On The Road To Stardom
The road to being a success in the acting business is long and hard. The old Hollywood fable of movie stars being discovered on the streets and going on to fame and fortune is more of a fairy tale than reality. The fact is most actors work very hard for years before they “hit it BIG.Working in commercials, local theater, as extras on movie sets and anything else that will help them practice their craft.
I recently spoke to Erik A. Williams, an actor living in St. Louis who has appeared in several movies as an extra, like The Informant, The Dark Knight and Whip It, as well a numerous local productions.
Interview With Actor Erik A. Williams
Clarabela: First of all, Erik…Tell me about yourself.
Erik : Well I am an actor at heart and have been performing for over fifteen years. I got my start on the stage doing many productions with my local community theatre, in college and then branched out to go on tour with Up with People.
If you’re not familiar with the group, they are an international, multi-cultural organization that takes students on a tour throughout at least two continents. They perform a show, stay with host families and work with the communities they visit on projects to help improve the area.
After traveling with Up with People., I knew I wanted to go onto much bigger things and in 2005, I landed a supporting role in my first film titled, The Book.
Clarabela: That sounds like a wonderful experience for a young actor. How old were you at the time?
Erik : I was 19 and turned 20 during the tour. We traveled through the Midwest and Northeast United States, as well as Austria, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal.
Clarabela: Wow! That is incredible. You must have learned a lot about acting during that time. What has that experience taught you, that you are using in your career now.
Erik : It taught me more than I could ever learn in a classroom or a guide book, that’s for sure. What I learned most that helped me in my acting was learning about myself. I learned that I could take on much more than I ever imagined. The journey helped me to be a leader and find just how strong a person I am.
I learned how to better communicate with those around me, to be more open to cultures outside my own, and to understand just how powerful a performer I could be. I also helped to create the new show and program in 2006 when Up with People came back from a small hiatus.
Since my journey with the group, I have transitioned pretty much exclusively to film. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the theatre because I am always ready to be on stage. But it seems I am able to accomplish so much more in film in a shorter amount of time.
I can work on several films in a month and have numerous projects and experience to come away with while for a theatre production, I would be rehearsing for that one show for a month or more.
Since 2005 working on The Book, I have been a part of over 60 films from all types, genres, independent and studio.
Clarabela: Sounds like you are one very busy actor. I reviewed your IMDB profile, but I would rather you tell me about some of your favorite roles and the films you have worked on.
Erik: Well, I just finished working on a film called Johnny B. Gone from director Trevor Juenger. It revolves around two gay man whose relationship is strained by a spirited young woman who comes into their lives. I play one of the two leads and also produced the film under my company banner Rock Your Socks Productions. It was an amazing project to work on because it really brought me out of the box, so to speak.
I am comfortable straight so playing a gay man was one thing but there are also some a very intimate scenes with the other lead played by Joe Hammerstone. Also, I am also a cross dresser in the picture so there were all sorts of things to keep track of in my psyche for the role.
Clarabela: Interesting… I see that you have also worked on several films in the Horror genre. What about these movies appeals to you?
Erik: Well…to tell you the truth, horror is my least favorite genre. But somehow I keep finding myself in horror roles. My business partner and actor friend Joe Hammerstone is really the horror guy and he has brought me into some of those roles.
I think horror is one of the easier genres to do on a low-budget so there are a lot of horror productions that shoot in and around the greater St. Louis area. Some of the most fun I have in the genre comes with the work I do with Hack Movies, a horror comedy production company.
The writer/director/producer Kevin Strange gets his muse from the work of Lloyd Kaufman and Troma. Their latest release, CockHammer is actually the first Hack title to gain distribution. It will be released through Tempe Video on January 12, 2010. I was one of the leads in the flick. Kevin and the team are great to work with. The thing I like most about working with the company is that they realize what they are and what they’re not and market a great (although schlocky) product.
I am also gearing up to work on their next project which is tentatively titled Nixon and Hogan Save Christmas. ( Nixon and Hogan are recurring characters in the Hack universe.)
Clarabela: You seem to have a lot of projects going on in St. Louis, but you have also worked on some major film projects like Whip It, The Informant and The Dark Knight. What is that like?
