Michael Moreno: “There is no set path”

There is no set path. Because the traditional systems are falling away (studios, gatekeepers to an audience, higher education, limited storytellers) the idea that you have to do things a certain way in order to achieve your goals is ludicrous. We have more channels, more access, and more reach than ever before and more of […]

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There is no set path. Because the traditional systems are falling away (studios, gatekeepers to an audience, higher education, limited storytellers) the idea that you have to do things a certain way in order to achieve your goals is ludicrous. We have more channels, more access, and more reach than ever before and more of the world is online and hungry for stories, ideas and content that speaks to them. So there is plenty of room for your ideas, there are plenty of people who will support you, and now there are plenty of routes to take.

As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Michael Moreno.

Michael runs The Actor CEO Podcast and, connecting thousands of actors around the globe to industry pros, tools, and resources to help them treat their career like a business and fill the gap between training and building a sustainable creative life. Listed as a “top podcast for actors” in Backstage and Casting Networks, Michael is building a fan base of thousands and empowering modern artists by contributing content to multiple online outlets, teaching industry business and marketing classes in drama schools around the country, and coaching creative professionals. As one of the premier platforms for actors to get the practical information they didn’t get in school, Actor CEO allows modern artists to sidestep the traditional path where only a select few make it to the top and become the chief creative decision-maker building long term artistic lives. Having grown up in the entertainment industry of Los Angeles, Michael continues to evolve what it means to be a professional storyteller as our industry changes, our paradigms shift, and we gain access to a variety of ways to connect. Now is the golden era for creatives, and Michael is helping to ensure actors lead the way.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Growing up in Los Angeles, California with a father who worked in the film and television industry (post-production sound), I was lucky enough to see the entertainment profession from many sides. It became clear early on that this creative profession was exciting and a world I very much wanted to be a part of.

As an avid class clown, I loved making people laugh more than anything else. I began to do stand up comedy at age 14 and continued it for seven years performing at iconic comedy rooms like The Improv, The Ice House, and The Comedy Store.

High School is where I really feel in love with acting thanks to a brilliant drama teacher who inspired me and my classmates, like Katherine McPhee and Amanda Marie Fuller, and I poured all my energy into making THIS my thing! Growing up with asthma meant that I never really did a lot of sports or extended outdoor activities, but with acting I could create extraordinary experiences anywhere that my friends, family and anyone could truly enjoy.

I spent a year at a Community College before transferring to Chapman University in Orange, California which is a powerhouse of not only performance and artistic talent, but also film and television studio crafts like cinematography, directing and so on. It was great to be a part of that world as the University, its influence and capacity grew.

After college, I auditioned and was accepted into The University of Tennessee’s MFA program led by Jed Diamond. It brought performing to audiences over 600, membership in Actor’s Equity Association, and exceptional training alongside artists from around the country.

Out of MFA school, I landed an agent in New York City who could represent me on both coasts putting me in the incredible position of bouncing from California to New York enjoying my friends, family, and life as an artist.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Incredibly, it took eight years in NYC and having a kid before it finally sunk in that building a life in this business is BOTH craft and career. Sometimes you have to hear things a million different times before it sinks in. It also helped that my lovely wife kept pestering me to start a podcast. “You can do one,” she would say about once a week! I didn’t think I had anything useful to talk about until finally, it became clear. The conversations that meant the most to me as an artist over the years were those practical, down-to-Earth insights that came from working actors and industry pros. They were lessons on how to make this industry work FOR YOU and not get caught up in the “supposed to” and “correct career path” nonsense actors (and most artists, honestly) can become so trapped by. More importantly, it was those insights that I did not get in school, so there was a major gap in knowledge for me and so, so many other actors out there who come out of training and step into an industry without realizing that they have just 1) Become a business 2) Are responsible for the long term sustainability of that business 3) Are actually in the most advantageous time for creatives ever and must learn how to leverage that opportunity.

So, The Actor CEO Podcast was born and it became my mission to empower actors to control their career and build a sustainable creative life through hundreds of interviews with industry pros, amazing tools and resources, access to experts, info, entertainment and more.

Now with thousands of artists following around the world, partnerships, contributions to other platforms and being voted a “top podcast for actors” by both Backstage and Casting Networks, The Actor CEO Podcast and have become a major destination for actors who take themselves seriously, know they are building a business and are confident they can cultivate a career regardless of the uncertainty the industry might bring because they are resourceful, ask for help, and plan for the long game.

The world has never been more supportive of creatives and we have the tools (and less gatekeepers) to realize our dreams. I’m thrilled that I am a part of championing our cause!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Having Sean Astin’s people and the press agent for legendary director John Badham reach out directly to book these two titans of our industry on my show was pretty phenomenal. I love each and every guest that shares their valuable insight on the podcast, but reaching a point where some of the people whose work you’ve admired for years see you as a peer and someone they want to sit down with is truly monumental.

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?

