After 8 Awful Pilot Seasons, She Quit Acting—and Then She Booked ‘Mixed-ish’

Article Image
Photo Source: Antar Hanif

The following Career Dispatches essay was written by “Mixed-ish” star Christina Anthony.

The fundamentals of basketball can seriously help your career as a performer—and no hand-eye coordination is necessary. I spent many high school years in pep band with my baritone saxophone watching (not playing) basketball, so you can trust me on this. But first, let me share a huge dunk I took early-ish in my career.  

In 2011, with a lot of momentum, I moved out west to Hollywood for my first pilot season. Before moving to Los Angeles, I’d spent over 10 years in Chicago honing my comedic voice as a writer-performer. As an alum of Second City, I was confident—no, scratch that—I was cocky enough to believe I would book a pilot immediately upon landing in L.A. I did not. 

How to Land Your Own ABC Pilot

Yep, that dunk turned into an airball pretty quickly.

In basketball, the fundamentals of the game are learning to:

  1. dribble 
  2. pass the ball 
  3. teamwork 
  4. be open for a pass
  5. rebound
  6. build stamina 

Later, you become skilled at playing without the ball by learning to:

  1. block
  2. steal

Notice I have not mentioned shooting the ball, rolling the ball like a Harlem Globetrotter down your back then through your knees, or dunking the ball. DO NOT WORRY ABOUT DUNKING (YET).

Last year, I withstood my eighth pilot season in L.A.—eight long years, audition after audition, role after role, nothing went my way. Sure, I’d had several screen tests and many callbacks, but I wasn't booking, and my landlord wasn’t taking “really positive feedback” from casting as payment. He wanted his mon-ey. By February 2019, I was out of money, lunch breaks, and faith-based memes. So, I wisely decided to quit acting unless I had some sort of breakthrough in my career by June 1 of that same year.  

I know what you’re thinking: How can she quit? I would love to be at that level! I would be grateful to be in those auditions! Oh, I was grateful, but I was also tired. And I was making a huge mistake by not focusing on the fundamentals. By constantly focusing on dunking or shooting or scoring (i.e. booking a pilot), I was leaving the game feeling unsuccessful. By focusing on only scoring, I was missing out on all the moves I had skillfully mastered.

I’m so glad that in the preparation for my “Mixed-ish” pilot audition, the fundamentals returned to me. I felt confident remembering I had spent the last 18 years doing a great job of:

  1. dribbling by training in sketch/improv classes
  2. passing the ball by being a resource/connector/giver
  3. learning teamwork from ensemble work at the Second City & PlayMakers Laboratory in Chicago
  4. being open for a pass by listening to good advice (like the kind I’m giving you now)
  5. rebounding by trying again when everyone had seen me take shots and miss
  6. building stamina through grit when doors didn't open immediately
  7. blocking by shutting down negative self-talk
  8. stealing the ball by making my own opportunities 

And now, as a regular on “Mixed-ish” (with a hectic schedule and new directors every week), I rely on the fundamentals. I STILL DO NOT WORRY ABOUT DUNKING. And when you book your career-making pilot, your star-making Broadway gig, or your blockbuster movie, you will take your place among your castmates and make the transition with grace and ease because you know your fundamentals.

Oh, and later when it is finally time and there's trust and they pass you the ball, YOU BETTER DUNK IT. 

What advice would you tell YOUR younger self? Get more Career Dispatches right here!