Interview with Sean Blakemore

Interviewed by Mary Schirmer

Actor Sean Blakemore moved from hometown St. Louis to Los Angeles on July 19, 1998, to follow his dream. Blakemore appears in PLAYING WITH FIRE, a film airing since June on BET. He took time from his busy schedule to share some insights with Screenplayers readers.

Tell us about your agent.

I have three mid-sized agencies. I have two agencies, one in Los Angeles and one in Orange County, and one management company in Los Angeles. When you first go to Los Angeles, unless you come from a big job, this is show business, and it's more business. Ask about who's reputable and who's not - A, B, C size. You have to audition. Unless you have a huge resume, an A-size agency won't look at you. You take a chance of not getting groomed because they don't focus on you because you're not a heavy hitter yet. But once you establish yourself, you know the ins and outs and - if you're working - they get a chance to know your work. It's not always fair. Because certain people have this uppity attitude that, if you're with a B-list agency, we don't want to see you. If you have the chance to upgrade and move right up, and they see you're talented, you take that ball and run with it. There's a lot to learn and there are a lot of unwritten rules - from conduct to how to approach situations and how you prepare. There's a lot of do's and don'ts. Now I'm ready for an upgrade to an A-list agent. My agencies now, I have a good relationship with them, but this is strictly a business move. My goals are that (an A-list agency) will allow me to get in some doors I couldn't get in before, and that will allow me bigger opportunities.

How did you get your current agents?

Oh, boy. Oh, man. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I never had a vacation before. So I took about three months and got familiar with Los Angeles. It's so huge, and there was so much to learn. You've got to find out what's the junk and what's the real stuff. They make a lot of money off people's dreams. There's a lot of sharks out there. There are certain books that you want to have and classes as well. There's so much information out there. I got somewhat familiar with Los Angeles. I tried to ask anybody I knew in the industry all the questions I had. This was a really big move for me. I used to be what they call a page on different sitcom companies. All you are are escorting and crowd control. It's amazing how people work. Michael Duncan (THE GREEN MILE) was a security guard. I started taking classes at a theatre school. I looked up, and I interviewed different theatre schools, and I asked people. "The Backstage West" is the actor's best friend. It's for everything from photographers to printers to acting schools. Tons of auditions for plays and films and student films and short films, so I got work that way. It's on newsstands everywhere. Again, this is business. You have to be sure you are set up for success, and you have to be sure you have what you need. LA and New York are not Chicago. It's the biggest of the big.

Why was acting class so important?

So many things - you can network there. It's an opportunity to be seen by directors, casting directors, and agencies, by people in feature film, television, independent film, sitcom. There's a lot of cool things you can do. You've really got to do your homework. Once I started doing "The Backstage West," I started getting relationships. Everybody knows everybody.

Is having an agent essential for a screenwriter?

Ninety-nine percent of jobs have to have an agent. They say, who should I contact? Unless you know somebody, it ain't gonna happen. And unless you know somebody who can get it (the script) in these people's hands, it's hard, but it's not impossible.

Why did you move to Los Angeles?

To act, period. Film is my main goal; I like TV and film. Some TV shows are really great. Your best actors in the world are in theatre. Film is, I'll be honest, it's not even the money issue. It's the look of film, and it's the intimacy. There's a lot you can do on film that you can't do on sitcoms. Certain emotions, they don't take the time in sitcoms. There's not a lot of emotional buildup. It's more quick, witty stuff. With film, you get the background, and you really get into their emotions. Man, you get the opportunity to live a little more in that character.

What attracts you to a particular film script?

I look for, No. 1 for me, do I want to do this, if anything in there is against my morals. The substance of the story, if there's a purpose to the story. I mean, is this necessary to the story, or are they trying to just get this to the public's eye? I look at the strength of the character. What is the substance of the character, and if it's a good story, a story that makes sense. It has to have a message to the story. Stories I like a lot that are fun to do are period pieces. Anything before I was born and I was too little to remember. It's fun because you really get to play a character. I like pieces that are totally opposite of you. It's cool to play a cool guy (laughs), but it's a stretch to play a villain.

Is Hollywood really worried about a writer's strike and an actors' strike next spring?

Yeah. I just talked to a friend of mine who's a screenwriter. It's a scary thing because - yeah - who's working? As a matter of fact, the industry's preparing for it. So they're trying to rush and shoot these films and get them into post-production. It'll affect any writer. And actors, it'll affect all actors.