Rising Star Camille James Harman: “Most actors have a head for emotions, art, and language, but that they may not have a head for business and numbers; So, don’t try to do it all, delegate instead”

I wish someone could have explained to me at a young age that most actors have a head for emotions, art, and language, but that they may not have a head for business and numbers. So, the lesson is to hire people who do have those skills to help in those aspects of their life […]

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I wish someone could have explained to me at a young age that most actors have a head for emotions, art, and language, but that they may not have a head for business and numbers. So, the lesson is to hire people who do have those skills to help in those aspects of their life and career. Don’t try to do it all, delegate instead.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Camille James Harman, the actress who played Mary Matalin in the Oscar-winning film Vice, starring Christian Bale. Originally from Louisiana, she is based in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband Jeff Harman and teen son, actor Aidan Harman. Camille made a career detour into the world of UFO research in 1995, shortly after moving to Los Angeles from New Orleans. She wrote for UFO Magazine from 2000–2004 and traveled to famous UFO related sites such as Roswell, NM and Wiltshire, England, home of the crop circle phenomenon. She met her husband, astrologer Jeff Harman, at a gas station in Malibu in 1998. She took a long break from acting when she became pregnant with her son in 2001. She and her husband moved from Los Angeles to Tucson, AZ for ten years. She started acting again in Tucson, when her husband directed her and their son in a short film. The family returned to Los Angeles in 2015, and after rebuilding her career with Strings of Hope and James Joyce’s The Sisters, two period short films that have gone to festivals, this winter she made the rounds during Awards Season and enjoyed the benefits of being in the critically acclaimed film Vice. She plays a news anchor in the feature comedy Loqueesha now on Amazon.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I originally became interested in acting during college when I was a prop mistress for a play in my hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. Watching the actors from backstage, I thought it looked like fun. I auditioned for the next play and got the role of Sandy in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

When I was in grad school at the University of New Orleans, I had a memorable experience with the late Brandon Tartikoff, the legendary producer who ran NBC in the 1980s and was chairman of Paramount until 1991 when he and his daughter were in a car accident. He moved temporarily to New Orleans where his daughter was receiving medical treatment, and he developed a pilot called Under New Management, similar to Cheers, but shot in New Orleans. I auditioned for him directly, for the role of the cocktail waitress. He ended up giving that role to my friend Kathleen, but he wrote a new one for me as a spunky water-delivery girl. I had a great scene in the pilot demo with Jim Gleason, who has since starred in many great films including The Butler. The pilot never sold, but I had the honor of having this great producer create a role just for me. A year or so later, when I moved to Los Angeles, I saw Mr. Tartikoff at the Fire and Ice Ball, my first catering gig in Beverly Hills. He was very kind, and despite us both wearing bowties for different reasons, he introduced me to his friends while I stood there holding a silver tray.

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?

I was a member of a theatre company in Virginia called Studio Theatre of Richmond, and was hired to stage manage a new play. We brought in a star, Kathryn Harrold, to play the lead. In rehearsal she was discussing a particularly challenging element of the script with the director, who was my dear friend and acting teacher. At one point I chimed in with my two cents. She scolded, “Excuse me! I only listen to the director!” She was right and I was wrong. It wasn’t very funny, but it was my biggest mistake so far in a professional situation.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am being considered for a faith-based feature film. That is where my heart is. I would like to check out the scene in Atlanta. I’m also playing a hotel clerk in a short film with a friend in Los Angeles.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

Acting in Vice was my career peak so far. It was amazing to work with director Adam McKay, and actors Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Eddie Marsan, Don McManus, Justin Kirk, LisaGay Hamilton, and Jeff Bosley. I had a bit of dialogue with Amy Adams, though it was left on the cutting room floor. I also met Tyler Perry on set, though we didn’t share a scene. He was very kind and asked met to address him as Tyler. I was excited to meet him, as he is an actor of strong faith from New Orleans, and he has done such great things created a huge studio in Atlanta. I had seen him in an interview tell a story about sneaking into the Saenger Theatre in New Orleans during intermission, when he was too poor to get tickets to the Broadway shows that came to town. I couldn’t wait to tell him that I used to be an usher there! We had a good laugh about that.

