Alumnus talks acting

Photos courtesy of Ori Kalmus ‘08

A piece of advice for aspiring actors: when auditioning for your first TV show, don’t dress like you’re interviewing with Wall Street.

Take it from Ori Kalmus ‘08, an actor who just finished filming for small role in Universal Picture’s Neighbors, starring Zac Efron, Rose Byrn, and Seth Rogan.

Kalmus laughs off the memory of his first audition, which happened to be for the hit Disney series Hannah Montana. He showed up in a suit.

“I bombed this audition, like, absolutely bombed it. It was all intimidation. I just looked like a fool, and completely forgot the lines. I could tell the casting director was like, ‘This guy’s green. Get this guy out of my office,’” Kalmus said. “I read the lines in monotone. Then I went home and cried.”

Yet his hard work has paid off. After two and a half years of warming up to the industry, Kalmus made his debut in FX’s Louie in 2011, and has escalated since, playing costar and guest star roles in some notable films.

Kalmus now lives in Los Angeles, auditions for film and TV gigs, works multiple jobs, takes acting classes, and like there’s somehow more than 24 hours in a day, writes his own film series on the side.

Here’s an inside look into the world of a Lafayette varsity soccer-playing history major turned LA actor.

 

Sabrina Mastronardo: How did you become interested in acting?

Ori Kalmus: I started out my playing varsity soccer, and after two years, I hated it.

I had always been in plays and funny movies with my friends at home. I [studied abroad in] Europe for a year and took all these arts classes, like cinema and opera, and I started getting back into that. At the same time, my brother was starting at UTA [United Talent Agency, in California]. And in 2007, they had this actor named Seth Rogan. My brother said, “If this guy can make it, you can.” Kind of funny.

 

SM: What came next?

OK: I started taking improve classes at UCB in New York; the famous imrov place where a lot of “SNL” people come from – Amy Pohler was one of the founders of it. I would go back and forth from Lafayette because I stayed illegally in a dorm. Then I came to LA and went to classes and auditions.

 

SM: Is it ever intimidating to you – being in studio, having a lot of pressure to perform?

OK: I was very lucky to not be born with nerves. With this, it’s more of excitement. You don’t fight it – you don’t say, “I’m not nervous,” because, okay, why is my heart beating one-hundred miles an hour? You just kind of accept it and say “It’s not nerves. I’m just really excited to be here.” It is really intimidating.

 

SM: What are some things you don’t like? What about rejection?

OK: A big thing with rejection is that there’s a business side of things. I auditioned for Mad Men, and they didn’t choose me. At the time I was like, “What am I doing wrong? Why didn’t they choose me? Could I do better?” One reason is that you could not look like the person. Another thing is that the way your nature and the way you act as a person could be completely different from this character. Then comes in the bad stuff, which no one wants to hear about, which is money, and experience, and all that. That’s show business, baby.

 

SM: Nothing in this industry is certain, is it?

OK: No, I’m learning as I go, but you really can never be complacent or rest on your laurels. There’s a reason why it’s called “show business.” The show is awesome. It’s still an art; it’s a really great way to tell a story. But the business part is more than you can imagine. It’s great from the outside, because you see all these shows, and everyone’s so happy; they’re acting. When you’re in the business, you know it’s all about product and money and basically about selling advertising. It’s a learning process.

 

SM: What keeps you going?

OK: Basically just knowing that there are going to be roles that you’re right for. There are some people I talk to who have been out here and are on five years without getting any acting work. I don’t know what that’s like because I’ve been really lucky – by the way, we having talked about luck. That’s a huge, huge part. I’ve been really lucky. My first TV job was on what’s considered to be one of the best comedies of the decade and possibly in TV history, [FX’s] Louie.

My acting coach always says “work begets work.” It’s so true. The times that I have gotten the most opportunities and the most work is when I’m doing the work outside, like producing a web series or writing a show. Basically, when you’re doing the work, the work is going to find you.

 

SM: What role did you play on Louie, and how did you get it?

OK: I was an army officer – Sergeant Peterson. It’s crazy how stuff happens. It was 20 percent scripted, 80 percent improv at the audition. I only have one line on the TV show, but I get to hang out all day, and there’s another scene that I’m in. [It is] really tough to see – you really have to look for me to catch me. But then on Parenthood [NBC] – it was more luck with knowing someone. I think Oprah said “Luck is hard work meeting opportunity.” That is spot on, absolutely spot on.

SM: What are you currently working on?

OK: In my most recent show, [Showtime’s] Masters of Sex–no it’s not a porno–I had auditioned for the casting associate two years earlier, and we hit it off and kept in touch. Then he got on this show, called me in, and it’s my biggest role yet. I’m a guest star…I have one speech and a bunch of lines. There are two scenes, and all my scenes are with the leads of the show. I call it Mad Men, but with a lot more sex. It’s set in the 60s and I play a reporter. The pilot was picked up for 12 episodes, and I’m in episode 3.

 

SM: Meanwhile, are you auditioning for other jobs?

OK: Right now I’m not working on anything for TV but I am auditioning for stuff. I’m up [to audition for] a show on ABC and I’m also working on my own stuff – the whole “work begets work” thing. I’m working on a [web series]. [The premise is] three guys in their late 20s decide to live with a 75 year old man. They think they’re just going to get cheap rent, and he’s a funny guy. But then the 75 year old man becomes a “guy’s guy.” He wants to go out and get laid and all. I’m also working on a superhero parody.

 

SM: It seems like you have it made right now.

OK: It’s really hard. I still have to work a couple of jobs to support that, but I’m lucky to have support from my family. I’m a big fan of staying in acting class no matter what. I’m constantly learning about acting.

There are a lot of actors who can’t even get work and they’re totally talented. It’s very rare you’ll find me complaining about the acting world and entertainment I‘ve already been so lucky.

It’s a little frustrating not to be able to get work consistently so far, but I have a good support system.