Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Every career has them.
We measure progress in our chosen path by them. They are personal but significant. At least to us, anyway.
Mine was a big one. I had made a promise to myself, about one year ago, that I would have a TV credit for a speaking tole to my name by year's end. I had no idea how I would achieve it. It didn't matter. It was gonna happen.
Postcards mailed.
Resumes and head shots stamped and sent out into the wilderness.
Connections via inter-webs made.
The silence was deafening.
Goals are a dangerous thing once uttered. They become sort of cosmic law. If you fail to achieve them, the self-loathing can be exquisite.
I had all but given up hope.
Then, through no fault of my own, it happened.
A friend of mine, a casting director, called me out of the blue. I had taken a master class under his instruction nearly two years before. As it happens, his daughter goes to the same school as my son. We bump into each other a number of times a week.
I am heavily involved in the school. A card-carrying member of the board of the school's PTA. As such, and being largely left to my own designs most days, I am on campus A LOT. If there is a school function or a fundraiser involved, chances are better than average I will be there.
As it so happens, one particular event, I was helping run the thing. Hustling to and fro, walkie-talkie at my hip, ear piece. The works. In this frenzy of activity, who should I run into?
My mentor.
He points at me and says "You're a cop."
This is not unusual coming from a man who casts people for all manner of TV role any given day.
We exchange howdies and laughs and continue with our days.
Not one week later I get a call from him asking what my union status was. He has an under-five that I would be perfect for that very Friday. In TV parlance, "Under-five" refers to any role that has five spoken lines or less.
Turns out, I would have fewer than five.
I would have one.
It was all I needed.
It was all mine.
The moral of my story? Goals are scary, but they also provide a focus for your energy. Once you put that energy out there, success can manifest in any number of exciting and unforeseen ways.
My particular milestone airs December 23rd at 2 pm on ABC's "General Hospital".
What next, cosmos?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Look at the clouds

"Look at the clouds, daddy!"
Those were the words from my six year old son this morning.
I looked.
It only then occurred to me how little I have paid attention to the life going on around me these days. It has become so easy to hunker down, bury myself in any number of pursuits and never give a thought to how much I was actually missing.
As professionals, focusing so much of our energy on the things that drive us, we take so little time to appreciate the beauty of this life we are living. I for one am quite skilled at forgetting to "smell the roses".
My son does it every morning. Literally. I take a lesson in it as I walk him to school every day. He sees something beautiful or intriguing, he stops. Nothing else exists for him in that moment. He takes the time to experience the world around him, even as I tug at his little hand, ensuring he makes it to class on time.
I wish to tell stories as an actor. That is my passion and goal in my creative life. How I tell that story is derived from my life experiences. They inform the choices I make on camera or stage. it is where my personal truth comes from.
How, as an actor, can I hope to do this if my own life is...well...boring? If your eyes are only ever on a prize, you miss so much of the enormously beautiful present.
My advice?
Stop reading this and look up. Observe the colors, smells and sounds of wherever you may be. Watch the people at their business around you.
Now, look up at the sky. Consider the billions of events that had to occur to put you where you are right this very moment. Think of how astronomically improbable it is for any of us to be here.
Yet here we are.
Knowing this, suddenly every moment has importance. Enjoy them while they last.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Joe Sullivan. A Tribute.

I will start with one of his favorite words:
which means "Full of sadness or sorrow, especially in an exaggerated or insincere way."
He used this word in probably my very first class with him. He did not offer the definition of it. That wasn't his point in uttering it. He shared this word for the pure joy of saying it. Of writing it.
Joe Sullivan made it his job at West High School in my home town of Manchester, NH to show us the power and beauty of words.
He was my creative writing teacher in my senior year. Until his class, it had never occurred to me that I may have something to say. Most of us go our entire lives and never write for the sheer joy of the creative process.
Joe did not harangue you about rules of composition. He taught you to write simply, effectively. But above all, he wanted you to tell your story. When he read the student's work aloud at the front of the class, he did so with supreme relish. In a sense, he viewed your work as a gift to him and he made sure to appreciate it and share it with everyone. That was a very powerful message to give to a student like me.
The things I learned under his guidance I have used every single day of my life. His lessons went beyond the written word.

  • Creativity. Tell your story, however you may. No matter the form, get it out into the universe.
  • Generosity of spirit. Recognize the gift that is a story. Make sure to share it with others.
  • Bravery. It takes guts to share yourself in written word. Have courage, and in so doing, encourage others.