A moment of struggling for perfection when it wasn’t necessary. I was in an audition for a theater project all about rapping the text inspired by Shakespeare’s classic work Othello. It was a big project with a well-known artist producing it. I was crushing the rap and speech parts. I literally had the people in the room bobbing their heads, but I kept stopping because I just didn’t have one section memorized. They said I could use the sides, but I refused. Who knows why I felt obligated to do it off-book, but I didn’t make it happen. I totally blew the audition for no other reason then some ridiculous concept I had in my head about how it had to go. That “perfection” ideal killed what was obviously a very good opportunity that fit me like a glove, and now I work much harder to allow space, relax, and trust that nothing is ever going to be perfect, but it’s the forward motion that takes it to the next level.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? is where I now get to share interviews, clips, and other insight and its audience is growing daily! The shutdown from the pandemic meant everyone became more familiar and comfortable doing video calls than they were before so the podcast immediately had another content element to share with more people.

I’m also thrilled that I get to consult now with creative business owners who have an audience of creatives. From Facebook ads, to video content, to building brand strategies I’ve had years of experience doing all that which I am now sharing with business owners who want to leverage this incredible time of accessibility we all have, but do it without some of the many mistakes.

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?

Our world is full of diverse cultures, stories, perspectives, ideas and passions. The problems of the past were the barriers to entry into the entertainment industry and the ability to reach a wide audience with your unique ideas. Now so many of those barriers have come down from costs, to equipment, to distribution. That said, we still have many large and traditional systems in place that require a shift, be it in theater, film or television. More women, more BIPOC, more independent voices, and more accessibility allow more people around the world to see themselves not only represented in modern media, but feel empowered to bring their stories and views into the conversation and that can inspire so many others. It’s incredible how one story can change and impact a person’s life. From small to large the impact our efforts can make on the world are truly profound, but only when those opportunities are opened up to everyone.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

You have time. Too many creatives (especially actors) think they have this window of opportunity and when it’s passed it’s too late for them. That is not true. You can do what you do until you stop breathing and now more than ever you can do it from anywhere, with anyone for less cost than ever before. So throw that excuse out.

There is no set path. Because the traditional systems are falling away (studios, gatekeepers to an audience, higher education, limited storytellers) the idea that you have to do things a certain way in order to achieve your goals is ludicrous. We have more channels, more access, and more reach than ever before and more of the world is online and hungry for stories, ideas and content that speaks to them. So there is plenty of room for your ideas, there are plenty of people who will support you, and now there are plenty of routes to take.

Ask for help. Again, because of the access we now have to experts, industry pros, insiders, coaches and teachers of all kinds you can easily get the help you need when you need it. And asking for help is the best thing you can do when building a business. There is no reason to go it alone or to do every single thing all the time. Focus on what you do best, double down on that, bring in folks who can help you with the rest and keep learning from those who are 10–15 steps ahead of you.

You have more control than you’re led to believe. This follows the idea of shifting the paradigm. It used to be that studios or major institutions held the keys to reaching a wide audience, which stories mattered, and how big your influence could become. This is absolutely no longer the case and the power has shifted much more into the individual creators hands. Now, more than ever before, you control your own creative destiny and the ability to build a sustainable creative life.

Your value is not based on anyone else’s opinion. When you’re in business for yourself (which every artist actually is) it can be difficult to stick to your guns and forge your own path without getting caught up in what people think of you, your product or your efforts. But with more access than ever, more opinions than ever have come to the forefront and been amplified. However, they are still just that — the opinion of one person. If you’re driven by a passion to speak to a certain audience, elevate a specific point of view, and grow the influence of your message you cannot ever be bothered by those who don’t get it, don’t like it and won’t come on board. It’s not for them, never will be, but those who it is for deserve every ounce you put into it. So you can ignore the haters and invest in the lovers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Daily meditation is my biggest tip. You can personalize it any way you want from simply walking for 20 mins to sitting quietly outside. Whatever works for you, but the fundamental element of unplugging, stopping, relaxing and breathing does absolute wonders for every part of my life. I’m more patient, more empathetic, more energetic, more creative and enjoy every day more when I meditate.

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. 🙂

Put your voice out into the world. It’s now easier than ever to share your story, your values, and your perspective. Your voice matters — share it.

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?

My family has always been supportive from the very beginning and my wife works hard to help me not “what if” myself into a frozen state of inaction. Now that I’m not only building a family but also building a creative business it’s so helpful to have a partner that can be both dynamically creative and savagely practical. I’m thankful for that.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Done is better than perfect.” There is too much uncertainty in the world (especially right now) to try and make whatever you create perfect or pleasing to everyone. It’s truly impossible. But all that second-guessing will end up trapping you into a place of inaction. You have to own your commitment, do your best with the resources you have and enjoy that you can improve things as they grow. That’s how the podcast has started, that’s how our audience has grown, and that’s why I’m lucky enough to talk with A list industry talent and share some incredible insight across the globe.

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. 🙂

Honestly, I think Gary Vaynerchuk has done a lot to inspire me and thousands of others to get out of their own way and take advantage of this unique time right now. From creatives to business owners to folks just looking to start something on the side he has opened a lot of people up to the idea that they can set their own path. I’m in New York and it would be incredible to have 30 mins of his time. Even on Zoom. 🙂

How can our readers follow you online?

You can see everything Actor CEO is up to at and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @ActorCEO. Booking and other requests can reach out at [email protected]

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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