Scott Cavalheiro was born to be an actor – the entirely unusual path he took to become one is another matter. It took him many years to figure out what works for him, and he didn’t insist for a minute on what others claim, is their only option. This neuroscience genius turned actor goes from film set to film set (now that he is one of the biggest rising stars) and can be seen on Netflix regularly. So how can he so easily do, what for other actors seems impossible, day after day? I tried to figure out Mr. Cavalheiro during a FaceTime call.
“Just start at the beginning” – I tell him, and he dutifully starts to tell the story. I start my interrogation by asking him if he has any sort of first memories from when he knew he would be an actor, and that one day the whole world would be watching his films. Of course, that’s not what happened. “When I was a kid, I never really knew that I could be an actor. I lived in a very small town – there were no community theaters or anything. In grade school, they always asked me, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’? I always said I want to be a mad scientist. It took me a couple of years to realize that I really just like the idea of acting,” Scott relates.
You might already be expecting the cliché success story, but I must disappoint you. Instead of a cliché, nothing but trials and tribulations awaited Scott. At first, he learned from Jim Carrey’s films, then his middle school drama teacher, but he tragically died over Christmas holidays, leaving Scott without a teacher and a great mentor.
“When I was applying to universities and colleges, I got some scholarships, because I was very good at science, but I said to my mom that I would audition for one art school, and if I get in that’s maybe a sign that I should be an actor. And she said ok, don’t hold yourself back. She was very supportive,” Scott continued.
Supportive mother or not, the difficulties continued: Scott soon realized that although he made it into the program (at the University of Windsor in Canada), at first, he didn’t even know how to act. What’s more, that was the first time he’d ever met any actors. “I didn’t really like how manipulative actors were. I thought, maybe I don’t want to be around all of these people. So, the question was: how can I do it on my own?” That’s what he asked himself, and then he decided: he’s getting out of this business, and going back to studying science.”
He moved to Toronto, where he continued his studies but didn’t give up acting. “I thought maybe I can get an agent, try to take classes, so I don’t have to be with the same people every day for four years. That was sort of how it began. I was at school for neuroscience, and meanwhile, I was also auditioning. I got lucky, and I got a couple of shows, they were terrible, but all of them are in the beginning .” – Scott explains.
Right away I tell him that I don’t think he was lucky. The Scott that I have come to know over the past few months works incredibly hard for everything that he has. Then he adds:
“The most important thing is being prepared when the big opportunity is there. I am working hard but I think there’s a lot I can learn, I don’t think I will ever stop. I just need to be ready, and when someone tells me ‘can you audition for this?’ I can be the right person for the job,” Scott adds.
His story still wasn’t clear to me: here is a boy who moves between Toronto and Los Angeles, has roles in hit films, and gets one audition after another, with everything in place to support him. When I tell him that this sounds too good to be true, and I ask him to talk about some of his difficulties, because I’m sure he’s had some, he starts to smile on the other end of the phone.
“In 2009, I think, it was my first real job I was booked, I was the lead at a tv show, I remember getting to the table reads we sat down, you know you are meeting all the cast, directors, producers, and I have never been to a table read. I’ve started to put on this deep voice to make myself seem more confident. They ended up canceling the read through, they said ‘that’s enough for today!’”. I think they saw the lack of confidence, and they called my agent, and on my way home, they fired me. I was devastated. It hurt my ego so much. I didn’t think I could ever be confident enough,” says Scott.
After this, it took years for him to step in front of a camera again. Instead of school, he decided to take lessons from private teachers to continue his education. Finally, he met his mentor on the set of a movie, Tom Cavanagh. He told Tom how he wasn’t making any progress, and that he was terribly frustrated. Maybe he really should study to be a doctor. This is the advice he got in reply: “well, you know in any career, specifically in the entertainment industry, the more doors you have open, the less opportunity you have to move forward. Why don’t you close all the doors, even for a minute, and walk towards the entertainment industry, without any other option?”
Literally one day later, he was called in for an audition. By then, he was so angry about his situation that he waltzed in with a carefree attitude since he thought, he wasn’t getting the role anyway, and he would just give up acting forever. There really is something to the idea of freeing yourself from the anxious need to conform, going to an audition as yourself, without any ego. “They loved my attitude so much, they booked me, and said ‘we loved your attitude, you have so much confidence’, they loved me.”
This just might be Scott’s biggest strength: the moment he believes in himself, he can get in front of anyone without having to worry about whether he’s good enough for the task they want him for. Since the truth is that he was born to do this. It’s true that he took a different path, using dozens of hours of private tutoring instead of group lessons, but he finally achieved what so many people only dream of. “Maybe all I needed, was to stop putting so much weight on everything,” Scott adds.
The above scenario repeated, since, in December 2017, they were at a wedding with his wife, when the next day before their flight to Toronto, he quickly auditioned for a role using their phone. They took two quick takes of two scenes, sent them, and then forgot about them. They needed to catch their flight. One month later, Scott got a call, that he got the lead role in the Netflix film Christmas with a View. “I was like ‘what movie is this?’”
I don’t need to tell you the moral of the story. Reading Scott’s story makes it totally clear what the secret of his success is. Sometimes you just have to close every door, close off all distractions, and try and see what happens when you have no other choice.