Have a purpose much bigger than success within the artificial constructs of the “biz.” There is enormous peer pressure to conform to these social hierarchies of achievement in our culture and I think nowhere more than the entertainment industry where your respect can be tied to how impressive your most recent credit is. I have learned that what gives me meaning and satisfaction is having goals for myself that are bigger and more challenging than “making it” and have nothing to do with people validating me with opportunities or awards. It’s about who I’m becoming as a person and how I’m affecting other people and if Hollywood were to vanish tomorrow, this adventure I’m on would keep on going.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Josh Murray.
Actor and rising star JOSH MURRAY is proving himself worthy of becoming part of Hollywood’s next generation of elite leading men. He will appear in DirectTV’s INHERITANCE releasing digitally May 22, 2020 alongside Lily Collins, Simon Pegg, Connie Nielsen, and Chace Crawford. The film follows a wealthy family that has to discover the truth of the dark and hidden past before it destroys their lives. The past is unraveled in flashbacks in which Murray portrays the younger version of the family patriarch, Patrick Warburton. Up next, Murray will have the leading role in the upcoming thriller GYM RAT (2020) and he’s also set to appear in the sci-fi thriller FINAL FREQUENCY.
Murray was born in Long Island but raised in the Washington D.C. area. Growing up, Murray always had an affinity for film from his father’s own stint in Hollywood, first in production, then later as a screenwriter. While in college, Murray began to suffer health issues and chronic pain that prevented him from pursuing careers in fitness and even limiting pursuits in technology and music. While seeking for something less physically demanding on his body, Murray decided to explore acting and after going to his first audition, booked a short film which lead to a passionate determination for understanding the craft. After years of studying the art of acting and pounding the pavement, he landed his first significant acting gig on National Geographic’s KILLING LINCOLN (2013), executive produced by Ridley Scott and narrated by Tom Hanks. The film went on to win a slew of awards including 3 Primetime Emmy Awards.
Currently, Murray is completing the feature film GYM RAT as lead actor and producer. The thriller meets dark comedy chronicles a fitness freak just released from prison with delusions of being the next Mr. Olympia. Murray’s character, Lonnie, gets a job selling steroids for a maniacal gym owner and chaos ensues. After overcoming an array of health issues, Murray’s intense physical training to gain 20 lbs of muscle to play the aspiring bodybuilder was the realization of a huge personal goal. Never one to rest, the determined actor went on to acquire credits in THE RELIANT (2019) as the romantic interest, starring Kevin Sorbo, Brian Bosworth and Eric Roberts (which recently landed on Netflix’s Top 10 list of most popular movies), WISH YOU WELL (2013) starring Mackenzie Foy, Josh Lucas and Ellen Burstyn, NBC’s Revolution and Taxi Brooklyn and the upcoming TV-series THE DREAM FACTORY alongside Jeremy London. Murray continues to take risks and showcase the best of his abilities through his body of work, making him a truly unique and multifaceted actor.
In his free time, Murray enjoys general outdoor activities like hiking, snowboarding and playing soccer. He is deeply drawn to the sea, which encouraged him to learn sailing and become a certified scuba diver. Murray is also a skilled musician having studied the piano, Irish flute and the Tin whistle.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I love thought provoking questions. They help me see my life through a new lens and appreciate my experiences more, so my pleasure! I grew up on the East Coast, but my parents moved around a lot, never really settling in one area when I was growing up and I spent a lot of time on my own as a kid. I think it helped me form a rich imagination and I was a voracious consumer of literature and history as well as old movie classics. Books and movies were where I fell in love with things like sailing and Ireland, long before I had the chance to experience them in real life. I think that’s the power of story, where someone else’s love for something can capture your heart just by hearing their words. I also loved exploring the outdoors, playing music and soccer. I think it’s fascinating to look back at both the way your circumstances dictate your path as well as how your personality comes through in spite of them. For example, I didn’t have the luxury of traveling at all till I was an adult but I did have a childhood hobby of collecting foreign coins from all over the world and it was my way of being able to hold a piece of connection to those far-away lands. Now I’m an avid traveler and have spent several months overseas in 8 different countries in just the last few years. When it came to college, I had several different directions I could have gone in but settled on a degree in Computer Science for practical reasons. But before I finished school my path started to turn.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was sitting in front of my computer one day staring at my hands that were in so much pain I couldn’t will myself to keep typing. I had rapidly developed a lot of chronic health issues that doctors couldn’t seem to give me any answers to and everything from my insomnia to my out of control acne made me hate my life. I told myself “you can’t keep living like this, something has to give.” I turned to acting during that period because I felt like “sitting around talking” was something I could do even with my poor health and I badly needed an escape. Over time, this pursuit has both inspired me to do whatever it takes to overcome obstacles as well as help me find some of the answers to moving forward.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your entertainment career?
