When people ask you how you’re doing, they aren’t asking for your current credits. Remember you have a full and rich life that isn’t all about the biz. I know we actors always feel the need for self-promotion, but sometimes it’s nice to connect on a simpler level.
As a part of my series of the rising stars in popular culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Landis, an award-winning actress, writer, director and producer. You’ve seen her on hit shows; THIS IS US, BOSCH, JANE THE VIRGIN, ANGER MANAGEMENT and more. You can also see her starring in the un-romantic comedy film BONED, available on iTunes & VOD and performing on comedy stages across Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first acting role was in thethird grade. I played the lead and title role in Little Red Riding Hood. I didn’t get the part because of talent. I got the part because I was so painfully shy that the teacher was trying to help me come out of my shell. It worked, and I caught the acting bug. From there it led to community theater, local commercials and eventually I made my way to LA.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?
The story I share most often is about my audition experience for Bicentennial Man. I had been in LA about a year when I got the notice. I happened to be at a point where my funds and ambition were at an all-time low, and I almost didn’t even go to the audition because I couldn’t afford gas. I was so distracted in my personal life, I also neglected to do research about the project or casting office. I think I broke all the ‘rules’ in the audition too; I brought props and opened and slammed a door. Somehow, I managed to get a call-back and was flown to San Francisco with two of the other actresses up for the role. Our flight was delayed hours due to the weather, and while they engaged in chit chat, I kept my head down in a notebook and journaled away about the inner life of my character. The moment we arrived, we were whisked to the production office and immediately went in one by one to audition. We didn’t even have a chance to blink. Still not realizing I was in front of a big-time producer and director I used the same MO as the first audition but when I tried to open and slam a door for my big finale, it didn’t budge because it was locked. I remember making some stupid joke and rushing out of the room, knowing I must have blown it. Before we knew it, we were back at the airport. Because we were told there was a chance that whoever booked it might be staying for a table read, the other girls rushed the payphone to call their agents. Both of them were told they hadn’t heard any news. When I made no move to the phone, because I had no calling card or even a quarter to my name, they asked if I was going to call my agent. I lied and said I had forgotten my wallet. One of the girls offered to use her calling card and insisted I give her my agents number. I did. It was so awkward becasue she was still sitting in the phone booth and shoved the receiver up to me while I spoke to my agent. I was trying to be cool, collected and not be a rude bitch as I underplayed my excitement while I heard my agent tell me I was cast and gave me booking details. I slowly hung up the phone and they asked for confirmation and I was like ‘yeah, I guess I got it.’ And then I went to the airport bathroom and cried. I was so happy, but also so sad because I couldn’t even call my mom to tell her I booked a big movie.
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?
Being a person with hustle, I was constantly dropping off my materials to any casting office I could. One day, I got a call from a huge casting office in town telling me that I could come pick up my demo reel. (clearly the ‘olden days’) I went down to collect my VHS tape and was pulled into the CDs office who reprimanded me for what seemed like 10 minutes or so about how awful and unprofessional it was to drop off unsolicited materials. I was horrified that I had pissed off such an important casting office, and also wanted to remain polite and not make it worse. But part of me was also angry that they could be so upset about an actor trying to get seen by them. I mean, I was essentially just trying to do my job. I didn’t say much, but before I left, I said something like ‘it would have taken less time just to watch my 2-minute reel.’ I can’t say that they brought me in for auditions for some time after that, but my fear of being banned was not fully realized. I have been to that office a number of times over the years. The lessen I learned was that no one casting director or industry person has sole control over your career. Only you do. And while I do feel it’s important to respect boundaries and be polite, I don’t have to diminish myself. I can still fight for what I want.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, I’m in post-production on a horror feature that I directed and starred in. I love that genre and am excited to see where I can take the final project. I’m also active in the stand-up comedy world right now and am excited to use those new jokes not just on stage but on some new scripted material. And, I’m reuniting with the writer/director of BONED for a new horror project called MACDEATH.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Getting to work with Robin Williams was a wonderful experience I will never forget. He was kind and gracious behind the scenes, and on set was so giving and supportive. There were also moments during filming where the set would go quiet and he’d go off on a comedy rant and have everyone laughing their asses off. When I got to see him months later at the wrap party and a year later at the premiere, he greeted with me with hugs and remembered my name. It was so very special.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Wait, there is a way to do this?!? Balance, at least that’s my goal. I’ve learned to give myself daily time limits on tasks that are will never be done. I make sure to take down time and schedule time for friends, fun and other enjoyable activities. While I don’t quite meditate daily, it is a frequent activity that has had far reaching benefits for me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
A movement for Unity! I think the political climate is quite charged and as a liberal type who claims to be open minded, I find myself struggling to listen or have a heart for people with different perspectives on big and important issues, even when those people are family. Collectively, as people, as families, as a country, we get more and more divided every day. Nothing is going to get better until we can find a way to let go the differences and start working together to make this a better place for every one of us.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1-It’s all part of the fun.
Sometimes you find the good stuff in the mistakes. So, enjoy it all.
2- You are going to be your own biggest supporter.
You will find other people to support you along the way, but no one is in it 100% of the time except you. Be there for yourself.
3-Rejection is not a definition of you.
So, they didn’t want to cast you. Maybe they even gave you a reason that stings. It’s within your power to give yourself reasons why you are still talented and hirable-and believe those reasons. Having been on the other side hiring cast and crew now, it’s so much easier to see that it’s not personal.
4-When people ask you how you’re doing, they aren’t asking for your current credits.
Remember you have a full and rich life that isn’t all about the biz. I know we actors always feel the need for self-promotion, but sometimes it’s nice to connect on a simpler level.
5-Take the vacation.
For years I was always so scared about leaving town and booking out. Trying to time things around what if’s. Now I don’t stress about it as much. Sure, I’ve missed a few auditions, but the world didn’t end, and I’ve enjoyed some great trips!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You do you!” I think it’s so important to follow your own instincts. I know that anytime I’ve felt pressured to make a decision or go along with a choice that I would have made differently; it never works out in the end. I don’t think that my ideas are always better, but I do know if something is going to fail, I’d rather have followed my heart in the matter, at least I would have lived my version.
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 feel very lucky to have discovered Doug Warhit as an acting coach early in my career. He breaks down the process of character work, scene study, auditions, the business, basically anything to do with acting, in a way that’s actionable and personal to you. He also encouraged you to write your own material, and that was really what set me off on a journey where I could make parts happen for myself.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. 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 see this. 🙂
I would love to sit down with Amy Poehler. I admire her versatile talents and would have many questions about pursuing a career path like hers. Plus, I’d pitch a comedy show idea to her where we play sisters.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Facebook & Instagram is @msangelalandis
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!
Thank you, the pleasure was mine ☺