Challenge authority. Nothing is what it seems. The world is not a black and white proposition. We humans seek balance, neither of which can be achieved on the polar ends of ideology. Think for yourself. Disconnect from Mass Media, there is no pure truth in reporting anymore. Everything has become agenda manipulation by the power elite to either retain power, or achieve power. Everywhere you turn there is a wedge being inserted into society to divide the country and it’s being driven by those that covet power and money.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marshal Hilton.
Highly regarded by his peers for his emotionally complex and nuanced characters, Marshal Hilton has been a consistent presence in the independent film world offering his unique brand of powerful, intellectual, and manipulating characters, or his salt-of-the-earth and rural country souls, having appeared in seventy plus feature films over his career to date, and a two year turn as series regular and co-star “Les Fortunes” on the #1 rated Fox Kids show “Beetleborgs Metallix”.
Over the years Marshal has had the pleasure working alongside many notables — Co-Starring with screen legend Armand Assante and horror icon Bill Oberst Jr. in Mark Savage’s black comedy thriller ‘Stressed to Kill”, co-starred with Robyn Lively, John Ratzenberger and Eric Roberts in the faith based feature “In the Name of God”, a supporting appearance in “The Perfect Weapon” with Steven Segal and Vernon Wells, supporting in the action feature “Assassin X” with Olivier Gruner, Patrick Kilpatrick and Martin Cove, Supporting in Jesse Johnsons action feature “The Debt Collector” with Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Tony Todd and Vladimir Kulich, Co-Staring in “A Clear Shot” with Mario Van Peebles, Supporting in “Legacy” with Luke Goss and Louis Mandylor, and had the privilege working with the iconic king of “ Chewing Bubble gum, and Kicking Ass…” the late great Roddy Piper while starring in “A Gothic Tale”.
When not working in front of the camera, Marshal spends much of his time creating photographic fine art, working on his blues guitar chops, and lending his voice to various narration productions. Marshal is a native of Southern California and is currently residing in the Malibu area of southern California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m a California native, born and raised in Ventura County, about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. A surfer, skater, musician, actor, spawned from the 1970’s pop culture. I was a bit of a handful. I was easily distracted and had an overly active imagination.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
You mean a harrowing epic journey of dreams, pain, betrayal, victories, and defeats, that shaped a young man’s life, turning him from a young wide eyed naive creative, into a thirty year, battle tested, slightly salty, sarcastic veteran character actor? It’s thousand page script my friend. Where do I start?
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Back in the late 80’s while studying acting in San Francisco I was selling high fashion leather clothing for North Beach Leather. Robin Williams was a customer and we had many wild and fun moments when he would come in and shop. He was a very unassuming and a generous, kind soul. Very bright and self aware. We respected his boundaries and he appreciated that. Fast forward three years later, I had the opportunity to work for two weeks on the set of Mrs. Doubtfire. They filmed the movie in the Bay Area. We were filming the climax scene in the restaurant. I was there with the others and on day one Robin was walking to set dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. I turned around and he was walking straight towards me. Our eyes met, and he sort of cocked his head, recognizing me. He came up to me with a big smile and in his normal voice said, “…What the hell are you doing here?…” It was an amazing moment. We talked for a brief moment. I told him that I was up in the Bay Area studying acting. He asked me why I never mentioned it to him. I told him there are boundaries and that he didn’t need another person getting up in his business wanting something from him. I could tell he respected that. He immediately said he wanted to introduce me to the director Christopher Columbus, and his co-stars Sally Field and Pierce Brosnan as a colleague. After that, we shared many moments while working and I was able to move more freely around set. It was an amazing two weeks that I will never forget. He was such a force of nature. He gave the world every inch of his soul. He burned so brightly. His passing is a tragedy. He is sorely missed.
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?
