Everyone’s Journey Is Different: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else because everyone’s pathway is going to be different. It’s ok to admire a fellow actor’s work and even to aspire to reach personal goals that may align with something they’ve achieved (e.g. “I’d like to someday book a series regular role on a popular series). But don’t directly compare yourself to them or beat yourself up if you haven’t yet reached a level or milestone that someone else has. We have control over so little in this industry, so don’t worry about the things you can’t control and focus on what you can — bringing yourself to every role, continuing to train, doing your best work, and having fun doing it, for starters (and the quality of your self tapes — haha — see above!). When the opportunities come, you will know that you are ready.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing actress Erin Bradley Dangar.
Known for her recurring role as Counselor Blatt on the Netflix series Cobra Kai, Erin can also be seen in a supporting role opposite Andi Matichak and Emile Hirsch in Ivan Kavanagh’s supernatural thriller, SON. She has also landed a series regular role on the comedy series, We’ve Got Something in Common, currently in development. Bitten by the acting bug as a child in Lancaster, PA, Erin began her career onstage in musical theatre. She then shifted her focus to music performance and production, releasing several albums and touring with numerous original indie rock bands on bass and vocals before returning to film and television. She is a Georgia-based multi-tasker whose other credits of note include wide-ranging behind-the-scenes experience in art direction and design, musical performance, and background/photo double work on a variety of projects.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up? + Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
Thank you for having me! I grew up in Lancaster, PA, which is a small city about an hour and a half west of Philadelphia. It’s a charming and beautiful area with a rich history — one notable historic landmark being the Fulton Opera House, which was built in 1852 and is reportedly the oldest working theatre in the US. Since I had been an avid singer and performer practically from birth, my mom signed me up at an early age for some acting classes at the Fulton. I thoroughly enjoyed those classes, as well as the acting summer day camps I participated in both at the Fulton and at my school. I started auditioning for musical theatre productions when I was in elementary school and made my stage debut at the Fulton as the lead in Here’s Love, the stage adaptation of A Miracle on 34th Street. It was this multi-week run that solidified my love of and interest in pursuing a career in acting.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story is probably how I landed the role of Counselor Blatt on Cobra Kai. I was on location shooting a different show when I got the audition notice. I didn’t have an agent at the time, and not many top-tier shows release their auditions to the general public, so I was determined to self-submit, even though I didn’t have proper taping equipment and I was on location at a farm in the middle of nowhere in TN. One of my castmates agreed to help me tape my audition with my phone, but we didn’t have a tripod or any lights, so the result was a very poor quality video. I stressed over whether or not to send it in because while I felt the performance was strong, I knew the video looked terrible, and quality is an important factor in self-tapes. But I took a chance and sent it anyway and ended up booking it! I’m very grateful to the casting director, Olubajo Sonubi, who was willing to look past the questionable production quality and still forward my submission on to the producers for consideration.
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?
I think the above anecdote probably also serves as the funniest mistake! It’s a wonderful reminder that we need to take chances in life because you just never know where they may lead. My acting journey would look very different if I hadn’t taken a chance and sent in that audition, even though I knew the production quality was not up to par. Of course, it’s important to always try to do your best work and, specifically with auditioning, to follow all of the casting director’s instructions to the letter. But in those times when you are facing legitimate obstacles, remember that casting directors and producers are human, and if you’re able to explain the situation and ask politely for some flexibility, they will usually understand and be accommodating. It’s always worth a shot!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In addition to Cobra Kai, which is certainly one of the most exciting projects of my career so far, I worked on a film called SON in early 2020 just before the pandemic sent us into lockdown. It was a particularly exciting project for me because it marked the longest time I was away on location for a project — two weeks. It’s a psychological thriller, which is a very different genre from what I typically get to work on, so it was really interesting to see how some of the scarier scenes were shot and exciting to get to be a part of that. I learn something every time I’m on set, but this was particularly eye opening from a production standpoint and I really enjoy that “movie magic” aspect of this work, so it was a real treat for me. The entire cast and crew were phenomenal to work with and I’m really excited to see the finished product when it’s released on March 5th.
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?
Diversity and inclusion are extremely important in all areas of life — including the entertainment industry. We all bring such unique perspectives, interests, knowledge, experiences and talents to the collective table and I believe those should always be encouraged, supported and celebrated. In particular, I think the entertainment industry has the unique opportunity — and duty — to reflect our diversity on the screen so that everyone has the chance to see themselves represented and so that we as a society can continue to grow and embrace diversity as we work toward being a more unified and inclusive culture.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I actually have the benefit of having started with the wonderful instructors at Drama Inc., who do such a great job of actually telling students these important things right from the start so that we don’t have to look back and wish we had known before. Some of the big ones they teach are:
1. You are Enough: Don’t get hung up on what the breakdown of a role says as far as looks or type, and don’t try to “be” a particular character. Bring yourself to every role and that will be enough — in fact, that will be outstanding. This doesn’t mean that you’ll book everything for which you audition; far from it. But it will allow you to rest confidently in the knowledge that you brought your authentic self to your performance and you lived genuinely in that role.
2. Treat the Audition as the Job: Many actors treat booking a role as the win. And of course, if you’re an actor, you want to act, so booking is certainly a goal. But it’s not the only win. In this business, with the number of actors who are submitted for any given role, just being invited to audition is a huge win in and of itself! You may be one of a few hundred people who were narrowed down from an original pool of thousands of submissions to be given the chance to audition. So treat that audition not as a stepping stone to booking the job, but as the job itself. It makes the audition less stressful and more fun, it gives you the chance to play and to really bring your best (which is conveniently what casting directors want to see anyway!), and it allows you to retain the joy in doing what you love.
