen Antonia: Well, definitely have a webpage. I mean, you pulled my bio from a webpage so I mean, and that helps a lot. So have a webpage with a bio on it, and links to your voiceover demo, or your latest events, or whatever it is, and obviously your reels, and that sort of thing. I don’t do a lot of email blasts, although on occasion I will. And you know more often I’ll post a Facebook, “Hey I’m in this, take a look if you want to.” Part of it is just because I myself am annoyed when I get these constant barrages of like, “Here’s my show, come to see my show, come to, dah, dah, dah, dah this is the show, come to the show.” If you’re offering me comps, I’m more likely to be interested, right. But I mean, you know what I mean, it’s like if you’re saying, “Hey Kathleen, I really want you to see this show, I’ve saved a comp for you, can you make it”, then I’m going to pay attention. But because I know so many actors, I just get this constant blast of like, “Come see my show, come throw down another $25.00, and come see my show. Come you know do this and that.” and then people get offended when you don’t come, and you’re like, “Well, number one, you sent it to 1,000 people, so what is, does it really mean you want me to come?” But some people have figured out how to do it well it’s just like, “Hey this is show. These are the show.” The ones I like, I’ll say the ones I like, there’s Dennis Hensley who’s a writer out of LA, Michael Sullivan, and Velina Brown who are local who are the mime troop. They send out usually monthly blasts or something like that’s. it’s like not every time there’s a show. But they’ll send out a blast, “Hey this is what I’ve been doing this month, this is what’s coming up.” And that’s, — I like that a lot because it’s a variety of information, it’s not just, “Come see this one show that I’m in now and that next week I’ll send you yet another one to come in this next show.” It’s more like saying, “Here’s a list of things that are coming up, if you’d like to come see one of these things, that would be great.” So I appreciate that type of marketing. There are obviously a lot of different ways you can market yourself. Keep your name out there doing interviews. I’m serious, like do interviews, write little blog stories, contact people about stuff that you’re interested in that isn’t necessarily plugging you getting a job; that I think is the main thing. Look like you’re actually somebody who’s actually interested in more than just what someone else can do for you.
Anthem Salgado: Exactly, exactly. And this is something I bring up a lot too actually when I’m giving marketing workshops is a lot of people have the misconception that marketing sells tickets, and it doesn’t, marketing just builds awareness. So you don’t need to do a hard sell in your marketing. Just let people know it’s happening so they have the option, instead of always trying to close the deal. It’s awful.
And every now and then I imagine that some young person, or someone who admires your work, or —
Kathleen Antonia: Or old person.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah. Will call and want to work with you or maybe say, “Hey, I see you have an agent, or I see that you’re doing this type of work, and maybe you can introduce me to somebody, or maybe we should make something together” which is great that people are eager, and admire you. But what particular qualities do you think someone would have to possess to qualify them to work with you? I’m sure you can’t possibly help everybody, and probably you don’t want to help everybody that gives you a call or sends you an email.
On Being Thoughtful
Kathleen Antonia: Right. And I have this thing about I am really eager to help people I think are doing positive things for the community regardless of whether I think they’re necessarily the best talent. So those are the people I’m more interested in helping. And again it’s sort of that invitation. Like you know come see my show, where it’s just do this for me. And it’s if you, if people come to me, and they’re actually like, “Okay, so I have this crew together, we’re doing this, would you be interested in acting in this, it would help us to get funding or whatever it is”, that’s more interesting to me than someone who’s saying, “Oh, I see you’ve started a web series, I’m going to send you my headshot, and resume, can you consider me for your episode?” And that’s not necessarily offensive, but it’s not going to distinguish you in my mind because you know I’m getting hundreds of people who are sending headshot/resumes and it’s, well if we have auditions, if we have auditions, and we don’t precast, then yes I’ll probably, I might call you in. But the person who says, “Oh by the way, I also do sound, would you be interested, you know I could come in and work crew”, and then they’re also an actor. Well maybe next — you know you can, it’s sort of it has, again it has to be more about then just what can I do for you.
Anthem Salgado: Right, having something to offer.
Kathleen Antonia: Have something to offer.
