The following Career Dispatches essay was written by Haskiri Velazquez, who stars on the Peacock revival of “Saved by the Bell” and in the Netflix feature “The 40-Year-Old Version.”
Throughout this 10+ year journey, I’ve learned so many lessons in my life and career. It was a tough one, but with all the “nos” and at times feeling unnoticed, I knew that there were important lessons to learn.
One of the first lessons was to hone in on acting. In the last five years, I lived, breathed, and ate acting. I quit my part-time job—which was a scary decision—but I had the best partner (Nate Ortiz), who supported my decision and supported us. I studied scripts, read books, attended classes, and whenever an audition came my way, I BECAME that character. I asked: What would she wear? How old is she? Where is she from? I didn’t leave any stone unturned. I knew the more I was this person on the breakdown, the better chance I had at booking it. But here’s the secret: Don’t act like them, be them.
Another lesson I learned (that should come as no surprise for us actors) was the importance of memorizing your lines—but see, that’s only part of it. I realized if I could recite my lines even with the craziest of distractions (if someone yelled, played music, a phone ringing, or even someone farting lol) and I could keep going like it never happened, I knew it was in my subconscious mind. All I had to do was focus on my performance. It didn’t stop there; I even memorized the other person’s lines. I wanted to be the best, and the more I knew the script, the more I could showcase my skill.
My upbringing came with lots of learning curves that I’ve used in my auditions. I grew up in the hood, I’ve experienced firsthand what some of these characters on paper are going through. So when I get specific breakdowns, I see how similar I am to them and the ways I can relate to them. I saw how being my authentic self separated me in those rooms. For a long time, I didn’t know who I was. But it’s important to know that about yourself, especially in an industry like this, where you become someone else for X amount of months. It’s easy to become ungrounded and lose sight of yourself, and it’s crucial to take care of your body, mind, and soul.
There are a lot more things that I can mention, but I’ll save it for another time. One thing I want you to know, that’s always important to keep in mind is: time. Your time will come. Be patient with yourself. There are so many stories that need to be told, so many roles that need to be filled, and trust me when I say that the right one for you will come to you. It’s all about preparation; the more you work on yourself inside and out, the better prepared you’ll be when the opportunity reveals itself. It’s OK to feel sad about not getting a job you really wanted, but understand that another will come. And when it does (because it will), you want to make sure you are the best version of yourself, to accept that role and give your best performance.
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