Hunter Doohan: Work, education and preparation key to acting career

Hunter Doohan: Work, education and preparation key to acting career

Along with tips on audition tapes and tales of his journey from Fort Smith to Los Angeles, Southside High School graduate Hunter Doohan shared advice with aspiring actors attending his workshop at the King Opera House on Monday (Feb. 12).

His primary message was to continue education and be prepared to find a way to make money.

Doohan, an actor and writer, is best known for playing Tyler Galpin in the Netflix comedy/mystery series “Wednesday” and Adam Desiato in the Showtime drama series “Your Honor,” which starred Bryan Cranston.

Doohan said after moving to Los Angeles the summer after he graduated high school in 2012, it took him seven years of working as a waiter and other odd jobs, including as a tour guide at Universal Studios, before he booked a “real professional job.” Even then, though he thought he had “made it,” he had to return to the waiting job in order to make ends meet for a time.

“You don’t really overcome it (being a starving artist), but that’s not a bad thing,” Doohan told a group of students and adults at the workshop. “That’s not really a bad thing. I mean if you want to be an actor, go do it. You’re going to have to work a day job, and you’re going to have to make money some other way to survive for a bit. But that’s not bad.”

Working hard is just what it takes in order to reach the dream, he said.

Theater experience before moving to Los Angeles prepared him for that hard work, Doohan said. Area high school theater, programs like the Young Actor’s Guild (YAG), of which Doohan is an alum, and the new chartered Institute for the Creative Arts, a performing and visual arts high school set to open in Fort Smith in August, are a great benefit to young people wanting to make it as an actor.

“The local theater programs here in Fort Smith are so important. I feel so lucky to have been exposed to theater through YAG and Southside’s program. Without these programs, I would never have had the chance to discover my passion for it. They also gave me such a great foundation before moving to Los Angeles to pursue it professionally and continue my education,” Doohan said.

Students learn a lot about themselves doing live theater, and they learn how to work hard, he said.

Other opportunities for students to get experience is to “build reels,” which are student films showing their acting experience, and help them understand what it is to be an actor, he said. The Fort Smith International Film Festival, which will be Aug. 22-25, has a high school and college film category, and colleges in the area, including John Brown University, have film programs in which students are making films and looking for actors.

“Student films are a great way to get experience,” Doohan said.

Area actors also can search online for casting networks that are casting for film and television projects in Atlanta and New Orleans, which are very big markets, Doohan said.

“There are different regions you can select, and on those sites, you can submit yourself to those projects, especially before you join (the Screen Actors Guild),” he said. “You can do self tapes from here or really from anywhere.”

Fort Smith and Arkansas could become another viable southeast market, Doohan said.

“There are good local production companies – Devon Parks with Mad Possum Productions and Five Star. (I’m) so excited for the opportunities they’re bringing to the area, especially at the quality they are. Bentonville Film Festival is also great for bringing more of the industry to Arkansas,” Doohan said. “(H)opefully Arkansas could add a larger tax incentive to bring production to the area like Atlanta and New Orleans did.”

His other big piece of advice was education and continuing that education once someone starts being cast in professional parts. Self-care for physical and mental health is incredibly important, he said, as are workshops, acting classes and coaching.

“I coach on almost every audition, definitely if I get a callback and definitely, when I book a job,” Doohan said. “There is no time that I walk on a set to film a scene that I haven’t run it with my acting coach over and over.”

Another key is an agent, he said, but he and his friend Grace Andrews, also a Southside graduate and YAG alum with more than 10 years of acting experience in the film and television industry, warned about “pay to play” agents.

“Be very careful, especially where we are, because there will be traveling agents who come around and a lot of those are pay to play. You don’t want to fall into something that is ‘Yes, we’ll sign you as long as you pay $2,000 for headshots and take our classes.’ A lot of people don’t know that,” Andrews said.

Both said paying for educational purposes, such as a small fee to take a workshop is an important investment, but actors should not have to pay an agent except when being cast.

“Definitely take the classes, the workshops. They (agents) sign people out of those,” Doohan said.