Anthem Salgado: And being more generous.
Kathleen Antonia: Yeah, and don’t act like I’m only important to you when you want something. Like you can just ask me for this, but you know it’s, if you’re my friend who’s been supportive of this work that I’ve done, like if you’ve bought my CD, if you come to events that I’m singing at — and a lot of events that I sing at are fundraisers and are free to get into. Some of them are free to get into. So it’s like if you don’t even show up for the events that I’m singing at that are free, don’t turn around and act like you’re my best buddy when I’m working on a project that you want to get into. So it’s sort of like, it’s the networking idea, but it needs to, for me anyway, it needs to be a little more genuine than just wash my back, I wash yours, that type of thing, or even just help me, help me, help me. And that certainly happens because I used to be a lawyer. So it happens with people who are actors, but it happens with my friends who are not. And some people show up only when they have a legal question. And it’s kind of like, yeah, I can’t help you with that anymore because you only come around when you need legal advice, and it’s the same thing in acting. It’s like if you only come around when you want a job, I don’t know that you’re going to make me love you in that way.
Anthem Salgado: Right. Make yourself memorable by just —
Kathleen Antonia: Right, I’ll be, I’ll remember you, but not In a possible way.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah, exactly. Lets go back to people making a positive contribution through the art, and one of your first inspirations to switch from lawyer life to actor life. And I would love to explore at this moment your documentary. Would you mind summarizing what it’s all about for the folks who have yet to be introduced to it?
Discrimination in Hollywood
Kathleen Antonia: Well “Getting Played” subtitled, “Who’s playing you”, is one of those ways in which I hamstring myself in the business by documenting discrimination in the entertainment industry. Obviously there have been, there’s sort of been repercussions for doing it, but I thought it was very important to do. The documentary, the full length feature documentary is available on YouTube on my site, “What the producer”, and it addresses I think a lot of people don’t know what happens in the entertainment industry, they don’t know projects are green lighted, how that latest film that they’re looking at even got to the screen, and the steps along the way. And a lot of the steps along the way are highly offensive, but also illegal in my opinion as far as discrimination law is concerned. So the documentary, very specifically is online because I know the formula documentary; the traditional way. You know the formula way to do documentary is to have some talking heads, they start speaking, usually you watch them walk to their desk or wherever down a hallway, and then they sit, and they speak, and then you cut away to some footage of something, and they’re talking.
“Getting played” is specifically online so that number one, you watch the people talking, and you actually focus on what they’re saying without any other images coming in. because I really want people to hear what these subjects are saying. But also it makes it possible for you then to pause, if you — and if you don’t know what they’re talking about, like if they’re talking about the movie, “21”, this is one of the first segments of it. If they’re talking about the movie “21” you don’t know anything about it, you don’t know John Cho, you don’t know anyone, you pause and then you can look it up because your online already.
And then at the end, and there is no narration under it, it’s just this is what people have to say, they’re every now and then some words we put up on the screen to sort of focus it, and then at the end, it’s about solutions, what the people who are interviewed actually think are the solutions and they are varied; I disagree with some of them. I agree with others, and I’m sort of in the middle on others. And but I just let them say it. But mostly it’s there so that people can start thinking about what they’re looking at. For example, and I think I didn’t find this out until after the documentary was done. But for example, Selma Hayek, I guess her manager approached a producer about her starring or being in some sci-fi film. And the response was, “There are no Latinas in space.” Tandy Newton, I think she said this on the Oprah show, but she was talking about background on her character, and she was talking about producers, and asking them questions. And she said something about well she would have gone to college and she would have, dah, dah, dah. And they said, “Do black women actually go to college?” So there are these things that happen before projects get to the screen that are horrifying, and the public doesn’t have a clue. And so “Getting played”– and there’s no way I could cover everything, there’s so much to cover. So it tries to give the base. So I’m hoping that after people see “Getting played” they will be more invested in what am I watching, what production companies am I supporting, and to back out of things that aren’t — or not support, like don’t go see this feature film — like I know “Akira” is coming up and they’re trying to cast white males in the roles of these Japanese characters. And so don’t go see “Akira”, it’s like don’t put the money in the producers pockets. You know what I mean, so it’s like I would love the public to know what they’re seeing because I think the public is only place that can influence production teams to stop with a lot of the discriminatory casting.
