As an actor, you are the CEO of your own company. Over time, you should treat your career as a business by maintaining, investing, insuring, and improving your “product” so that you can remain in business over the long haul. This means hiring good staff (agents, management, publicists, etc.), and investing in quality materials (headshots, self-tape equipment, etc.) to make your business thrive.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Katie Callaway, an American actress originally from Nashville, Tennessee. Katie has appeared in several television shows and films such as ABC’s “Nashville”, ABC’s “General Hospital”, BET’s “The Family Business”, and Vaughn Stein’s feature film “Inheritance”. These opportunities led Katie to work alongside household talent like Lily Collins, Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Chris Carmack, Will Chase, Simon Pegg, and more. Before moving to Los Angeles, Katie Callaway got her education at both Auburn University & Belmont University to obtain her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Katie Callaway has met and worked with Broadway influences such as Jason Robert Brown, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Ted Chapin, Judy Blazer, and Jen Waldman. Katie Callaway also was an active competitor for Belmont University’s Speech and Debate team, and now holds multiple state championship titles for different competitive events as well as a first place national championship title in Dramatic Interpretation in 2014. Katie Callaway is represented by Cylence Media Management. To learn more about Katie, please visit her website at www.Katie-Callaway.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me! I was born and raised right outside of Nashville, Tennessee which led to a childhood full of capturing lightning bugs on summer nights, chasing chickens and riding horses, obsessing over college football on Saturdays, and learning the importance of a handwritten thank-you note. However, to the anthesis of being a Nashville native, my participation in the performing arts didn’t steer me in the direction of country music (although I love listening to it) but rather acting. After following my passion throughout my childhood and high school, I was fortunate enough to receive my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre after studying at both Auburn University and Belmont University in 2014.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I developed an itch for the performing arts from an incredibly young age. “I didn’t choose acting- acting chose me” is an expression that is completely analogous to my artistic ambitions. In fact, I like to joke about how my acting debut was when I was a mere two months old playing baby Jesus at our local church’s Christmas play. In truth, I think my love for acting is deeply ingrained in my love of storytelling and the beauty to see other perspectives by embodying characters.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
One of the most serendipitous, magical moments happened to me early on in my professional acting career on Christmas Eve 2014. I had just graduated college that May and spent the following seven months building my resume and quietly planning for a cross-country move to Los Angeles. Being from a family generations deep with southern roots, I knew a 2,000+ mile trek to follow my dreams wouldn’t be the easiest news to break. It’s frequently said that “nothing great was ever accomplished without making sacrifices”, and my pursuit of an acting career is no exception. After a few glasses of red wine to ease my nerves, I told my mother about my plan to permanently move to Los Angeles. Her reaction was a simple one: she told me to open one of my Christmas presents. After unwrapping a large box, I instantly realized why I was told to open this specific present. Inside was a brand new set of luggage made for long-distance travel and ended up being the exact luggage I used when packing my tiny Honda Civic for my cross-country drive to my new home.
This story always reminds me we truly can create our own serendipity, and that even when my career growth feels static or intimidating, my sheer love of acting will always be my north star.
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?
Let me first say that I don’t believe mistakes are mutually exclusive to the beginning phases of a career. Every day, I’m learning and adjusting on how to better myself as a working actress. However, a mistake I made early on is best expressed in the quotation by Ben Franklin, “Experience is the best teacher, but a fool will learn from no other.”
Although my college education helped develop my performance skills, there is so much more that goes into pursuing this career beyond talent alone (branding, budgeting, networking, unions and how to join them, press, agent and manager relations, actor tax write-offs, and social media… just to name a few). With access to the internet and various classes, young actors no longer have to subject themselves to making their own mistakes, but rather can access so many online resources to learn that “business-side” of the business ahead of time from others. Talent is needed to be successful- sure — but proactivity, professionalism, and the ability to continually have a positive attitude are just as imperative. Analyze the world we live in, watch other actors develop their craft on the stage and screen, and learn continually.
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?
I’d be remiss if I did not mention my former speech and debate coach and dear friend Ryan Greenawalt. Learning from Ryan during my time at Belmont taught me how acting and storytelling can help defang difficult conversations to encourage important societal changes. After all, actors by their very core are communicators. We, through our work, can influence and shape things to come.
Whether the performer is holding up a mirror exposing humanity’s sins, or simply providing escapism for an audience, Ryan reminded me that the role of an actor requires a lot of societal responsibility and should never be underestimated. We’re currently living in a ridiculously dynamic political and social climate where ongoing uncertainty is our new normal. The performing arts give voices to the politically or socially disenfranchised where a film or television show can stir up emotions in an audience, and ultimately inspire great change. I have Ryan to thank for instilling how powerful my voice can be through the performing arts.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
The best advice I can give young actors is to recognize the subjective nature of the entertainment industry. This business isn’t unfair (something actors frequently gravel about between themselves), but it’s absolutely indifferent. Some lucky few will be given the world, others will be empty-handed, and all without an explanation as to why.
Holding on to the fear of “will I be successful?” doesn’t always come from a sense of talent inferiority, but rather, a place of self-defense. Being an actor requires harnessing extreme courage while facing a void full of question marks, which I realize is much easier to say than execute on a daily basis. For me, this means rejection is planned, being misunderstood by family and friends is normal, and failing (often publicly) is okay. Always celebrate the successes, but never be disheartened by the setbacks. Julia Cameron said it best: “Pray to catch the bus, then run as fast as you can.”
