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, 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
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.