Anthem Salgado: Right. It’s a very complicated machine.
Kathleen Antonia: It is.
Anthem Salgado: I know at the end of the documentary, some folks had suggested as a solution that we just needed more writers, and producers of different backgrounds making work so that the content can vary and be more representative of America. And how do you feel about that? That, is that possible, and is it true?
Kathleen Antonia: Well I, you know I think it’s a lovely thought and from a good place. But it isn’t necessarily so that just because the producer or the director is of color that they’re going to be pushing to have people of color in the roles. They want to make it as much as anyone else, and so, and what a lot of people do, they just start sacrificing along the way anyway so that they can get in the door. I mean, I’ve heard that a lot. “Well when I get up there”, I heard this from an actor, a local actor, who said she’s okay with doing these caricatured voice overs for African Americans. And she said, “Well you know no one else will do these jobs. I’ll do them, I get paid, and if I get, you know someday I’ll be in the position to change this.” And I’m thinking, but number one right now you’re part of the problem, and number two, what makes you think after you keep selling down what you want to be, that by the time you get there, that you’re going to suddenly like find all the passion and civil rights power that you had before now that you spent the last several years being this. Like I just don’t think that flows that way. I think the business is a certain way, they think that audience wants these white male leads primarily. And until they think otherwise, I think it’s hard to motivate any of them in those positions to change that behavior unless the audience pulls them in another direction.
Anthem Salgado: You have a good point. And I remember when I was in class with Cliff actually there was, you know he was looking for questions, and I just had a random one that popped into my mind so I asked, “How come soap opera writing is so bad?” And he had this amazing answer, and I also said, “Why is the acting so bad?” And he did have this amazing answer where he said, “Well those actors are actually very talented except they have to paint with just a few colors. It was a great metaphor.
Kathleen Antonia: Cliff is so — yeah, he’s great.
Anthem Salgado: And he said, “The writing is that way because of the audience.” And it seems to be a recurring thing that until the audience feels ready for newer, to be in a newer place with their entertainment, that things will sort of be that way. What solutions then are available to us because we obviously can’t just go into people’s houses and tell them how to think differently.
Kathleen Antonia: The soap opera metaphor is interesting because for me what I see in soap operas is that they have to do, I mean, they are on the set 14 hours a day versus other shows, and they actually have to produce a show everyday, and they have to write a show everyday, and they have to edit, and score a show everyday. And so part of it is that they just, the volume. Right. So isn’t necessarily that they have fewer colors, but they have less time to make a nice picture. So they just don’t have enough time for that. I think the audiences would absolutely appreciate soap operas that are better acted, better produced, better edited. I don’t think the soap opera audiences would somehow be like, “I don’t like this, it’s too good.” I don’t think that would come across, I just think it’s logistically very difficult to do with soap operas.
Anthem Salgado: I think his point was that they were selling soap literally so that’s —
Armageddon, Cinema vs. Science
Kathleen Antonia: Literally selling soap. And I think the idea about audiences and what they want, I think, for one I think they all have to know what it is they’re actually getting. The question about humans and they’re desires is a whole another road to go down especially if you’re talking to me. I remember a story about NASA a few years ago that its been charged with plotting all the potentially dangerous objects in the universe near us or the solar system near us that might come to the planet and do, you know cause an extinction level event. They didn’t have the funding. We have spent more money as a species watching films like “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact”, and “Asteroid” than NASA needed to actually plot the real things that could hurt us. I think that says everything about what we are as an animal. And so part of me thinks, we have to recognize what we are as animals, and that we are so entertainment focused. I certainly don’t think the end of the story is nondiscriminatory casting, and crew, and that sort of thing. I think it’s a great first step to acknowledge the importance of entertainment, and the influence of it. But I think humans have a long way to go. But that’s a different show, and a much longer road.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah. But I would consider you a success story, right.
Kathleen Antonia: Oh thanks.