It’s hard to think of one specific “funny mistake” and the lesson learned. Funny happens all the time. But I will tell youthat most of the mistakes I made when I was first starting was seeking out ,and listening too, the many so called “Hollywood/Acting Gurus” that prey on naive and desperate young actors new to the business. There is an entire industry of those “gatekeepers” of knowledge and access that pay their bills bilking those most vulnerable and financially challenged, actors. A few minor credits and they become “experts” on how to succeed in Hollywood, dispensing everything from headshot consultations, to casting director contacts, to the new hot shot acting coach. Its pariah industry, and it’s easy to let them infiltrate your mind and instinctual judgement. Acting is a craft of instincts, and when you begin to question those instincts you get into serious creative trouble. Young ambitious actors are very impressionable and can be easy fodder for those that want access to your cash. I’ve seen acting labs, schools, workshops ect. that are almost cultish in their environment. They feed a false environment of love, approval, and emotional support as long as you have the money to keep paying tuition. In all my years in this business, you get none of these environments in the real life, competitive world of acting. It’s a harsh place. People win, and people lose every day, and Hollywood keeps on trucking. Know one is going to hold your hand and talk nice when you’re feeling down and depressed. The battlefield is littered with broken dreams and wounded souls. Is it harsh? You bet, but so too can life challenge your soul. Yes, there are some very wise and honest educators in the business, but they are few and far between. I can tell you that there is no magic bullet. It’s a crap shoot. If you’re committed to the life, then work your ass off. Work on anything and everything you can, within reason. Sometimes you’ll get paid, other times the currency is experience. Pick the brains of those truly praised and gifted. Make friends with people you like, not for what you can possibly get from them. Stay the course and find a way to enjoy the journey of a thousand defeats. If you can do that, the victories will be sweeter, and your day to day life will be a much richer experience.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, as I mentioned, I have been on hiatus for the last year and a half. Fortunately some of the work I did prior is starting to make its way into the world.
Echoes of Fear, written and directed by Brian and Lo Avenet-Bradley, a Supernatural Thriller film I worked on a couple of years ago has recently been released on VOD and retail. It’s got an old school Hitchcock feel that’s got some classic scares, and then gets really dark. It did very well on the festival circuit, winning multiple “Best Feature” Awards.
“Legacy”, an adventure action film directed by Roger Ellis, starring Luke Goss and Louis Mandylor is in post production and should be release sometime this year. In that film I’m back in my box to playing a rural country Sheriff.
“Break Even” an Action Adventure film directed by Shane Stanley, starring Tasya Teles, Steve Guttenberg, and a great cast should be released this year as well. Hank the Hippie was another out of the box character for me. It was good fun for sure.
As for my current muse, I’ve been dabbling in photography as a hobby off and on for many years, but never really leaned into it as a focused art form. The last couple of years I have become very aware of Hollywood’s glass ceiling. It is clearly within view. I’m at the age where work opportunities are very different now. Photography gives me the ability to work when and where I want with no restrictions and I actually get to finish my work. As an Actor we never get to actually finish our work. Many people have a hand in the final presentation of our work, so we are at the mercy of a lot of variables, none of which we control. With Photography I finish what I create, all the nuances and creative decisions I decide. It’s very liberating. I will be introducing my fine art photography under Marshal Hilton Fine Art very soon in consultation with top notch Fine Art curators and several successful mentors. It’s been an eye opening journey and I’m excited to be learning and growing as an artist. As creatives, we must continue to learn in order to live. Stagnation to an artist is a slow death. Learning is living, and I plan to keep living through inspiration in what ever medium that captures my senses.
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?
This is a very deep and multi layered question that requires more space than this venue. I don’t have three specific reasons, but I can share my thoughts.
One of the many missions of Art in society is to tell a myriad of stories that represent society. It’s like looking in a mirror and telling the rest of the world how were are all coping with life. Of course, genre will also dictate the types of stories that will be told, and the many faces that will tell it. America is a very diverse nation. We are a nation born from immigrants. It was spawned and born with non native people fleeing oppression, looking for a new life of opportunity in a land that was relatively free of tyranny. Some came here freely, some were brought here under duress. We are a very complicated nation. Ethnic diversity is in our fiber as a nation. In my line of thinking, it’s not so much an idea of imposing diversity in entertainment, but the breaking down of ethnic stereotypes within the creative norms of Hollywood. Stereotypes create a false perception of ethnic culture defined by perceived behavior. It pigeon holes people into “types” of behavior based upon a narrow perception of the culture. For years writers, studios, producers and distributors fed the world stories crafted through a very narrow prism. The prism is now changing and ethnic and societal stereotypes are being given a wider window from which to present characters within stories that have a more depth, reflecting the evolving nature of our society, all of which is good.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- “Slow your roll, you’re not ready just yet”
Many years ago when I first relocated back to LA from studying theater in San Francisco, I had an audition for a film. Feeling all full of myself and “ready for the big time”, I prepared what I thought was a good “acting choice” and made it to Gower Studios for the reading. I remember sitting outside a door in a long hallway by myself, which felt odd. The door opened and a woman escorted me into the room. It was a big room with a raised stage, with a half dozen older mature folks sitting on the stage behind a long table. In that moment everything changed. Everything got kinda fuzzy and in slow motion. The air in the room changed. I could barely breath. Someone mumbled something to me. It sounded like the voice of God in a dream, and that’s really the last thing I remembered. I know that words were coming out of my mouth but I couldn’t hear them. The moment was so big my instincts kicked me in the nuts. I remember thinking on the way home, “that didn’t go so well”. Several days later, still feeling the effect of the crash and burn, I did some research on the casting notice and discovered that the Production company was Icon Entertainment. It didn’t really strike me as something special until I looked up the company. It was Mel Gibson’s startup production company. I felt sick to my stomach. The moral to the story is, just because you think you’re all that and a bag of chips, you had better be ready. Hollywood is a sneaky town. You never know when and where opportunity will be gifted, and most of the time you won’t even recognize it. The real movers and shakers operate in a very stealth manner. Know when you’re ready, I mean really ready. Study. Work small and work often. Get some victories under your belt before you make the dive into the deep end. If you can’t swim, or at least tread water, you’ll drown. Hollywood won’t toss you a life raft.