He loved the word lugubrious, but I don't believe it fit the man. There was nothing exaggerated or insincere in the feelings he inspired in others. Sorrowful or sad? I don't know that the man was capable of frowning. His lexicon would be more accurately derived from his favorite word's antonyms:
Cheerful. Heartwarming. Lighthearted. Joyful. Encouraging.
This is my tribute, pale as it is, to an artist, educator and friend. You have left this world a better place than you found it. You enriched the lives of those who had the honor to know you. And you have empowered an entire generation with the courage to express themselves.
From my family to yours. Thanks, Joe.

Joseph C. Sullivan
Feb 14, 1944-Sept 23, 2013

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alive and Well

It has been an embarrassingly long time since I have thrown some words out here. Isn't it funny how life manages to get in the way of ...life?
When I haven't been putting hours into a short term art assignment or serving as membership chair for my local elementary school's PTA, I've been stretching my actor's legs into a shiny new discipline: the art of Voice Acting.
You never know how little you know till you know it.
In my first class I discovered:

  • How fast one talks when nervous
  • Accents sound worse on tape than in your head
  • Voice Acting has very little to do with funny voices
  • Voice Acting is actually acting
A good voice acting session uses dang near every acting muscle you have at your disposal. It had been a long time since I'd been in a classroom environment. It was nice to flex those limbs once more.
It was the resultant feeling of release that brought me to the topic at hand.
Like many actors, it can be a long time between chances to perform for me. The classroom becomes something of a gymnasium. It serves to bring back that old muscle memory. When I haven't worked out in a while, I begin to question my abilities. This can lead to wavering confidence, which ultimately leads to not putting myself out there for the world to see.
That is equal to death for those of us who have made this our lives.
So when I entered the sound booth in front of ten other classmates to work with the instructor on a piece of copy, I was more than a little nervous. By the end of the evening, I was practically singing. It was like a steak dinner after a week-long fast! I was almost overwhelmed by emotion. Ones that had clearly been bottled, bagged and tagged for far too long found their way to the surface.
The results of my time in the booth were not what was important. I probably stunk up the joint.  What was critical to me was that my joy of discovery was still alive and well. I learned new things about myself. New ways to approach this thing I love to do.
That is time and money well spent.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Yup. I pretty much suck at it.
Don't get me wrong, I love meeting new people, making connections, all that sort of thing. I have caught myself talking for hours with folks I have met at parties and by the end of it, we're like old friends!
Old friends who didn't catch one another's names.
I can handle that. We will most likely bump into one another again some day, repeat the exercise and more than likely correct the faux-pas of our last encounter. Eventually, we'll get a chance to work together, realize we make a great team, and a relationship is born.
We made a connection before we realized we needed something from one another.
That human interaction can't be replaced.
My career, such as it is, has been built nicely from these chance meetings.
But, here I sit, staring at my screen, utterly confounded.
I have the power of the mighty digital age at my fingertips. "Social Media" has granted me an entirely new way of connecting and remaining connected to my fellow man. I should feel drunk with possibilities!
I don't.
The problem I encounter on line is the same as walking into a room full of strangers at some networking event. I am going with expectations. I know why everyone is there. I have a rough idea of what they do for a living. They have something I want. They know it.
What chance does small talk have in such an environment? I feel like a beggar stumbling up to you and I  haven't even asked for spare change yet.
Eventually, I digitally "chicken out". I become that awkward kid who doesn't know how to play a game the cool kids are playing. So I just sit and watch, sipping on a juice-box until I can go home.
As a result, I have become something I never thought I would:
I am a collector.
I have connected with hundreds of folks on various social media sites. I search for them, I see the kind of work they do, I request a connection. More often that not, they accept. Awesome!
They never hear from me again.
It feels more like digital stalking than networking.
Don't get me wrong! I am not a stalker...(wow, that sounds like exactly the kind of thing a stalker would say...) No! I am genuinely interested in learning about what they do, what kind of person they must be like. And, yes, if we might be of some help to one another. But social media to me often feels like the mutual acquaintance at that networking party who burps our names at one another and staggers away, leaving us in eerie silence, looking at our respective patches of floor.
How miserable.
We don't want to build a network. There are plenty of websites that can do that.
We want to build relationships.
Those are the ones that last.
It's me...your digital stalker. Spare change?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Who are you again?

