I was looking for a theater program, and finances made sure it was a state school—and I grew up in Seattle, so University of Washington was out of the question because my family could find me. But Western had a good program; I knew some grads from it, and they seemed to not be shitty actors. A lot of the class I graduated with has gone on to do some pretty remarkable things. We all have our own professional connections; there’s been a ton of resource sharing between that group.
I felt like a lot of our classes were geared towards playing to a really specific audience: this particular professor plus the other students in your acting class. So for me, there was a really clear hierarchy in our classes of the good actors, cast in the main-stage shows, and the kids who were struggling and nothing ever really landed for them. Then a teacher came in senior year really believing and respecting all the talent in the room and assuming we could do anything we set our minds to. It was the first time I had a professor who treated us as if we were capable of doing absolutely anything. What I pulled from that that I really hold to today is being a collaborative artist. Best-case scenario, actors are not just glorified props that move and talk. They’re intelligent beings who can be true collaborators in a process and not just pieces of a pretty picture that can talk.
In a lot of ways, college opened me up to it actually being a craft to practice. I went straight into this program from high school, where everything I knew about acting had to do with trying to trick people into believing you were feeling something.
It’s taken me a lot longer to get places [from Western] instead of going to a super fancy school, but I may very well have been crushed if I’d gone to a super fancy school. It took me several years past college to really figure out who I was as an actor. I’m glad I didn’t get a BFA because I got to be a person for those years and dabble, and then later get serious about being an actor.
—As told to Mark Peikert