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
I was once told to never give up on something I can’t go a day without thinking about. There is a certain magic that acting brings to my life, and I’m so incredibly thankful it’s something I get to do as my job.
It’s really incredible to see so much progress for women and minorities in entertainment reaching historical highs, but this industry still remains so far from parity. It’s great to celebrate progress, but it’s equally important to recognize our industry’s shortcomings. As an actress, I hope to be on sets that provide an equitable environment for female & minority directors, writers, cinematographers, and producers, to thrive. If I am ever fortunate enough, I hope to play a larger role in launching the careers of underrepresented filmmakers and artists.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
For me, consistent work is always the goal. Although these are unprecedented times for any industry, but especially one that thrives on creative collaboration, COVID-19 poses an obstacle to bringing that goal to fruition when most productions are shut down. While the forecast for the future is still unclear, the current stay-at-home measures in Los Angeles allow me to sharpen my skillset in other ways: reading more dramatic literature, improving my at-home audition setup, and taking advantage of the modern technologies that allow me to attend classes without leaving my home.
We are very interested in looking at 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 and our youth growing up today?
Being a straight white female, I didn’t have to grow up without seeing my respective representation in movies and television. However, so many children have had to face the negative impacts of marginalization in the entertainment industry. While everyone cheers for the hero on the big screen, many are left wondering why the heroes never look like them. All children benefit from seeing that anyone, regardless of their identity, can be the lead character in a story.
Increasing the diversity in the film industry, by supplying more independent women, LGBT+ characters, and people of color in primary roles can help increase acceptance and reduce stigmas surrounding many difficult topics.
Whether it’s ethnicity, gender, or sexuality, these identities don’t always need to be the focus of the characters’ stories, but a way to normalize representative content. But the mediums of television, film, and the internet remain powerful socializing mechanisms through which younger generations come into contact with previously invisible minorities. Representation on the screen will only change as the stories change, and stories will only change as the storytellers’ change, which is why I will do everything I can to uplift and support the careers of marginalized writers, producers, actors, and directors.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- As an actor, you are the CEO of your own company. Over time, you should treat your career as a business by maintaining, investing, insuring, and improving your “product” so that you can remain in business over the long haul. This means hiring good staff (agents, management, publicists, etc.), and investing in quality materials (headshots, self-tape equipment, etc.) to make your business thrive.
- Budget! This isn’t the sexiest tip to give to green actors, but pursuing this career can be expensive. Headshots, classes, cameras, lights, union fees, etc. can add up to an expensive bill quite quickly. If you want to make the jump from the stigma of “starving artist” to thriving artist, make a budget and stick to it.
- Remember that this industry is subjective, and we don’t always get answers as to why things do or don’t work out in our favor. Just keep going.
- Take some time off. I can oftentimes get tunnel-vision when working on advancing my career, but resting and enjoying life is equally as important as the work. In order to practice self-expression as an artist, we must first have a self to express.
- Being a kind and helpful person goes a long way. Plain and simple.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Over the last few years, I’ve dramatically shifted my definition of self-care. Contrary to many, my version of self-care doesn’t take shape via retail therapy, a glass of wine paired with comfy sweatpants, or a bubble bath. For me, those are distractions that are disguised as solutions. Self-care means looking at my failures, making actionable changes, and doing things I often LEAST want to do (setting boundaries, waking up extra early to journal and exercise before work, spending money on classes instead of new clothes) so that my everyday life isn’t something I regularly need a drink and face mask to recover from.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Immediately Don Miguel’s “Four Agreements” comes to mind. The wisdom he shares helps us stop living through false social rules, expectations, and judgments, and embrace a way of living that gives us peace, freedom to be who we are, and lets us love others without reservation.
“Be Impeccable With Your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
Don’t Take Anything Personally: Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Don’t Make Assumptions: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
Always Do Your Best: Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.”
You are a person of huge 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?
Every movement that I want to flourish (poverty prevention, BLM, prison reform, universal healthcare, and many more) all fall under one larger umbrella: empathy. As an actress, character work starts by stepping in the character’s shoes, understanding their mental and emotional world. Sanford Meisner famously describes acting as the “ability to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” To do this, I am required to dig into the beliefs, desires, and motivations of the character on a piece of paper. Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki says, “By putting ourselves into the story of people who, on the surface, appear different from us, we can recognize our common humanity with them, and that can trigger empathy in a really natural way.” There’s a broad assumption that empathy happens at an individual level, but empathy can also be a mass phenomenon that brings about fundamental social change.
The technology we have allows for human connectivity to extend far beyond our physical location, which gives us an incredible opportunity to harness the power of empathy and create mass social and political action. But remember: empathy is a two-way street that thrives on mutual understanding and a conversation of our most cherished beliefs and stories.
If there’s one takeaway from this, let it be that nobody is too small or insignificant to make a difference. Start by asking yourself, “How can I develop my empathic potential?” Change that sticks is slow, and steady, and takes time. A movement for empathy wouldn’t take shape via the way self-help culture tells us to look internally, but instead by listening to the lives and perspectives of others and eventually sparking profound revolution for human relationships.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
This is an incredible question with a laundry list of answers. Currently, I’d love to sit down with Alton Brown: food-TV trailblazer, award-winning author, and all-around culinary powerhouse. I’d love to discuss all things culinary, our shared experience of growing up in the south and attending an SEC college, and his love for cinematography.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Absolutely! You are more than welcome to connect with me via Instagram (@katiecallaway).
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!