We have to admit it – over lockdown, we’ve been obsessing over Netflix and its latest series – and the one who got our attention was Hollywood, an American drama about a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers during the Hollywood Golden Age in the post-World War II era trying to make their dreams come true – no matter what the cost.
The show’s storyline reflects some biases that unfortunately still exist today and that’s why we wanted to hear all about starting a path in acting career nowadays directly from Anthony Coons (Hollywood’s Guy Madison).
What was it like, the whole Hollywood experience?
A: Working on Hollywood was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had in my career. I had just moved out to LA nine months earlier, and a year to the day after quitting my corporate job, I got a call from my manager telling me I got the part of Guy Madison in Ryan Murphy’s new Netflix series.
Guy Madison was a prominent actor in the 40s, which is the time period during which Hollywood takes place. He was also one of Henry Wilson’s (played by Jim Parsons) biggest clients. And prepping to portray a real person, as opposed to a completely fictional one, is a very unique process. I watched several of his movies and TV shows, and did research on the type of person he was outside of his career in the entertainment industry. You’re studying physical mannerisms of the person – the way they walk, stand, and talk. It was thrilling to research and explore different aspects of this character – this person. In fact, after finishing up with wardrobe prior to shooting the scene, I visited Guy Madison’s star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. It was a surreal experience.
I know that this sounds so cliché, but I will never forget that first day on set. It was my first co-star role since moving to LA, I was acting in a show called “Hollywood”, and my scene-partner was JIM PARSONS. I was nervous as hell. But it was absolutely one of the most exciting moments of my life. We were shooting on the roof of a building in Downtown LA, and once I got to the location, all the nerves (thankfully) went away. I was brought there to bring something to the table, and I was excited to show the caliber of work I could produce.
Working with Jim Parsons was such a pleasure. I have so much respect for everything he’s accomplished in his career, and was excited to get to see his take on this very-different character than I was used to seeing him play. I also got the chance to observe how he worked with our director, Michael Uppendahl. And going toe to toe with him in an on-camera argument was another unforgettable experience. I’ve never had so much respect for someone who’s told me “go eat a cobb salad for once in your life”.
Do you think the storyline is still based in reality, considering that there is still a lot of racism going on in America?
A: Even though Hollywood is historical fiction, the way the BIPOC characters, as well as LGBTQIA+ characters, were treated in the show heavily reflected how they were treated in real-life. The show highlights the many prejudices that dominated the entertainment industry at the time, and unfortunately, many of these biases still exist today. There have been great strides taken toward inclusivity and diversity within this industry, but we have to continue to fight and advocate for more diverse representation if we want to implement true change. In an industry that influences culture, it is important to be fierce advocates and supporters of organizations like Black Lives Matter, that are major proponents in enacting change not only in our industry, but in the country as a whole.
Is it still hard to “make your dreams come true” as an actor?
A: I think if you’re choosing a career path like acting, you have to have a very realistic expectation for yourself given the inherent competitiveness of the industry. I don’t consider myself an industry expert by any means, so I can only speak to my own experiences and actions, but if your dream is to make a living by acting, I believe it is entirely possible. It is however, more unstable than a typical 9-5 as one would expect – but, by taking classes, managing your marketing materials, and writing and creating projects on your own, you put yourself in a great position to succeed. I am still pursuing that dream as well, and I believe setting specific, attainable goals for yourself allows you to focus and structure your decisions in a way that will allow you to progress overall.
How did you decide to follow the path of acting?
A: It’s funny, because pursuing acting wasn’t initially a part of the plan. I didn’t start acting until my freshman year of high school. I was given a theatre scholarship not because I had any experience acting, but because I could I sing, and could play piano and guitar. From then on, I was pretty much thrown into the deep-end, landing a role in the first show, and two lead roles in the next two shows. I was hooked. I performed in every show during my high school career, and when college came along, my mom offered to help me, but only if I got a “practical degree”. I took her up on it, all the while keeping acting and performing a significant part of my life. I got my degree in Economics from Florida State University, but in my college career I had performed in several onstage shows at local theatres, earned a lead in my first equity show with a regional theatre company, filmed my first commercial, and starred in a dozen student films with the College of Motion Picture Arts. After graduating from college, I worked at a corporate job for about 6 months and quickly realized it wasn’t for me, and that I wanted to continue building on the experience I had gained over the years and continue to perform professionally.
What was the most challenging role you’ve played?
A: The most challenging role I’ve ever played also happens to be my favorite. I’ve played the role of John Proctor from Arthur Miller’s The Crucible twice: once in high school and the other in college, and both times were unique, and impactful experiences. If you’re not familiar with the show, I implore you to read the script, or even watch the movie (Daniel Day Lewis’ performance is exceptional). The character endures so much physical, mental, and emotional stress throughout the show, and especially at the end, displays such a spectrum of emotion. As the actor, you feel compelled to empathize with the character, and given the extremely heavy source material, can be emotionally taxing. The character has an incredible amount of depth, and maintaining that depth for 3 hours 4 days a week for 4 weeks took a lot out of me, but I learned so much from both times I played that role. Each performance gave me a better understanding of character development, and my own personal acting process overall.
Now that things are slowly getting back to normal, what are your plans for the near future?
A: Thankfully, productions are in the beginning stages of starting up again. I currently work on a network TV show, and we’re looking to start back up with production in mid-July. I’ve been doing a good bit of self-tape auditions recently, which is a good sign, and have been taking great online acting classes during the quarantine, which I hope will go back to being in-person. Myself and my team are also currently in post-production for our short film “Lucky” that I co-wrote, produced, and acted in. I’m looking forward to watching how the project evolves in the editing room, and am excited to share it with everyone once it’s completed. We are also exploring various festivals to have it premiere at. My roommates and I are also in the process of setting up a “Let’s Play” gaming channel for YouTube, and we’ve actually been animating an intro that really illustrates our collective goofiness. I’m excited!
This article was written by Andrei Grigorie, the Founder & Editor-In-Chief here at A-Z Bible.