I have a "linkedin" account. I've had one for a number of years now. Mostly it was a fun way to keep up on the lives of colleagues who come and go throughout the meandering life of a professional. It has become of more importance to me in the last couple of years. I've used it to make new contacts, share this blog with relevant groups who share my interests and begin the slow process of networking.
It's a great tool. Absolutely.
You see, I used to bill myself as a 3D Artist. Had since 2001 at least. In a career of any length, you make a lot of friends and contacts.
I have a lot.
As a result I get a lot of endorsements for my skills in those jobs. Every imaginable thing you can do creatively on a computer I get endorsements for. Hell, I get endorsements for jobs I DON'T know how to do.
The problem I encounter is that it largely represents a past life. One I had to make a conscious decision to step away from to pursue the business of acting. Don't get me wrong, it was a mutual parting of ways. My second job in as many years disappeared. It was the event that forced me to evaluate my goals and finally go after what I wanted for myself. It was a great thing.
I only recently came to understand why I keep receiving these endorsements for a life I no longer live.
I never truly declared myself. 
Not to past colleagues nor to friends. I was afraid to own this dream of mine. It was a comfort to think I could slip back into my old ways of staring at computers and punching the clock should this whole "dream thing" not pan out. 
Having something to fall back on is such a cuddly warm blanket. It means we have nothing to lose. We never have to stick our neck out. We can poke our fork around the edges of our aspirations and not take the dangerous path of cutting into that sucker.
Well, I guess this is it. Here I am world. I am declaring myself. I have a shiny new shingle on my door:
Josh McHugh. He Acts.
You don't even have to knock.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Passion play

Dreams are free. Chasing after them? You pay for that.
The biggest thing I have learned about the acting community is what a passionate bunch we are about the art we have grown to love. So much so we are willing to suffer indignation, rejection, uncertainty. Even poverty.
From the outside looking in, we must seem a crazy bunch. A pile of shiftless dreamers.
We hop off the bus fresh into Hollywoodland, alive with possibility. We are greeted by an industry who look at that enthusiasm with equal parts fondness and pessimism.
Fondness, as many of them remember those first days as a dream. Eager to get started rubbing elbows, showing the world what they were born to do. It is a heady time to say the least.
Pessimism because, frankly, not that many of us will be able to stick it out. The realities of a life in show business are ones you have to experience first hand to understand them. There is nothing you can say to warn someone who is following their dreams.
I had my own impressions of the entertainment industry. I to grew up watching "Extra" and "Entertainment Tonight". Had I discovered this path myself as a younger man, who knows down which roads my dreams would have taken me. As it was, I came to this game a little later than most. By the time I had decided to follow the call to a life in acting, I had already experienced success in a more traditional career path. I had also learned to deal with the disappointments and pitfalls inherent to a life in the arts. My enthusiasm, though large, was tempered with a dose of hard-earned reality.
Those who come out here fed on a diet of TMZ and Variety, believe that stardom is simply a matter of being discovered. Eat at the right restaurants, go to the right parties, buddy up to the right exec and bang presto, you're red-carpet bound.
"Come on phone! Ring already!"
What they fail to realize is that the "newcomer ingenues" did not simply step into the light one day, ready to take their rightful place in the performer's pantheon. That is a misconception created by media outlets to do one thing:
Sell copy.
Most of the folks we regard as stars began their journey much the same as the rest of us. They stood in cattle calls. They auditioned for bit parts in low budget features. They bused tables to pay bills. Ate ramen and slept in their cars.
 They did not do it for the money. There ain't much of it to be had, certainly not starting out.
They did not do it to become famous. There are far easier ways to do that. Just look at reality TV.
They did not do it to become a star. That is not a goal. What it takes to become a star is unknowable. You will either become one or you won't. There is no class you can take that will make it happen. Many a charlatan has paid for their sports car selling this very dream.
Why did they do it?
Because of the same feeling each and every one of us gets when we are doing what we love. It is utterly transcendent when we are doing it right. We each have a truth we want to share with the world around us. Its a brave and beautiful thing.
Follow your passion.
You may not become a star but, if you're doing it right, you won't care.
That's me in the ninja mask, swinging an ax handle. See that twinkle? A star is born.