Erik: It’s fantastic! I have worked on over 30 films as an extra and it’s always a new, great experience. I will admit I am a little nutty for some of the travel time and money I’ve put into it but I can’t get enough.
Whip It was AMAZING! I left crazy early in the morning to travel over eight hours to Detroit to work on it. It was one of the longest days I’ve ever had on set. I think I was there about 17 hours altogether. But it was so worth it! I have always admired Drew for her work and her spirit. I made the trip mostly to have the experience of working with her, if only in a small way.
She was just as lovely and wonderful as I had imagined her to be and was a truly great director as well. Most of the cast was there that day including Ellen Page and Jimmy Fallon. Ellen was quiet outside her work but Jimmy took every moment between takes to interact with us extras, shake hands, and be hilarious. It was a hard day but I would do it again and again.
Though that experience is right up there with the best I’ve ever had on set, the very best has to be my time on set for The Dark Knight. I worked over nights for the scene in Bruce’s penthouse when Joker busts in looking for Harvey Dent.
Clarabela: Tell me about it. What was your role in The Dark Knight?
Erik: Well, again I was only an extra but it was fantastic. I played one of the guests at the political rally party. (You can see me on-screen on the right after Joker comes in.) I actually show up in a few shots and the full trailer as well so I am very proud of that.
The scene was so great to work on. I saw things in that room that made my little geek mind explode. Most of the principals were there. I got to see Christian Bale kick butt in the suit, Maggie Gyllenhaal in all her beauty, Aaron Eckhart do his thing, and of course, Heath Ledger giving what may be his greatest performance of his career. This all took place less than ten feet from where I was placed!
Maggie was also really great. It’s sort of a no-no to talk to the talent while on set unless they talk to you first. She spoke with us quite a bit between shots. She was very sweet.
Clarabela: Did you have any interaction with Heath Ledger during filming?
Erik : No. It’s usually quite difficult to converse with the actors while they are working. Maggie was really the only one we got to speak with one on one. I recently worked on Little Fockers in Chicago with Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro. Mr. DeNiro was quiet as you expect but Ben also did a lot of talking with the extras when not on camera.
Clarabela: I bet he was hilarious. Isn’t Barbra Streisand also in the movie?
Erik : Yes she is! It’s an all-star cast. Jessica Alba and Raven Symone are in it as well.
Clarabela: What is the release date for Little Fockers?
Erik: It will be out next Summer. I think it’s slated for July 30, 2010.
Clarabela: So…you have a ton of local projects with your production company and several upcoming roles as an extra in major movies. What is the next step for Erik A. Williams? Are you planning a move to LA or NY to further your career?
Erik : Yes! I want to move to LA as soon as I can. Right now I am admittedly looking for a 9-5 (anyone reading this blog, please hire me!) so I can continue to get back and forth from set. The most current projects I have coming up include the new flick with Hack Movies and a great dramatic comedy called Flushed I just optioned for RYSP.
I am also doing promotions for the projects I’ve recently completed including The Heart III: Final Pulse, Casualties of the State, The Pizza Delivery Massacre, The Devil at Lost Woods, and of course, Johnny B Gone.
Clarabela: How are you promoting these movies? On your website? Twitter? Tell me how we can find you?
Erik : I am on every social networking site imaginable and Twitter , Facebook, MySpace everything as soon as it’s out.
Clarabela: You are an actor, writer, casting director and you have even done been a director. What is your ultimate goal in show business? What is your BIG show biz dream!
Erik : I would truly love to work with Drew Barrymore for a project, any project. Whip It was amazing but I would it would be incredible to work with her as more than an extra.
Other than that I would simply like to be a working actor in LA. It is very difficult to be an actor here in the Midwest and I am more than ready to officially take the leap to the land of the palms.
Clarabela: You are a hardworking actor. I am sure you will be a success!
Erik: Thank you!
Clarabela: Is there anything you would like to say to my readers.
Erik.: Strive to achieve that which compels you. In other words, never give up on your dream. Don’t listen to anyone that tells you you’re not pretty, smart, or talented enough. Make connections, stay out there, and do the best you can in all you can.
Clarabela: Very wise words to live by. If you keep doing this, I am sure we will see your name above the title one day soon.
Erik: Thank you so much!
For more information about Erik A. Williams
Official Site: www.rockyoursocksproductions.com