2. “Talent doesn’t mean you’ll be successful” I can’t tell you haw many times I received a call from a producer friend, or casting, saying that I had “…the best reading “they saw”, but the kid they cast was latin, you have blue eyes…”
from the Director who wanted me for the part, “…They love you for the part, but the producer is friends with “so and so” ( fill in the blank ) and the distributor has had success selling his films overseas, so…”
I even had a Director tell me once that, “…everyone in the room loved you work”, but I reminded the producer of her ex husband…”
There are so many variables that are out of our control that regardless of how “Talented” you are, talent is not the determining factor. It stinks, but that is the reality.
3. “Save what self esteem and dignity you have left. Don’t read your own press”
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Some will love what you do, others will hate what you do. Once you embrace this reality, life gets better, trust me. Critics are like assholes, everyone’s got one, Hollywood’s got thousands. The internet’s got even more.Regardless of your work, some will love you and support you, some will hate you with envy. I’ve read things about my work written by critics that were horrible. I guarantee they would never say them to my face, but from behind the safety of a keyboard and an avatar, they become judgmental idiots, that is their right. Some will say great things, some not so much. It also works socially as well. Everyone will have an opinion. Choose wisely who you listed too.
4. “Forget about your “Type”. Hollywood will cast you how they see you, not the other way around”
I fell prey to this early on. As young actors, we tend to have a very convoluted sense of self image. We emulate those for whom we desire to achieve. In our minds we think we are this type, or that type. We then try and present ourselves in the likeness of others. It’s not our true selves, and most of the time it wreaks of our insecurities. Casting Directors and those with years of experience in Hollywood are smart. They can smell it as you walk into the room before a word comes out of your mouth. The reality is, if you do manage to book work, your resume will tell you how Hollywood sees you. The kinds of roles you will land will tell you everything you need to know regarding “type”. At some point you realize that fighting how Hollywood sees you isn’t a healthy way to live. You either accept it, or you end up selling cars in Topeka, or where ever it is you came from. Acceptance goes a long way in being a happy person.
5. “You need to have a three and a five year plan”
First off, anyone who comes to Hollywood with such an idea would be better off not coming at all. It’s a failed idea form the start. It operates under the premise of “Making It”, which is an outcome based idea. A career in the arts is a “Process Based” endeavor. Pressure is the killer of an artful life. It produces very little good. It produces an angry and envious actor. And know one likes to be around miserable people. Growth as an artist takes time. In Hollywood you can be working for 20 years and still not have made all the connections you need. This town is a relationship business. It take a long time to understand the rhythms and how the town works. Now, do some wander into town and explode?, yes. It does happen. But very few live their big dreams. Most of us are worker bees. We just keep on keepin on. So in the event that you have the misguided notion that Hollywood “…hasn’t seen anyone like me before…” Please, I beg of you, save your soul, sanity and self esteem, and start your life doing something else. There is no time table in the arts.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Don’t fight burn out. It happens for a reason, it’s healthy. It’s your mind and body telling you its needs rest and soulful nourishment, much like sleep. I think burn out is a natural phenomena, especially if one’s passion and creativity burns hot. Over the years I burned very hot. The nature of Hollywood, especially in the beginning of one’s career, requires a tremendous of energy. There are so many hurdles and roadblocks that we must navigate. It requires a lot of energy to take the shots, the countless rejections and keep getting back up. There are different stages in one’s career that require the need to “re-charge”. I’ve had several along the way. I left acting after a two year run on a Fox series back in the late 90’s. I was creatively and emotionally spent and uninspired, so I left for six years exploring another of my creative muses, music. Often times, people think that we are limitless vessels of creativity. In my case it is not that way. It’s important to spend time away from the grind appreciating the wonders of life. Balance, both creative and emotional, is often overlooked while in the throws of ambition. Taking breaks during the journey helps to refuel our soul, provide new life experiences to share through our work, and give us real life context to present full and deep layered characters. You don’t get that from an acting class or chasing auditions, producers, and casting directors. Refueling is extremely important. I am currently in one of those stage at the moment. I had a very busy three or so years and did a good amount of work. I was already on a bit of a hiatus prior to this pandemic, so this has given me even more time to do an internal audit of creative purpose, explore new avenues of creativity, and recharge my motor.