Monday, July 22, 2013


When I first started down this road towards acting and entertainment, I did what anyone living in the 21st century seeking knowledge would do as a first step towards following their dreams.
I consulted the Internet.
Imagine! A cornucopia of information ranging from the useful to the mundane to the downright esoteric. A few simple key words and your future awaits!
What to do in a casting office
What not to do in a casting office
How to get an agent
How NOT to get an agent
How to not NOT get an agent
Thy cup runneth over with advice, opinions, experts, blogs, tweets. There are sites for every nuanced angle one could think of surrounding our industry. Books? I got a few shelves full of those things to.
We bear witness to all this success around us. It can be maddening. What's the universal secret I'm missing to bring this all together?
I spent much of my career simply frozen from all this advice. I didn't know where to begin. I was so afraid to do the wrong thing, cause some unseen ripple in my future that would forever crush my delicate dreams. Then I had a conversation that crystallized what all of this had taught me.
Someone actually asked ME for advice. I had somehow become part of the data stream that had crippled me so! What was I going to say to this person, so very much like myself, about to stroll down the very road I have been walking for a while?
"Nay! Turn back! I am not the way!"
Well, I screamed this very loudly to myself. Then I thought better of it.
I gave him the best piece of advice I felt secure in giving:
There is no Path.
Simply step in and get involved. If you want to act or, really, do anything you give a damn about in this life, get involved.
There is no "secret" to this business. No code of conduct. The life of an artist is not one rooted in linearity. You don't start "in the mail room". You start where you start.
It's a very brave, scary thing to do. But once done, you will be sickened by how simple it can be. By committing to simple action I have made friends, established solid professional relationships and learned skills I will take with me wherever I go.
Get out and play!
Swing a boom mic. Strike some kinos. Write a scene. Shoot that sucker. Chances are you know at least ten other folks who would do the same if asked.
Ask them.
They might even have a camera.
This life we envision for ourselves will not be a product of something imparted in one hundred and forty characters or less.
Trust me, the irony that I am giving this advice in a blog is not wasted on me. My hypocrisy is fathomless.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Show. Don't tell.

"Have a secret."
This was the easiest piece of advice I have received in an actor's studio. These words (highly paraphrased) came from the mouth of perhaps one of the finest actors of our generation, Meryl Streep. She was asked about her process as an actress. It was later shared with me by an excellent acting coach. These words changed my approach to character instantly and broke that wall between myself and the role I performed.
Consider this.
We ALL have secrets. Every single one of us hides something about ourselves deep down. The guarding of this little truth informs so many of our decisions. They become who we are outwardly in many ways. They govern who we interact with and how we interact with them. They inform every relationship we have.
If you want a strong base to develop a character from as an actor, start by giving them a secret. It will help you understand your relationship with the other actor in the scene. It will give context to every line you say. It will help stir that inner-life that shows up so brilliantly on camera. Best of all, if you lose your way in a scene, you can always return to that little secret your character has and spring back to life.
What can that secret be?
Well, pretty much whatever feels right to you and your character. It should be something that is in line with the context of the story, certainly, but ultimately its only importance is that it gets you acting.
For an example, I will return to Meryl.
In the film "Kramer Vs. Kramer" She plays Mrs. Kramer, a woman in the middle of a divorce with her husband, played by another luminary, Dustin Hoffman. She says in her interview that she created Mrs. Kramer's inner life with a simple secret, one that informed every scene she shared with Dustin:
"She never really loved him."
She never told anyone her character's secret during the entire production of the film. It was for her alone, and it was used to stunning effect.
Meryl won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Kramer Vs. Kramer in 1979.
In general, I typically refrain from giving acting advice. It is such a personal process, and honestly my own approach is in perpetual flux. I take what works, I disregard what doesn't, and I stumble on.
However, I confess that I do suffer from a healthy dose of hero worship.
When Meryl talks, I listen with every nerve that accepts raw data.
The changes to my work through this simple piece of advice were subtle yet profound. Give it a try and see what happens.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gimme Butterflies

