Have hobbies and interests outside of your passion, something you can engage in without the pressure. Volunteer. You won’t feel worthless if it feels like you’re doing some good in the world. Take frequent social media breaks.
I had the pleasure to interview Casey Dillard. Casey is an actor, writer, and improviser (who is very bad at writing biographies) living in and working out of northeast Mississippi. Her latest film, which she wrote and stars in, is the chilling thriller “Driven” which hits DVD and Digital in June.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up and spent most of my formative years in Mississippi with my parents and older sister. My home life was largely very normal. If this were my True Hollywood Story people would probably change the channel for it, but if it sounds boring on paper I can only say I was never bored. My parents encouraged my love for storytelling and since at the time our small town didn’t offer many acting opportunities they were kind enough to drive me to auditions and play rehearsals in nearby towns until I was old enough to cart myself around. I’ve worked jobs in retail, service industry, child care, and massage therapy to pay the bills while I keep (hopefully) improving and carving out some form of a career for myself in entertainment.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I got my start in show business forcing my poor family members to watch puppet shows written and performed by me from behind the couch, but I didn’t really think of it as a possible career because it seemed really far removed from anything I was familiar with. The exact moment that I remember thinking “this is something that I want to do someday” was watching my first professional stage show at age 11 with tears running down my face wondering if I had the ability to make people feel certain emotions.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
That’s tough. I tend to think of events that happened to me as being kind of standard for anyone pursuing this line of work, outright boring, or am afraid that they will come across as boasting. James Franco applauded me once. That was pretty exciting for me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Ha! Well, when I was an irritatingly confident teen I went to an open call for a movie with a couple of my buddies and joked that I was going to get cast by miming something crude at the director and my friends egged me on so I did some obscene pantomime at someone who looked official and then it turned out it was the director and I then had to try to carry on a pleasant conversation with him after the fact, but I got cast, so whether it was a mistake or not is uncertain.
I feel like I should add that this particular director was completely nice and professional and definitely did not take my nonsense antics as an invitation for anything inappropriate.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I’m working on something a little experimental with a group of really cool friends that collaborate together occasionally, doctoring a script based on the story of a good local man, and always have about two half-baked scripts I’m working on at any point. As I’m writing this in the middle of quarantine probably the most exciting thing I’m working on is the online live shows I do with my improv team, West of Shake Rag.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I think it’s important to be able to see some aspect of yourself in the media because when you see a character that not only do you connect with, but that actually reminds you of yourself and your struggles it can serve as a reminder of how capable you really are. I’m white. I’m cis. I’m able-bodied. I see versions of myself in so many things it is easy to insert myself in the place of a fictional character and say “I, too, am worthy of love. I can be heroic. I can do the improbable thing.”, but that isn’t true for so many people. It’s also easy for me to believe that there is even a place for me in the entertainment industry because of those things. I want lots of people to be able to see characters AND actors onscreen that make them think “I can do that.” And I want other audience members to be more aware that people who are unlike them exist, are worthy, and have their own stories to tell. I guess I failed at doing a numbered list here, but I could definitely go on and would love to talk more about representation in film to anyone who wants to have the conversation.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
This one is hard to answer because in a lot of ways I still feel like I’m staring out or at least that I haven’t “made it” at this point so I don’t know that I have the benefit of hindsight here. Also, the nature of the industry is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep tips relevant. My general tips are as follows
- Be kind and considerate to the crew. They work so hard and are the reason that you’re seen and heard as an actor.
- Learn to be at least semi-competent at your own hair and makeup because you might not have the benefit of a pro on set.
- Trust your gut. If a person or a project feels iffy, it probably is.
- At least try to create your own content. Otherwise your success always hinges on someone else’s decision.
- There isn’t one set of rules that will help you be successful, so figure out what works best for you.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Oh, this one I can do! Have hobbies and interests outside of your passion, something you can engage in without the pressure. Volunteer. You won’t feel worthless if it feels like you’re doing some good in the world. Take frequent social media breaks.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I don’t know exactly how influential I am at present, but if I could impress anything on people it’s that even if you aren’t vocally and publicly political you need to engage with/pay attention to politics, and you need to be just as invested in a local and state level as you are every four years during the presidential election. Vote for your city representatives, any elected officials because that’s where the seeds for shaping a society we can be proud of are planted.
And put away your shopping cart without fail every time. There is absolutely no reason not to.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Obviously my parents, who found ways for me to pursue my interest when they weren’t easily available to me, but also my friend, co-producer, and partner, Glenn Payne. I met him at a time in my life where I was trying to distance myself from performance. He saw something that he wanted to work with and really reignited my interest in performance. I probably wouldn’t be filling this out if I hadn’t met him. My husband Jon has been wildly encouraging in his quiet way, he has never pressured me to go back to my more lucrative job or leave acting/writing behind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there you must go beyond them.”- Bruce Lee
I can get very down on myself and easily discouraged and sometimes it serves as a helpful reminder that a setback doesn’t have to define you and failure isn’t permanent.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Oh, wow. Hmm. If I could bring someone back to life Jim Henson in a heartbeat. At present probably either Amy Sedaris or John C. McGinley. She’s a comedic genius the likes of which we rarely see and is so submerged in her characters that I would have no idea what to expect if I got to meet the real person. He just seems like a really kind and rare soul and I’d love to get tips on speed and diction in my dialog because wow is he good.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m on instagram at @citizencase and twitter at @citizen_case or vice versa. If you run across a bunch of cat pictures you found the right one.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thanks so much! Stay safe out there.