Anthem Salgado: Woman, person of color, doing the work, having a political opinion of things, putting that opinion out on YouTube, and still being able to work. I mean, this is all good news to me. So what kind of I guess hope or solutions would folks have who are just beginning to enter this field and maybe could look at the same things, and feel bogged down or feel like not even starting? What words of encouragement would you offer to them given what you’ve been able to experience, and achieve?
Know Your Chappelle Back to Afica Moment
Kathleen Antonia: You know I would say life is very short, so you have to put action to your beliefs and your thoughts. Actually I was hanging out with a friend of mine who I met on the first movie I did years, and years, and years ago. And she gave me this compliment. She said, “You know we have a lot of the same political opinions, but you actually do something about it.” And I think that’s — I think, I’m hopeful that there are a lot more people out there who are actually frustrated with the way things work who actually would want a more equal way of living in the world, and want more for their fellow human beings, and that sort of thing. I hope. But I think there are a lot of people out there who just get overwhelmed who don’t do anything. So you just have to do it. Because at the end of the day, I mean, what else are you going to do while you’re here on this planet? I mean, it’s like you’re just going to sit your room and wonder, “What if I have done this, or I hate this.” I mean, you really okay, hate it, that’s great, anger’s wonderful. And now do something with it. I would tell all performers, I call it know your Chappelle back to Africa moment. Like know in advance what it is that you are not going to do whether it’s I’m not going to show my boobs, you know it’s sort of like the Halle Berry, like okay, I showed one boob, now I showed two boobs, now I’m having you know sex with Billy Bob Thornton full nudity. I mean, it’s sort of like know where you line is, and just say, “No, I’m not going to do it.” If it’s like I don’t want to do those caricatured voice-overs, I don’t want to act “blacker” which is what I was actually directed once. If you don’t want to do those things, just know where that is. You know I’m not going to play the Chinese madam every again or, like whatever it is. Just know in advance before you even get into the business if you can know what that moment is that you’re finally going to be like, “You know what, no.” If it means you walking away from $50 million dollars. Hey, Dave Chappelle amazing. Do it, but know where your soul is going to crush and don’t go there. Know where it’s like after a while, you’re going to feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’m empty.”
Anthem Salgado: Awesome advice. Because a lot of times people just so focus on what it means to succeed, they don’t consider that success might also mean keep your soul intact.
Kathleen Antonia: Yeah, I mean, I’ve turned down a lot of jobs because they were offensive. And I was like, yeah, I wont do it. And I actually unfortunately had to do it with a friend of mine who’s directing a film and we haven’t spoken since. But I was like, “If the character’s going to stay this stereotype of the angry black woman, I really can’t be your actor on this production.” And I respected his work, and I loved him as a person, but it was like I can’t do it.
Anthem Salgado: You just were the wrong person for the job.
Kathleen Antonia: That’s what I said, I was the wrong person for this part. But they, you know people don’t like to hear that. They don’t want to know the stuff that’s in front of them that they love is actually offensive, because they love it.
Anthem Salgado: Right. They don’t want to hear it from someone they respect.
Kathleen Antonia: Well, that too.
Anthem Salgado: Now, lets imagine somewhere out there in podcast land, someone is listening and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, Kathleen Antonia, amazing person.” But they’re just in the beginning of their journey. Or maybe they’ve been in it for a while but they’re struggling, maybe they’re hitting a couple roadblocks, they don’t know what to do next. What would be a good action step that you might be able to recommend whether that is a thought process or an actual thing that a person should be physically doing? What would be a good recommendation for someone in the beginning or needing to experience a breakthrough in their journey?