Working with Christian Bale as Dick Cheney was amazing. He was on set by 4 am to go into make-up. He stayed in character the whole time I was around him. It was mesmerizing to watch him act with the added burden of prosthetics. For instance, he had to use eye drops because he was wearing blue contacts, and when he would remove and replace his glasses, sometimes that action lifted the hairpiece seam, and the Oscar-winning make-up artist would have to hide the seam near his temple. The sound stage was kept very chilly for the comfort of Mr. Bale and the other actors who wore hairpieces, padding and more to look like their historical characters.

After the film came out, I wrote Mary Matalin to tell her that I enjoyed playing her and researching her. We have a few things in common. She lives in New Orleans, and her daughters attended the New Orleans sister school of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Grand Coteau, Louisiana which I attended with Salma Hayek (in eighth grade.) We’re both half Irish and both Catholic. So, I put together some Christmas gifts and a nice letter and sent the package to her parish office, where I had checked with the receptionist to make sure they would get the package to Ms. Matalin. The morning after the Oscars I received a lovely handwritten, thank-you note from her!

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

I would recommend that they have a life outside of acting, to have hobbies or compatible businesses that support career networking. Also, learn about marketing for actors. Put money into your career. Reinvest in photos, mailings, going to events, hiring a publicist when you need one, and learning social media. Don’t become an Internet addict, even though it’s nearly impossible to not check your e-mail all the time. Don’t argue on social media. Stay focused. Don’t wait around for work. Be proactive.

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. 🙂

I would start a movement of actors who manage to keep their integrity despite the influence of modern culture pushing the edges of moral relativism.

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

I wish that someone could have told me that I being an actor is like going on job interviews for a living. It really is a numbers game. You spend much of your time searching for work, not actually doing the work.

I wish someone could have taught me how to create passive income and save for retirement starting when I was young, and not waiting until I “make it big.” The part time jobs you have to support your acting career may not cover health insurance, etc. So look for creative ways to make money, so you can invest in your acting career until it pays off.

I wish someone could have told me about St. Vitus and St. Genesius, the Patron Saints of Actors. My priest visited the Shrine of St. Genesius in Italy and prayed for our congregation. The next week I booked Vice.

I wish someone could have instructed me to read books about film and television production, so I would understand the other careers involved in show business. This helps the actor to see their place in the grand scheme of the project, and to better understand the job descriptions of the others they will meet on set. Coming from a theatre-based education in graduate school, I could have been savvy about such things when I moved to Los Angeles. Thankfully, my school allowed me to have an agent and to skip class in order to act in a few films and other projects, so that when I graduated I had my SAG card and some film, TV, and music video credits.

I wish someone could have explained to me at a young age that most actors have a head for emotions, art, and language, but that they may not have a head for business and numbers. So, the lesson is to hire people who do have those skills to help in those aspects of their life and career. Don’t try to do it all, delegate instead.

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

“I’d agree with you, but then we’d both be wrong.” I don’t know who said it, but the phrase is a paraprosdokian. As actors we tend to be willing to change ourselves to make people love us. Don’t lose your core of who you are, just because you play different characters. Stand up for yourself, despite being a business where you’re grateful just to get a job.

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 like to thank my first acting teacher in Richmond Virginia, Randy Strawderman. He was a wonderful director as well. He cast me in an original play, and hired me to be a stage manager. He was a very passionate person, and a great catalyst for my career.

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 meet with Gary Sinise. He is a wonderful actor and producer, who is vocal about his faith and patriotism. I’m a contributor to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports veterans, first responders and their families. I’d love to meet Mr. Sinise and his wife Moira Harris, who is also an actress. I enjoyed reading about their marriage in his biography Grateful American, where I learned that she and I were both in productions of The Playboy of the Western World. We live near each other, so maybe one day I’ll run into them somewhere.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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