For a long time, my two favorite character actors have been Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell. After my first months of pursuing acting “professionally” without booking any professional gigs, I had the opportunity to do stand-in work on an indie film. Normally I would turn down these kinds of jobs because I wanted to focus on principal acting work but because Sam Rockwell was in it, I wanted the chance to see him work in person. I ended up getting a chance to talk with him and he was wonderfully approachable and kind. I thought the experience was well worth it but imagine my surprise when I picked up the phone the next day with Sam on the line. He said, “Hey it’s Sam, remember me?” ‘… of course, I remember you Sam.’ “I could use a rehearsal partner to run lines with tomorrow, could I pay you to come over and rehearse with me?” ‘…of course, you could Sam.’ So, I ended up spending the whole next morning playing all the other characters in the script while he ran his lines. It was really marvelous to see how even though he hadn’t finished learning his lines he is so creative, spontaneous and free that sometimes his first attempt at a line was so surprising I couldn’t contain my laughter. Afterward I wished him well on the production and he sent me a message. “You’re a very good actor, good luck out there.” I still have a picture of it. And apparently it worked because shortly thereafter I booked my first major credit, Killing Lincoln. It just goes to show, never underestimate the potential of opportunity.
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?
Years ago, I was doing a guest role on a TV show and pretty nervous about the big opportunity. We were doing a scene with this prop that we kept having technical issues with and they were making a big deal about handling it just so, the whole situation was pretty absurd. We were losing light and trying to get the shot when in the middle of the scene it fell on the ground and destroyed the suspension of disbelief. I was so frustrated, I broke character and just let off some steam. The director jumped up and started chewing me out, telling me only he gets to cut a scene. It was a good reminder that for an actor, “the play’s the thing” no matter what. You have to fight to make sense of things and regardless of how confident you are the take is ruined — there’s always editing!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Who do you think that might help people?
I’m currently producing and acting on a feature called “Gym Rat” with producing partner Korstiaan Vandiver. It’s about a fitness freak just released from prison with body dysmorphia and delusions of being the next Mr. Olympia when he gets a job selling steroids for a maniacal gym owner. As a darkly comedic thriller, I think it will make for good entertainment, but we are also aiming to tackle deeper themes of addiction versus transformation. Can people really change? And challenge people to question how they are judging who is beyond saving. I think it is also relevant to the conversation on how we are curating our image so much these days, as if it was a competition for self-worth. Another reason I’m so passionate about this project is it’s kind of a capstone on my journey to overcome my health challenges. I had to give up weightlifting for almost 10 years due to chronic pain, leading me to pursue acting. Coming full circle now, as actor playing a fitness freak and being able to gain 20 lbs. of lean mass in 6 months in preparation for the role makes me feel like more than a conqueror. It was a long road but I’m truly grateful to be healthy now, thank God.
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?
No matter how talented and passionate you are, everyone has handicaps that make it challenging to express that gift sometimes. When you meet people in the industry who recognize what is special about you and appreciate it in spite of your hang-ups that is truly special. One of the first casting directors I ever auditioned for was Erica Arvold and over the years we have both come a long way in our respective roles in the industry. Although we’ve never had a relationship outside of the casting process, she has always been a believer in me and some of my best break throughs have come through her office. I remember one time, there was a show I badly wanted to be a part of and I had self-taped an audition for one of the roles. I didn’t interpret the role correctly and when she saw it, she knew it wasn’t representative of what I can do, so she contacted me to come into the office and re-tape it. I was really blown away by that simple act of consideration and grace. I think Erica has the most important quality in a great casting director, rather than looking for ways to disqualify actors to narrow the field, she looks for what is unique about them and supports them in bringing it out. Wherever you are Erica, I appreciate you!