I get worried when I don't get worried.
Weird way to put it, but it's true. When I first started down this road, nerves used to bring me to shaking hands and a leaden stomach.
Auditions were absolutely the worst. I'd be up there, barely able to slate. Dropping a line would be a small mercy at times like that. At least it meant you could get SOMETHING out. I'd stare down the long, pitiless barrel of a video camera lens and count the seconds till I could say my "thank you's" and flee from the room.
Simply put: I wasn't ready.
Now, don't get me wrong. In my heart I was ready to swallow my fears and enter that room. Every time. I had to. I couldn't call myself an actor if I couldn't do that.
My problem was I didn't like it.
I would get a notification that I had received an audition invitation, and I would curse out loud. You'd think I just learned somebody had died.
That is not a good sign of professionalism.
I despised how nervous I got. I knew I would be spending the next two or so days agonizing over the coming doom. I got to the audition, burped out my lines and fled. Only then would I feel that immense sense of relief, like I had just dodged a parking ticket.
It wasn't until I recognized where my nerves came from that I could enter that room and know I belonged there.
Here's where it started.
I wrestled from the time I was nine years old till I graduated high school at age eighteen. I have competed in hundreds of matches in that time. I wasn't half bad at it. I wanted to puke before every single match. Every one of them. Numbers-wise, that means I spent about nine years of my young life in ulcer-inducing nervous excite.
The funny thing was that I would suffer this raw nerve until the referee dropped his hand and shouted "Wrestle!" From that moment on, nerves had nothing to do with it. You simply lived in the moment. Second to second. You had way too many other things to contend with than the state of your stomach. I was prepared and well-trained. My focus was absolute.
Sometimes I won, other times I lost. But I never left that mat feeling like I had let myself down. I gave it my all. For six minutes of my life, nothing else mattered. What nerves I did have simply fueled that explosive moment. It kept me sharp. I could shape it into whatever I needed.
That is the state I seek now in the audition room. I will never get around nerves. Indeed, I need them in my preparation. As actors, we learn to take those nerves and use them to our benefit. It is pure emotional energy. It is a gift we give ourselves.
If you have prepared yourself, know what you are going to do in that room, made strong choices, then you can welcome the nerves. It means you are doing it right.
Yup...that's fear in my eyes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On "Specialness"

"Let's hear a few of those things that make you special!"
This was a question posed to me from one of the generous readers of my blog last week.
I was kind of gob-smacked.
Nobody had ever asked me that before.
"How brazen!" I thought.
 At first.
Then I considered what was actually meant and I thanked them. This was not a confrontational question at all. They were giving me an opportunity to actually consider what it is I am doing here. What do I have to say and what makes the way I say it at all unique?
I had never sat myself down and thought about it before. I have been an artist in one medium or another my entire life. I have drawn from the time I could hold a pencil properly. Not once had I ever considered what I could do as special.
There are a lot of folks who can do what I do, perhaps far better. At last count it was "most of them". The thing that makes us stand out in our chosen modes of expression is not typically the technical. Really, most anyone can show some technical ability with the proper training and dedication.
Technical skills are really just the cost of admission. Art school cannot make you an artist. There is no diploma one can earn that will prepare you for the rigors of a life lived in the arts. What an art school does is teach you  how to use the tools you will need to one day BECOME an artist.
So what's left?
What's the magic sauce?
To torture a conceit, it is not the tools at your disposal, but how you use them.
Your qualities. Your perspective of the world and how you see yourself in it. We all come from very different places. Our life experiences, the people who shaped us and our world view. The things that are important to us. These are what inform our personal truth as artists, that which we attempt to share with our audience through whatever tools at our disposal.
Some people use pencils. Some paint. Some clay and fire. Those who choose the dramatic arts do so with themselves.
We could each portray the same character in a play, wear the same costume and even affect the same accent. We will still create a completely unique, valid performance from each other. We can't help it.
I take heart in that knowledge.
Nobody could ever perform the way I do. 
Think of a director as a painter. The stage is his canvas. His palette is his ensemble. Each member of the cast was chosen for the specific color that they bring to the piece.
If you get the part, you were precisely the shade they were looking for.
Understand what makes you unique, embrace it, and get to work.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Permission granted