3. Everyone’s Journey Is Different: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else because everyone’s pathway is going to be different. It’s ok to admire a fellow actor’s work and even to aspire to reach personal goals that may align with something they’ve achieved (e.g. “I’d like to someday book a series regular role on a popular series). But don’t directly compare yourself to them or beat yourself up if you haven’t yet reached a level or milestone that someone else has. We have control over so little in this industry, so don’t worry about the things you can’t control and focus on what you can — bringing yourself to every role, continuing to train, doing your best work, and having fun doing it, for starters (and the quality of your self tapes — haha — see above!). When the opportunities come, you will know that you are ready.
4. There’s Beauty in the Cracks: Many actors feel the need to be perfect, but being perfect isn’t very interesting to watch, nor is it real. The things that make a character interesting, real, funny, scary, sad, intriguing, etc. are the imperfections. Flaws are real. They’re human. And they are what make us connect to a character in some way. So embrace the cracks and let your light shine through them as you bring yourself to the role. Don’t try to be or do anything that doesn’t come naturally. Allow yourself to take risks and be weird or awkward or whatever it is about yourself that you deem to be imperfect, because that’s where the real beauty is.
5. You Can’t Connect if You Aren’t Listening: When working with another actor in a scene, it’s important to have a solid understanding of who your characters are, what your relationship is to one another, how you feel about them, and what you want from them. But even when approaching a script with all of this in mind, you have to leave room for the other actor to affect or even change you. You have to truly listen to what they are saying in order to take that in and understand how that makes you feel and whether it may even change what you want. That openness creates a depth in performances that makes them feel genuine and real, and it’s something that many actors don’t learn early on and therefore they must retrain themselves to approach the work from that perspective.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
In addition to the above “5 Things,” I strongly suggest finding your “tribe” and staying connected with them. I found mine through my classes at Drama Inc., which as an organization always promotes collaboration over competition. The Atlanta market is known for its sense of community and it really sets us apart from New York and LA. We support each other here and are genuinely happy for one another’s successes. It’s a far healthier mindset than feeling like you’re constantly up against others, and it encourages sharing knowledge rather than hoarding it. This community/tribe will give you help and information when you need it, the opportunity to help others, and the constant reminder that we all do this because we love it and we should lift each other up when we have those moments of self doubt or frustration.
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’m a long-time proponent of reducing plastic waste, so I would use my platform (and already try to do so) to encourage people to make daily choices that ultimately reduce or eliminate single-use plastic. I bring my own reusable bags everywhere I go, I refuse plastic straws and utensils at restaurants, and I have a collection of reusable straws and utensils that I carry with me at all times. I even take them to set, where unfortunately a lot of “disposable” products are often used. Whenever I’m able, I try to encourage the productions I’m working on to consider using compostable products instead of plastic if they cannot use real plates/cups/utensils, investing in a water dispenser and encouraging everyone to bring their own reusable water bottles, and eliminating as much packaging as possible from the craft services table. I’ve been really saddened by what COVID-19 has done to increase the use of single-use plastics here in the US and elsewhere. I really hope that we can do better and make better choices moving forward to reverse the effects of these recent habits. Our planet and our health depend on it.
None of us is 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?
There are so many people who have helped me and continue to help me on this journey, including the four founders of Drama Inc., Jason MacDonald, Catherine Dyer, Claire Bronson and Scott Poythress, who do so much for so many actors in the Atlanta market and beyond. But I am most grateful to my parents for always being supportive and encouraging at every point along my creative journey. Even though they are not performers themselves, nor did they know anything about the business, they never hesitated to sign me up for acting and music classes, allow me to audition for roles, and come to every performance. And they celebrated every little victory along the way. As an adult, they have continued to be champions of my aspirations and always exhibit pure joy at my accomplishments. My wish is for everyone to have at least one person in their lives who gives them the support, love and encouragement to express themselves and follow their dreams that my parents have given me. The effect it can have on a person’s confidence and sense of self worth is truly priceless.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable.” I learned this phrase very early on in my acting training. As with many other industries, punctuality is extremely important in this business. They say “time is money,” but on a set, that is a very literal statement. If someone is late, it can affect the entire day’s — or even week’s — production schedule and bottom line. It helps everything to run smoothly and efficiently, and it’s just plain courteous.
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. 🙂
I would love to sit down and chat with Jason Bateman. I have such great admiration for him as an actor, director, and human being. I have heard that the tone he sets as a director is one of such professionalism, courtesy and joy in storytelling and that he is just wonderful to work with and for. I have had the pleasure of working on sets with a similar atmosphere and it makes the experience such a joy. I’ve also worked on sets that are not so blissful. So the way a director can choose to create a welcoming and collaborative environment in which the entire cast and crew can do their best work is really inspiring to me. I’m also impressed with the work-life balance he seems to have achieved with such grace and aplomb. I was on the set of a film he was in many years ago and his family had flown in to visit him on set. The image of him placing an order at the craft services trailer with his daughter standing in front of him, perched on each of his feet so that she could see over the little counter, is an indelible memory. It just captured the kindness and relaxed fortitude that he seems to exhibit in everything he does. It would be an honor to meet him.
How can our readers follow you online?
@thedangarzone on Instagram
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!