Open To Feedback and Taking Action
Kathleen Antonia: I would certainly, if you’re going to the same casting agency, and you’re not booking anything, you know find out in advance if you can just talk to the casting director there and just say, “Can we talk about what it is that’s going on.” And honestly, and don’t approach it — and if they something to you, don’t be offended. Like I was just told the other day, I got really tired of — I have a lot of hair. I got really tired of doing my hair for these auditions so I bought these wigs that I could just throw on my head. And there was one casting agency that didn’t like the wig, but they didn’t tell me. And so it wasn’t until I was coming back to another audition and I had wore my hair curly to the audition, had just flat ironed it actually. And so I asked my agent, I said, “Well do they want it curly or do they want flat ironed?” Because they had given like, “We want her hair natural.” I’m like, “Well what does that mean?” So that was how I found out. My agent was like, “You just need to tell her. If you don’t like the wig, don’t” — they basically wanted me not to wear the wig. And it’s like, just approach people and say, “Hey what is it that you don’t like. Make sure people know you’re approachable in that way, because they can boost you, and help you up.” And obviously a casting agent that they know you’re able to take that kind of information in stride, they’re going to be much more interested in seeing you there. and so it will get you more auditions. Just go, “Hey what can I change?” There’s an actor I know, beautiful woman, but is fighting the aging process a lot. So her face now looks much older than her hair, which isn’t bad, but it makes it hard to cast her because it’s sort of, she’s in this region that doesn’t quite work on camera. But no one will tell her, and we’re not buddies enough for me to tell her. But you know if she got a short, if she would let her hair go grey, and got a short do, it would be great, she would book I think all the time. But because she’s fighting it, and no one will tell her and I’m sure she’s not asking people, “Hey what can I change?” Because they would say the same thing. So it’s just, be open, ask people, and produce your own thing. Like if you, if there’s a talent that you have, and nobody is seeing it, and you know you have it, and you rock. Like maybe you’re a great trapeze artist, or maybe you can contort, or maybe you juggle well, or you breathe fire. Whatever it is and nobody’s seeing it, they keep calling you in for the girl next door or something, or who and so best friend, produce a spot where you’re actually showing off those talents. Number one, it will give you something to do, it will keep you — you know rather than sitting there thinking, “Oh my gosh, why don’t I book” it will give you —
Anthem Salgado: Right, at least you’re taking action.
Kathleen Antonia: Exactly, it will give yourself something to do, you’re practicing the whole business of it, and you’re putting a great talent of yours on film. If it’s a good video, you can add it to your reel, if it’s no good, you can still put it on YouTube and be like hey everybody you know what do you think of this? Call it a spec and you’ll get away with anything. You’ll get away with bad quality, bad color correction, whatever it is. Just go, “This is a spec on this, what do you think? And just do that. But just keep busy. Definitely don’t sit around and feel sad, that’s my big advice. Don’t feel bad. I actually had a friend who needed to have — it’s horrible but she needed to have counseling after she had a commercial, national commercial because of her being treated so well. You know she has her own trailer, she has the things that come with a national commercial. And then the next day, it was back to her old life and she was very sad about it. And so she went to go talk to somebody. But it’s just like understand that this is what the business is. You’re going to be up on the world on one day, maybe not the next. Just keep in motion, and try not to take any of it personally.
Understanding What Your Life’s Work Is
Anthem Salgado: What would you or how would you define success for yourself?
Kathleen Antonia: You know other than just being able to make a living doing something I like doing without feeling like I’ve sold out my core beliefs, which is actually big, because I do have a lot of rage about oppression. And I know that I have it, and I think if I can relax a little more, if I can find that place, that would also be success to me. I mean, I left — part of the reason I also left law was because I was sexually harassed like nobody’s business and so I think I have a lot of anger with that. My original career that I ever wanted was to play in the NFL, and I played with little boys my whole life, then guys in high school, and then even people who made it to college. But I was never allowed on the team, and I still outplayed them. And I was like, this is messed up. But I wasn’t allowed to play because I was female. That was the only reason I wasn’t allowed on the team. And I thought, this is so ridiculous. And then my second career, I remember the Navy guy coming to my house when I graduated from high school, and he said, “Well, we’d love to have you join the Navy.” And I said, “Great, I’d love to be a fighter pilot.” And this is before they allowed — you know I’m long in the tooth. So this is before they allowed women to fly fighters. And so he goes, “Well, we can’t do that because you’re female. But you can work on the plane.” And I said, “How is working on the plane as a mechanic anywhere close to flying, you know, above Mach one in a fighter?” And thank god I didn’t join the military at the end of the day. But still, it’s like these careers I’ve wanted have been completely cut off to me. So I think I have a lot of rage still. And of course now in the entertainment business, what was I thinking about, where so many times I —
Anthem Salgado: Because it’s more peaceful there, right?