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. 🙂
Challenge authority. Nothing is what it seems. The world is not a black and white proposition. We humans seek balance, neither of which can be achieved on the polar ends of ideology. Think for yourself. Disconnect from Mass Media, there is no pure truth in reporting anymore. Everything has become agenda manipulation by the power elite to either retain power, or achieve power. Everywhere you turn there is a wedge being inserted into society to divide the country and it’s being driven by those that covet power and money. The goal of government is to control. In order to control it must get bigger and divide society into small bickering units. The “I’m right and you’re wrong” culture is the death of solidarity, we all lose. The one thing that government fears more than anything else is a united society. We have the strength in numbers to the lives we envision. We can take power back, but we must see through all the noise that is being forced down our throats, and recognize that although we have differences, compromise is the way to unity. As a unified populous, those that are in the bowls of our government institutions will realize we are not the pawns of the privileged. They have forgotten who they work for. We need to remind them.
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 wish that could point to a specific “Mentor” or moment, but the truth is not that sexy. Somehow in the process of growing up, I was given the mental ability to withstand the difficulties that life throws at us. I’ve experienced some really difficult times, and somehow managed to pick myself up and continue fighting. Self reliance is a quality that I was blessed with. I never had someone to go to in the event that I needed money. I had no bailout. I also was very prideful. I didn’t like asking for favors even when I desperately needed help. I’m am also a very curious being. I have been able to learn from the many people I have met along the way. If you are open and willing to learn in the trenches of life, you become more wise to the way of the world. As far as “help”, in many ways all of the people that hired me along the way gave me opportunity. What you do with opportunity is up to you. Nothing is guaranteed. I’ve also always listened to those that are older and more experienced. I’ve never been afraid to get dirty and work. And I’ve never felt that I was owed anything. In my line of thinking, there is no entitlement in life. Help also comes in many different forms. You can learn tremendous lessons when experiencing negativity and defeat if you are able to parse through the personal disappointment and identify the moments. You also learn valuable lessons in the little victories we experience along the way. Learn to savor those moments, they are validation and feed the creative energy needed for a long run.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are several but these are my “go to”…
- Illegitimi non carborundum” ie.” Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. It’s perfect for Hollywood, and any difficult endeavor in life. There will be many voices in your ear, and thoughts in your head, on the sanity of a creative journey, most of which are negative. Don’t allow nepotism and critics dim your shine.
- “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s most likely a duck.” Creative ambition and neediness can cloud good judgment. Honor your intuition and gut instinct. There are landmines scattered all through Hollywood, most of which are seeking access to your wallet.
- “Be present, keep your mouth shut, and listen” People will tell you everything you need to know about them, especially in Hollywood. Insecure mouths tend to rattle a mile a minute. The smartest person in the room is the one who remains silent. He then knows what everyone else knows, and what he knows. Information is leverage to your advantage. Be wise with your knowledge.
- “Be kind to others”, and that can be a big challenge in Hollywood. There are plenty of unsavory people you will meet along the path, but that Production Assistant that brought you a bottled water on set one day just might become a Studio Executive, a Director, a Producer or Casting Director in their future. Hollywood is all about relationships. People remember kindness.
- “Do the best work you can, and walk away”. Worry is the devils work. You have absolutely zero control over anything related to creative decisions made by those who hire. When given the opportunity, prepare well. Do your best work, and absolutely let it go, because the loudest sound you’ll ever hear in Hollywood, is silence, and you will hear it often. Let any thoughts of outcome go, and live your life. If you allow negative worry thoughts to invade your mind after a meeting or an audition, you will become a slave to “approval”. Once you figure out that your job is to present “ideas” for a character, not to book the job, your life and work gets much more full and enjoyable. My job is too read and audition for people free of charge. Occasionally, I get paid to act 😉
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. 🙂
God. All the important questions about our existence would be answered in a single moment.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank You! I appreciate all of your your support. Without you none of this happens. For those who want to follow and keep an eye on my crazy world you can follow me on the usual suspects:
Official EPK: https://whitelist.media/marshalhilton
Official Desktop Site: www.marshalhilton.com/
I want to thank you for having me through for you and your fans. I hope that you all are safe and healthy. Be well, be happy, and keep kicking ass!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!