The Entertainment Industry should be committed to presenting an accurate portrayal of the American scene and the variety of people within it. Diversity is often socially considered a dividing factor rather than a tool for unifying. Film and television are capable of informing and educating the public about diversity issues which can cause social action and change.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Tobias Forrest. After a spinal cord injury, Tobias Forrest bounced back with a positive attitude and passion to perform. He recently co-starred on “Good Trouble” and can currently be seen playing ”Mac” in the action/comedy “Special Unit” ad well as “Patrick” in the film trailer for “Daruma”. He has starred onstage in the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Cost of Living”, “Colossal”, “Pyretown” and others. Tobias also had a recurring role on CBS’s “Wisdom of the Crowd” and his credits include ”Queen Sugar”, “The Sessions”, “Weeds” and more. As a singer, he has performed with his band, Cityzen at Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas Strip for NYE, won first place at Universal Studios Hard Rock Rising’s Battle of the Bands and played several venues and non-profit fundraisers. In addition, he does voice over audio description for film and television projects. As an entertainer, Tobias hopes to encourage others to pursue their dreams despite any differences, difficulties or disabilities they may have.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in San Francisco, raised in Hawaii and have lived in several states including Minnesota, Tennessee and others. Although I lost both parents at a young age, I was adopted by an amazing aunt and uncle. I was also fortunate to have a close knit group of siblings, cousins and other family. After graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy, I attended Northern Arizona University to focus on music and received a BFA in Metal Smithing. Following my accident, I started painting and also decided to return to furthering my education. I received a Masters in Psychology but after moving to LA to get involved with spinal cord research, I discovered acting was my creative force
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
While getting my Masters in Psychology, I was assigned a project where I had to present as having Alzheimer’s. I wrote and performed a monologue “acting” like an elderly man who is losing his memory and my entire class encouraged me to become an actor. After moving to Los Angeles, I was told about an acting scholarship for people with disabilities. It was my first audition and I wasn’t quite sure what else to perform so I did my old man monologue and won. Therefore, I began acting after winning a Christopher Reeve Scholarship.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
About one year after I started acting, I went to a party where I met Mel Brooks! We had a great conversation and then he kissed me on the top of my head and said to drop my “stuff” off at the studio. Immediately after, a woman came up and said “he’s serious about that” and then they both disappeared into the crowd. I was in awe but unfortunately felt I lacked the “stuff” at the time and never followed through. It was one of my biggest mistakes but I like to think in an alternate universe, Mel and I are best friends who are making groundbreaking, inclusive comedies together.
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 had a big part in a national commercial and was in line for food and when the A.D. told me to go to the front. I refused, saying that I didn’t need to be treated any different from the other cast and crew. I reassured him that I was fine waiting in line and didn’t want special treatment. Then he replied, “It’s only because we need you on set first.” I definitely learned that sometimes what may be perceived as special treatment is actually just time management.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am in the process of recording audio description voiceover for 13 episodes of a television show. Immediately after that, I will be in Belgrade Serbia for two weeks filming a full length feature film. Plus, the “Daruma” trailer was a remarkable experience so I am extremely excited about the full feature and the opportunity to work with John Lawson again!
Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
The Entertainment Industry should be committed to presenting an accurate portrayal of the American scene and the variety of people within it. Diversity is often socially considered a dividing factor rather than a tool for unifying. Film and television are capable of informing and educating the public about diversity issues which can cause social action and change. Movies like Daruma are changing these perceptions and striving for diversity and inclusion.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
Support projects like “Daruma” and people like Kelli McNeil and Alexander Yellen who are committed to hiring diverse cast and crew. Recognize when media is misrepresenting groups or individuals in stereotypical stories and characters. Raise awareness about projects that incorporate authentic casting as well as ones that take advantage of diversity and disability issues. We’ll be launching the fundraising for Daruma on Seed&Spark on October 1, so be sure to follow us there!
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
Confidence is difficult to have but is one of the greatest tools… sorry I never showed you Mr. Brooks.
The casting directors want you to succeed… I’ve booked jobs because of direction I’ve gotten from casting.
Take a risk… I received my SAG card from an audition where after my line, I asked a very daring question with such conviction that they believed me and I was hired based off of that.
It’s okay to say no… I’ve said yes to unpaid, cold, long and completely unprofessional project(s).
Manifest destiny… I’ve created my own content which has been rewarding and has lead to other work.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
This industry is like surfing, you put in the work paddling and hope to catch a wave of opportunity. Sometimes other people catch the wave but when you finally do, you just ride and enjoy it as long as possible. Then you must paddle back out and wait again.
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. 🙂
It’s not entertainment related but if I could have the world focus on anything, it would be clean water for everybody and the elimination of child abuse. I feel clean water would solve many health issues and eliminating child abuse would solve many mental health issues.
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 mentor and greatest influence was a fellow quad named Danny Murphy who paved the way for performers with disabilities like myself. He was also a wonderful friend who acted in several movies by the Farrelly Brothers. Not only was he there when I got home from the hospital, he was there any time that I had a question about acting or dealing with a disability. Unfortunately Danny passed away a few years ago but I am proud to know the impact he had on my life as well as the entertainment industry.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Optimism is free so have as much as you want.” -TF… As someone who has experienced a great deal of loss and pain in my life, I have also found that it gave me a certain perspective about happiness. I have found that because I have suffered, I know the value of maintaining an optimistic attitude during difficult times.
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. 🙂
Mel Brooks, Mel Brooks and Mel Brooks because you already know why… also Steven Spielberg because he could help produce “Daruma” and directly affect diversity in the entertainment industry.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you for all of these great insights!
About the author:
Chaya Weiner is the Director of branding and photography at Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator. TLI is a thought leadership program that helps leaders establish a brand as a trusted authority in their field. Please click HERE to learn more about Thought Leader Incubator.