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s jump to the main part of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Acting shouldn’t be about becoming someone else as much as discovering who you really are. When I was younger, I wore masks a lot and I think I was secretly attracted to acting because I thought actors had such polished exteriors. Through my journey as an actor, I realized what I was actually looking for was authenticity. I think many people believe who they are isn’t enough so
they try to construct a better version of themselves. Oftentimes what we really hate about ourselves though is the walls we’ve built that hide the real us. It’s all about finding our identity.
- Progress isn’t linear. Early in my career I booked multiple Film/TV credits in one year that I was really stoked about and thought I was set on an upward trajectory. The year after I doubled the rate of auditions I was doing and got virtually nothing out of it. I realized working harder doesn’t necessarily mean you get more work in the short term. I booked 3 episodic TV shows in a row that all got taken away for reasons beyond my control. You have to have the long game in mind if you want to survive the disappointments of this industry.
- Don’t get too attached to the results. I feel like for every performance that sees the light of day, there’s another one I worked equally hard on that gets lost on the cutting room floor or in post-production hell. Some of the things I was most looking forward to ended up not materializing.
- Appreciate every project like it’s the last opportunity you’re going to have. I find this common attitude of perpetual dissatisfaction among actors that was tempting to adopt at first. I guess diminishing the value of what you’re doing makes you feel above it. Sentiments like: Yeah, this gig is ok, but the budget isn’t great, the script is so-so, the stars aren’t that big, I’m not the star etc. etc. And then I hear from some of these really accomplished veteran actors who seem bitter and jaded and I can’t help but think that is the inevitable result of always looking for the next thing that’s going to be what this project isn’t. I played Macbeth on stage in a little black box theater once and I had some of the most transcendent acting experiences ever doing it partly because I kept an attitude of wringing every drop out of the opportunity. Also, even some of smallest films I’ve worked on, I’ve gotten messages from strangers saying it made their day or touched their heart, so I don’t want to discount anything and instead be grateful.
- Have a purpose much bigger than success within the artificial constructs of the “biz.” There is enormous peer pressure to conform to these social hierarchies of achievement in our culture and I think nowhere more than the entertainment industry where your respect can be tied to how impressive your most recent credit is. I have learned that what gives me meaning and satisfaction is having goals for myself that are bigger and more challenging than “making it” and have nothing to do with people validating me with opportunities or awards. It’s about who I’m becoming as a person and how I’m affecting other people and if Hollywood were to vanish tomorrow, this adventure I’m on would keep on going.
You are a person of enormous influence. How do you think you can use social media as a platform to be a positive influence to your fans, and for society at large?
I’m very conscious of my own journey, relentlessly pursuing personal growth and also accumulating experiences exploring the world around me and my intention with social media is to inform and inspire others to do the same. I have been encouraged by so many messages from people who’ve changed their perspective on something or taken actions in part because of things I’ve shared and that motivates me to do it all the more.
If you had the ability to choose to work on any TV show or film, or work alongside any co-star, or with any director, what or who would that be, and why? You never know who might see this article, especially if we tag them. 🙂
When I was kid, I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings and even read The Silmarillion when I was quite young. I once wrote an essay for a library competition on why they meant so much to me and I used to imagine how I would turn them into movies long before I realized I would actually be making movies. When I heard they were making the movies, it was the first time I had the notion of becoming an actor because I didn’t want to miss being a part of it. I was too young to catch that ship but suffice it to say, I’m thrilled Amazon is producing a series based on it now and being a part of it would be beyond a dream come true. Also, I want to work with Christopher Nolan. I find everything he does riveting.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m mostly active on Instagram @joshmurrayactor but you can find me on Facebook and Twitter at the same handle.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!