When did you have that moment?
You know the one.
It's the moment you stepped out of your head as an actor, gave yourself over to the experience, and surprised even yourself with the emotional connections you had made with the story and the scene partner you shared it with.
I didn't fully trust such an experience existed for me. I was a very technical-minded man. I learned my lines by rote, knew the story inside and out. I became almost encyclopedic in my knowledge of the script and characters I would interact with.
The trouble I had was making the words, the character, mine. Of me.
I still felt like an outsider looking in. I may as well have been one of the audience for all the connection I had to what was going on in front of me.
I was too prepared with what I intended to deliver. I knew the words, but they were never my own.
The reason?
I had never allowed them to be about me. I was deeply guarded with myself. I had big blocks, subconscious ones that demanded I get no closer to the truth of a scene than I was prepared to go.
I wasn't prepared to go very far.
It's human nature. We hide the ugliest things about ourselves. Boy we try, at least. We shield our complexities and warts behind all manner of psychological defenses.
Acting, to me, is about showing the truth, our individual truth, to the world. By so doing, we grant permission to the audience to witness it, be inspired by that bravery and perchance look a little deeper into themselves.
If you, as an actor, are not prepared to show the truth, what are you doing up on that stage?
When my own walls were laid bare to me, thankfully in the safe confines of a classroom, it shocked me. I had no idea how much I was bottling, hiding and tucking away. I was denying myself all of this inner-life for fear of being exposed.
But exposed to what?
Your inner-life is just that. Your own.
I knew I had these tools within me. I had access to the entirety of my emotional self. It turned out what I had lacked was permission.
It took a strong teacher to show me these blocks, and then grant me permission to remove them. I was denying my personal feelings about the scene, making it ring untrue. I learned whatever feeling I was quieting was precisely what the scene called for and I had to grant it full measure. To do otherwise would make my work pointless.
The next piece I did as an actor outside of the classroom, I learned my lines. I knew the story.
Then I forgot about it.
I allowed the moment to take me wherever it would. It took me places I had never dreamed I was capable of going.
That was the moment I knew I had something to give, not just say.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Play is the thing

I remember my first time on stage. I was about six years old. The Pinardville Boys' Club was putting on a production of "A Christmas Carol" that holiday. Somehow, I ended up with the role of "Tiny Tim Cratchet". I had a little cane that served as a crutch. I hobbled about on stage, did my business, remembered all of my lines. I didn't feel the least bit nervous. I had never been on stage before, but it felt perfectly natural. Even fun.
As I grew older, the fearlessness of elementary school gave way to the anxiety of middle school, to the bravado of high school. That time on stage would be the last time I would perform in front of anyone for at least twenty years.
I've heard it said that artists spend their entire childhood learning to paint with the skill of an adult. Once achieved, they spend the rest of their life trying to paint as they did as a child.
In childhood, to go out in front of a gang of your closest peers and pretend to be something you are not is considered absolutely appropriate. There is no judgement in the eyes of a child. You simply go where the muse takes you.
For most of us, once we are adults, we put away "childish things". But for some of us, we yearn to recapture the connection with ourselves that we had as a child. People spend big money trying to touch the emotional and social freedom they enjoyed in their youth. For those of us who can delve into that raw emotional power, that pure spirit of play, it is utterly intoxicating. You do it once, you spend the rest of your life chasing the dragon.
Acting became that journey for me. With every role I play, I can reconnect just a little bit more with that silly kid with the cane on stage, dwelling for all the world in his element. Every performer I have ever had the pleasure of meeting seemed to share this very same quality.
The very best of us can not only find their inner child and express it, tap it, but they can bring us all along for the trip. They grant us, the audience, the same permission.
To play.
To wonder.
And occasionally damn near touch the divine.
My son, chasing dragons.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Apologies not accepted

When at parties, on the bus or chatting at a coffee shop, invariably it comes up:
"What do you do for a living?"
A perfectly harmless question designed to elicit the furthering of an enjoyable conversation. If only that person knew how loaded an inquiry that is.
For the longest time I all but shuddered when someone asked it. I would go somewhat quiet, hem and haw a little bit, dig my toe through the imaginary sand at my feet and then, in an almost apologetic tone mutter something about being a "whatever" who also happens to be pursuing an acting career.
I was afraid to admit to otherwise complete strangers my dreams and aspirations, as though their judgement would be immediate and absolute.
Why should I be embarrassed by such a thing?
I suppose I can look at my upbringing. I am your typical lapsed Irish Catholic from a working class neighborhood. This was a place where pursuing your dreams was all well and good, but at the end of a day you had a gang of mouths to feed. Dreams were "a nice thing to have", but to actually pursue them with anything other than passing interest was somewhat taboo.
The idealism of youth bore me through that time. I got my art degree and I earned a living for years as an artist for computer games and any other industry that could use my skills. Even though it was an "artistic" endeavor, it still had an observably linear progression that one could assign a dollar amount to.
Acting doesn't really have such a linear path to success. So, to many, it can seem far more frivolous. A pipe-dream.
Coming to terms with that in my own mind, being a responsible husband and father, was a daunting task. I questioned myself constantly:
"Is this a selfish pursuit? One where I am dooming my family to a life of uncertainty?"
A life of uncertainty? After losing two jobs and both my parents over the span of six years, I learned the hard way that there is no such thing as certainty.
You could drop dead tomorrow. the only thing you have any control over is what you choose to do with the time you have.
Never apologize for following your dreams.
Politeness has nothing to do with it.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Walk the walk

