Your look is usable. Just because you don’t look like George Clooney or Charlize Theron doesn’t mean you won’t get cast. Can you memorize? Can you play pretend? I was chosen for my role in The Status Quo before I even read the sides because of my long silver hair and general look. I was perfect, they said, for that role. Ok, so…. a judge or cop, maybe not so much.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Russell Barth who is well known in Ottawa and across Canada for his previous life as a stand-up comedian, and for his work along with his wife, renowned artist Christine Lowe- in the activist realm. Today, he is an up and coming actor, with a pivotal role in a new screenplay now being filmed in locations across Ontario, Canada and in Quebec — At age 51 Barth is finding new life in film and TV production, with a pivotal role that is a catalyst to the arc of the main character- and he is a fascinating interview with a lot to say!
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My upbringing was as “Canadiana” as one can get. I lived along the Ottawa River just 50 km west of Montreal, on a part of the river that was more river. We fished year-round. Behind the house, there were hayfields and forest where we would snowmobile in winter and ride our dirt bikes in summer. We practiced our skateboard moves on the quiet street out front.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
People had been telling me since I was a kid that I was a comedian. I did stand up comedy off and on for years but health and financial issues kept me from pursuing it further. When I was told about Backstage.com, I figured I would give it a shot.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was on my first film ever, third location, the third day of shooting. It was in a huge old building that used to be a tinfoil factory but was now a storage facility. It was by far the spookiest place I have ever been in my life. We were shooting midnight-3am.
I took my mic off myself instead of letting the sound guy do it. He didn’t give me a hard time but told me never to do it again because (he held it up) “Five grand a piece….”
I nearly crapped my pants.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My first role is in a no-budget short called The Status Quo, which is about a dystopian society and a man tempted to break free. I play a man who catalyzes this change in him. The producers plan to submit it to Cannes and other festivals, and everyone on the project is excited about it.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
My attitude is that it should more-accurately depict real-life. A show like Friends, where 3 white women and 3 white guys basically have no non-white friends — IN MANHATTAN — strikes me as preposterous. People of all races have contributed to our culture, yet it seems white entertainment would rather just appropriate it than let it represent itself.
Diversity in the writing will make it more interesting as well.
It also just makes it more interesting. The caucasian-centric aesthetic is, well…. monochrome.
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) Most of being on a movie set is NOT acting. Or doing much of anything. We all sat for 90 min waiting for the sun to come around to where we needed it for the shot.
2) Get your teeth as white as you can. Crooked is better than even a hint of discoloration. I went for two one-hour sessions under a blue laser to get mine up to big-screen-quality.
3) Bring food with you to set. The stuff they have there might not be something your body agrees with, so bring foods like nuts or rice cakes or dried fruit so you don’t pass out. I nearly passed out from lack of food and sleep in that warehouse, but as soon as the director shouted “Places!”, I was back up and running.
4) Your look is usable. Just because you don’t look like George Clooney or Charlize Theron doesn’t mean you won’t get cast. Can you memorize? Can you play pretend? I was chosen for my role in The Status Quo before I even read the sides because of my long silver hair and general look. I was perfect, they said, for that role. Ok, so…. a judge or cop, maybe not so much.
5) Get healthy. Being out of shape and having bad cardio might cost you a role. I had to throw my shoulder against a steel door — like I meant it — 12 times in under one hour shooting my first role!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Treat your body like an expensive car that someone else owns. Don’t get into acting so you can become Charlie Sheen.
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. 🙂
Cannabis and lots of it. Everyone of all ages should use it as a health benefit, NOT to sit around chilling and gaming, but to enhance their health and prolong their lives.
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?
Christine Lowe is my wife, and when we got together in 2001, she immediately had a seizure. Being epileptic since birth, her never-say-die spirit just forced me to shape up and get as healthy as I could so I can take care of her. She is the fuel that runs everything.
“When everyone is against you, paranoid is just good thinking.” — Dr. Johnny Fever, WKRP in Cincinnati. In all seriousness, I have no life lesson quotes that I live by. Most of the life lessons people gave me were bullshit.
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. 🙂
Weird Al Yankovic. I don’t just consider him a great comedian, he is a brilliant satirist. He has a great voice, too, and I assume that a lunch with him would not be a whacky zany affair but a pretty enlightening and intellectual (tho funny) conversation.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!