Kathleen Antonia: Right, because it’s so much more equal in every way. So now I’m cut off, you know not only because I’m female. Now I’m cut off because I’m brown, I’m cut off because I’m too tall for a female or because; there are all these reasons or you know I’m bigger than the lead guy, or I’m stronger than the lead guy, or whatever it is. So I can’t — and it’s just maddening. And I know these are just foils for the bigger world where people just don’t get that other people are just people. But yeah, I have to work on that. So I think success would be if I can finally just chill out; that would be great.
Anthem Salgado: You know, I want to share a story that I share from time to time because I feel like all the visual details, and the sociopolitical details of the world can be, they’re daunting, they’re big things to contend with. And I remember sitting on an airplane and there’s never anything good on the television on the airplane. But randomly I saw Herbie Hancock’s face on the TV, on the screen. And so I put my headphones on, and he had this amazing thing to say about music which was the reason he was able to break out, and do the amazing musical things he had done was because he looked at himself first as a human being. And I didn’t know this, he’s a practicing Buddhist, so that was interesting. And he basically said if he had identified purely as a jazz musician, he would have never been able to make “Headhunters” or any of the funk, or Gershwin explorations he had done later down the road. But because he looked at himself as a human, and that music was moving though him, he was able to explore a number of options in that way, and not get so tied down by his identity as a musician, or as person of color, or as a male for that matter, and he was really able to transcend those things. So I don’t know if that will help you. But I just wanted to offer it.
Kathleen Antonia: We can all hope to be as genius as Herbie Hancock is.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah, but I thought that was interesting. And really in respect to your own journey, you have been able to go from football player, to maybe, Navy —
Kathleen Antonia: Pilot, right.
Anthem Salgado: — lawyer, and artist. And there is something worth noting about a person’s ability to adapt, and transform as needed. And so I commend you on that.
Kathleen Antonia: And I think really what part of it is just, and certainly not when I was younger, and the whole football thing or even the Navy thing was in my sights. But I think there’s something about understanding about what your life’s work is that gives you flexibility. Because if for me it’s really about trying to help advance the species. For a number of reasons, some of which are more critical now given where we are ecologically as well as just social politically. But that means that I can do a variety, wear a variety of hats, and if I stay focused on that, then I’m able to move within a lot of things. So if there’s a real barrier in front of me in one place, then I can move to the next place because I can still do something focused on that life’s work in another way. And I think that really helps. So I think, and certainly with acting and performing it’s hard to say, I mean, didn’t have the same, some people were driven when they were really little like all they ever wanted to do was sing, and I didn’t necessarily have that. So I don’t know if they feel that they life work is to sing at Carnegie Hall or to record that number one Billboard track or something like that, and think that’s a harder focus because it’s so narrow. But I think if as an artist you can focus on something a little more broad and meaning that you’re really analyzing what you’re in it for, I think helps you have flexibility.
Anthem Salgado: Yeah, to have a bigger cause.
Kathleen Antonia: Yeah, and I think that’s part of Herbie Hancock too was saying you know what I wanted was to let the music flow from me whatever that meant, whether it’s Jazz, whether it’s funk, whatever it is. But for him, he just wanted to let the music flow. So he’s scoring movies, he’s doing, he’s very diverse within the music field as far as how he is working. So I think if as an artist you can develop that sort of flexibility and that sort of diversity with your outlook based upon maybe one solid component of who you are.
Anthem Salgado: Truly, truly. And for you it’s about social justice, and human empowerment.
Kathleen Antonia: Absolutely.
Anthem Salgado: That’s awesome. Where can folks find out about you?
Kathleen Antonia: They can find out about me on fansofkathleenantonia at Facebook. My home website which is Kathleen_Antonia.homestead.com. And they can always contact my agent at Look Talent in San Francisco.
Anthem Salgado: Wonderful. Thank you so much Kathleen for sharing your wisdom.
Kathleen Antonia: Thank you. Thank you, Anthem.
Anthem Salgado: I appreciate it.