"They never call!"
I sent my head shots out for seven different projects today. Fingers crossed!"
"My reel is positively anemic! I just can't get any good footage!"
Sound familiar? I personally have dealt with this from day zero. It wasn't really till this past year that I realized I was doing myself a disservice. 
Like most people in this profession, I presumed that my success was entirely dependent upon the good will of others. That is a very disheartening way to approach something you are passionate about. The one thing I would sell my everlasting soul for requires more than indifference from the powers that surround a seemingly impenetrable industry.
I continued in this vain till one day when a friend from a film project contacted me to see if I could help with a comedy web series. I figured it would be a fun distraction while I awaited my shot at fame.
I showed up at a restaurant where they planned to shoot a number of scenes for their first season. I was floored at the level of professionalism I witnessed. Who was running this machine?!
Turns out, actors. Like me. These two girls, I will call them "The Jenns", wrote, produced and starred in their own comedy sci-fi series. 
This was the missing piece of the puzzle for me.
So many of us sit by the phone, attend workshops and beg borrow or steal time with the folks who may one day invite us in to audition for something we may ultimately not prove right for. Wash, rinse and repeat.
It had honestly never occurred to me that it was possible to write the perfect part for me, let alone produce it and get it out into the universe.
"The Jenns" are doing just that. They released the tenth and final episode of season one this week. They are already developing season two. That is commitment. That is passion. That is two actors who decided not to wait for Hollywood's permission to show how great they are.
To someone like me, they are an inspiration and an example of how serious you have to be to make it in show business. We don't have to sit in the stands and wait for our chance to play. We can just play.
The cost of admission has never been cheaper. The technology needed to play with the big boys is literally sitting on a rack at Best Buy these days.
You have power over your career. Show the world you are serious about what you do. Show them you aren't in the business of being ignored. You became an actor to do just that. Act. You didn't put all this money, heart and effort into the hopes someone would offer you the chance to act.
Be that chance you have been waiting for.
Check out the fruits of "The Jenns" tireless labors here:
Oset with "The Jenns"

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What's Yer Type?

I sat in a coffee shop the other day...
(A lot of my posts will more than likely start with this, as do most of the more thoughtful moments of my life.)
I was sitting there and pondering the most difficult question I have asked myself as an actor:
What is my type?
I have asked myself this question approximately every three days since I started this adventure. The problem I kept running into was I am far too close to the product to be able to answer it objectively. It is the same thing as looking in the mirror and only seeing the flaws: Scars, acne, wrinkles, one eye is ever so slightly higher than the other. You fail to see the whole of you after a while.
There is no way around it, you need an outside opinion.
Objective, unbiased and brutally honest.
As it turns out, my wife somehow fits all three.
Ours is a special kind of relationship! She sees quite easily through my self-wrought bullshit. Her's is a laser focus of frankness for which I am by far the richer.
That being said, I still had to do the initial leg work.
What words would best describe me as a performer?
What qualities do I bring to a role?
Actors who can't answer this question find themselves swimming against a tide of generality in their work. They fire off their resume and reel like buckshot into the ether that is Hollywood and hope someone can see the spark that is their greatness.
"This kid can do it all!" 
Actors that developed in the theater possibly face this sort of problem more than others. In the theatrical tradition, you can be a twenty-two year old ingenue who has played everything from the chamber maid to a Shakespearean king.
Not so in film. Here, you are what you seem. First impressions are king and that which you sell most readily with a head shot is what gets you in the audition room. So, you best know what you seem.
This brings me back to my own conundrum. As I said, I'm too close to the product, and sometimes, frankly, we don't see eye to eye.
So I had only one other place to turn to: The work I have already done. These are the things I was drawn to as an actor. Things I have auditioned for, things friends and neighbors have cast me in. In some cases, they were roles written just for me, based on something that they may not have even realized they were seeing in me.
Thankfully, the pattern was fairly easy to pick up.
I've played the serial killer with a soft side.The young father with a secret that protects those he loves. My looks, to be honest, are average. I'm a man who is passionate about things. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I am very vulnerable in my approach. Things hit me hard. I gravitate towards the darker side of human nature in my work, but I can see the humor in almost any situation.
Boiled down? I land on this:
Everyman with something to hide.
My wife agrees, so I'm sticking with it.
Ah well. So much for The leading man with the nice car...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yes, and...

