At first the acting life seems like it is all fun and games, which is true, but it takes a lot of work to land a part on a big project. I can’t count the sleepless nights, where I was up all hours of the night, memorizing my script, literally for days on end, to show up for an audition where there is a 95% chance that you are not going to book. But that 5% when you land a role makes it all worth it.
As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zach Hennessey.
Zach Hennessey is a 16 year old actor living in Hollywood, California. As a young boy, he always knew that he wanted to be on TV. He would watch the Disney channel and tell his parents that he wanted to be “inside the TV”. His parents would just laugh. He was relentless and eventually his young dreams became a reality. With the support of his parents, coaches, amazing manager, Sharon Lane, and his agency Coast to Coast, he is well on his way to becoming a household name. He is currently working on a few projects and building Hennessey Studios, with his father, which is located in North Hollywood. During his free time, he likes to collect sneakers and go shopping.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Roswell, Georgia and was raised by my mom, who was a stay at home mother, and my dad, a serial entrepreneur. I have a brother who is twenty-one months older than me and a sister who is turning 4 years old. Like most kids we experimented with sports, boy scouts, and even had our share of Lemonade stands in my neighborhood. Georgia was an amazing place to grow up, we had four seasons, some of the best friends you could ask for and I even had a go-kart which was awesome.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mom and I were big fans of the TV show The Walking Dead, we never missed an episode. One summer, my dad surprised us with tickets to go to the Walker Stalker conference in downtown Atlanta to meet the cast and interact with other fans. While there, we met Chandler Riggs who played the character Carl Grimes on the show and he was very cool. My mom asked him how he got on the show and he introduced us to Kelly Lintz, the mother of Madison Lintz, another cast member on the show. Kelly was extremely friendly and started telling us all about the acting industry. She gave us the name and number to her favorite photographer and the next thing we know we are getting headshots done and Kelly became one of my acting coaches.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your entertainment career?
I think the most interesting that happened to me is having the most amazing and supportive parents who believed in me and my acting journey. My dad ended up selling his company in Atlanta so that we can move out to Hollywood, CA to pursue my young dreams. When they told me that we were moving to Los Angeles, it was one of the most memorable days of my life.
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 think the funniest mistake that I made when I was first starting is that I really thought I was an amazing actor when in reality, in looking back at some of my earlier auditions, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. But back then, in the moment, I thought for sure that I would book almost every role that I auditioned for. So the lesson that I learned is while I had the confidence and passion, I didn’t have the skills. Acting takes time and you learn from your experiences. Plus it is always good to find a great coach to provide you with constructive criticism so you can continue to get better and book more roles.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Who do you think that might help people?
My father and I are building a studio in N. Hollywood called Hennessey Studios. This is a 6,000 square foot studio with 2 professional podcasting rooms. It is located on the 1st floor of the Academy Building on Magnolia and Lankershim. I plan to start my own podcast and help my father run the business while also creating a Youtube reality show from the studio. We built this studio to provide content creators and entertainers with a professional studio, with all the lights and cameras, to film and record new content to help promote and market themselves.
Most young people your age don’t have to balance work and school. Can you tell us how you manage to balance your schoolwork, auditions, and time on set?
Balancing school, auditions and time on set really take a lot of discipline. I block off time to focus on my studies in-between sets but also spend a fair amount of time on the weekends catching up on schoolwork to. Sometimes it can be stressful, but this is the life I signed up for, so I must make the sacrifices.
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 mother has been such an amazing partner with me on my acting journey. With so many auditions, she never complains and together we hop in the car and go from one location to the next hoping to land my next job. She also was instrumental in getting me representation and public relations and for that I will forever be grateful. I also tell her that if I am ever nominated for an Academy Award, she will be my date.
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.
There are so many lessons that I have learned over the last 5 years since I first started acting. Here are my top 5:
- At first the acting life seems like it is all fun and games, which is true, but it takes a lot of work to land a part on a big project. I can’t count the sleepless nights, where I was up all hours of the night, memorizing my script, literally for days on end, to show up for an audition where there is a 95% chance that you are not going to book. But that 5% when you land a role makes it all worth it.
- If you are serious about this as a career, my suggestion would be to come out to Hollywood. Sure, you could send in self tape auditions from anywhere in the world, but there is something special about walking in, meeting the casting director, and building relationships in person.
- Don’t have too many acting coaches. At one point in my career, I had 5 acting coaches at the same time. This was very confusing for me, a young actor, just getting started, because some of the feedback that I was getting from one coach conflicted with another coach. So find someone that you really love to work with and focus on strengthening your acting skills together.
- One of the best things that I did, when we moved out here, was when I got signed up for Improv classes. I studied with both Second City and Groundlings and the improv skills that I learned there have been a tremendous tool when auditioning and for self-tapes.
- Never skip an audition. As Wayne Gretzky once said, you miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. I know each audition takes a lot of work, and you will not land most of the parts that you audition for, but always be willing to commit to every audition because you never know when you will get your first big break.
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 think social media is a great way to inspire others. I get direct messages all the time with people that follow me and ask me what it is like being a young actor. I try to take the time to answer questions and steer people in the right direction just like I was helped when I first got into the business. Social media is also a great platform to raise awareness about social inequality and philanthropic causes that I am passionate about.
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. :-
I would LOVE to the opportunity to work with Pete Davidson of Saturday Night Live. He just seems down to earth and is hilarious. I think he would just be someone fun to hangout with on and off set. Plus he is into sneakers like I am.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Instagram — @zachjhennessey
Twitter — @zachjhennessey
Website — Zachhennessey.com