The most important building block of improvisation is also perhaps the most powerful tool in my life and career. I received my introduction to improvisation at IO West in Hollywood approximately a year ago. I was not a natural. It was easily the most challenging class I have ever taken as a performer. However, I would do it again in a heart beat. It was there I learned my most important lesson as a professional trying to make it out here; "Yes, and..."
"Yes, and..." is the concept of building a scene organically through positive interaction. Simply put, say yes to everything your scene partner gives to you. In addition to saying yes, you offer them something in return. This keeps the scene going. Negativity is the death of this art. The scene can go nowhere if you deny what is given to you.
This simple concept has transformed my life in so many ways. It has given me incredible confidence as an actor. If you can survive a minute on stage with nothing but the clothes on your back and open ears, an audition room poses no real challenge, where everyone wants you to succeed.
"Yes, and..." has motivated my career.
An example:
A friend of mine reached out to me about a year ago. She was producing a web series and needed some more hands on set. I thought about it, figured "what the hell", and showed up. Within a week I was running sound and setting up lights. A few weeks after that, I had a recurring role in a few episodes. Before I knew it I was an associate producer. Now I work on two different web series and I have a show family of beautiful, creative people that I hope to keep around me as long as they'll have me.
"Yes" is a very powerful word. You never know where it will take you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Josh McHugh. He acts.: What being a father means to me

Josh McHugh. He acts.: What being a father means to me: I am the proudest father of a 5 1/2 year old boy. He keeps me honest. He keeps me humble. He keeps me focused. Honest? He forces me to cons...

What being a father means to me

I am the proudest father of a 5 1/2 year old boy. He keeps me honest. He keeps me humble. He keeps me focused.
Honest? He forces me to constantly evaluate what I am trying to accomplish in my life. Everything I do comes back to my relationship with him. Am I providing the kind of role model I want for him?
Humble? He reminds me that I can always do better. Do better for myself, for my wife, for my family. Nothing is worth doing if you aren't giving it 100%.
Focused? He serves as constant reminder of why I am doing what I do. I want him to know this:
 It is better to go after what you want in life and fall flat on your face in failure than to sit around, watch life pass you by and suffer the insufferable question, "I wonder what my life would have been like if I had tried?"
These are the lessons he teaches me every day. It is the price of admission to fatherhood. I am by far the richer man for it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hello, world!

So, here it is. I am the sort of person who has started more than a few blogs in his time. This marks possibly the fourth in a rather long dismal line of failures to launch.
They usually get about as far as this...et fin.
But no longer!
"Josh, whatever has changed?"
Well, you didn't actually ask, but I'll answer nonetheless. My blog = my prerogatives.
I wanted a venue where I could express myself that didn't actually involve spamming family and friends with my usual half-baked Facebook musings. This will serve as my dumping grounds of the the one thing I geek out the most over:
I have done it, for good or ill, nearly seven years now if the calendar serves me right. I got my start standing around in my friend's small production office back in Boston, MA. At the time a life in drama had never actually occurred to me. I had been a 3D computer artist for years at that point, making decent enough money, shared an apartment with my wife. There was no particular amount of discontent in life. Not till that fateful day. It was an innocent enough comment cast out during a simple conversation:
"I bet you'd be a great actor."
Never has such a casual statement caused me so much anguish and joy. I went home that night buzzing from this new concept. I remember telling my wife, as she lay in bed that very night that I wanted to look more into acting.
I bought my first book on the subject, David Mamet's " True and False" the next day. I would proceed to read it cover to cover no less than five times consecutively. The idea utterly mesmerized me. I can't explain it. I was obsessed, in the purest definition of the word.
I talked about it endlessly. I wrote about it. I read about it.
But I hadn't actually DONE it.
Finally, my wife threw down the gauntlet and challenged me. She sent me to a one day adult education class on this very subject I had tortured her with for a year.
I was dreadful. It was scary, humiliating, exasperating.
I freaking loved it.
I have been doing it ever since.
My friend's off-handed comment seven years earlier was the proverbial butterfly flapping it's newly-dried wings in the Andes, sending a gentle gust that propelled me to where I am today. A professional looking to make his creative statement in the entertainment capital of the world, Hollywood, CA.
Success or failure, I will love the journey.