Interview Series: Chris HayesPosted: April 6, 2010
“L.A. is one of the most opportunistic cultures in the world.”- Chris Hayes
Chris Hayes is a fellow Wake Forest alum, fraternity brother of TANY Sports, and actor on the verge out in L.A. While our paths never crossed at school, I had the pleasure of meeting him at SXSW last month.
During a long night of bar hopping in and around W.6th street, I took the opportunity to discuss with Chris his experiences breaking into the acting world.
Here’s his official rundown:
Combine a quarter cup Bradley Cooper, a few tablespoons Sean William Scott and a dash of Christian Bale and you have Chris Hayes. An aspiring actor, writer and entrepreneur, Chris constantly has projects percolating. He is in two films coming out this year, a lead role in the independent feature “The Loneliest Road in America”, and a role in the upcoming Jamie-Lynn Sigler/Josh Stewart film “Wake.”
First off, what got you interested in acting?
This is a point of contention between my family and I. They say I wanted to be an actor as soon as I saw “Top Gun.” I think I just wanted to fly planes. More likely it was in 8th grade when I wanted to be the lead in our middle school’s production of Romeo and Juliet purely so I could kiss the girl who was playing Juliet. However, there was one snag: I was a chubby little troll. Not exactly “Romeo” material. So I got Mercutio instead. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. He’s the best role in the play, really hilarious writing. I had a lot of fun, got tons of praise and decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing it.
L.A. is the logical choice for an aspiring actor. What kind of feelings went through your head about that move?
I was always going to move there. It was inevitable in my mind. Luckily, I was brought up by two amazing parents who instilled a need for education so college came first. I went to a phenomenal liberal arts school called Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, NC where I majored in Economics, Spanish and Theatre. Not to mention, I joined a fraternity and got to study abroad in Australia and Spain for several months. All of these elements helped mold who I am today and gave me the proper knowledge and time to get a game-plan together for my inevitable move west.
From what I’ve read and heard, the film industry can be brutal. Did you have a plan in mind once you got there?
I moved to L.A. with the mindset that my career is a marathon, not a sprint. So there was never any need to rush anything. I figured, I have one go-around with this thing, better not make any rash moves. So getting a job was first and foremost. I already had opportunities percolating because I knew, even at Wake Forest, that I had neither the desire nor the patience to be a waiter or a bartender. I had gotten certified and started working as a personal trainer in school, so when I came out here I interviewed at Equinox and was hired on the spot.
I had a job, a house in Beverly Hills with three of my best friends from back in New Jersey, and a hunger to make big things happen out here. I knew I needed to learn a lot more before I dove in, so I started taking acting classes. Scene Study, Technique, Improvisation, Commercial, as many as I could. I found my way into a phenomenal acting community, The Brad Henke Studio, with some of the most talented actors I have ever seen. I’ve been there since I moved out.
Can you tell us about the ambition ratio?
L.A. is one of the most opportunistic cultures in the world. The ambition is palpable. People move here from every part of the world to realize their dreams, and not just in the film industry. I have good friends who are architects, graphic designers, personal trainers, and lawyers who all have grand expectations for their careers and their ambition is directly proportional to their talent. You realize quickly who is worth their weight and you surround yourself with those kinds of people. They’re an inspiration to me. Their ambition reflects off your own and motivates you to not just wait and “expect results,” but to actively pursue them and fight for what you want.
Switching gears, was this your first time in Austin?
I came to Austin 2 years ago for the music portion of SXSW.
What did you think of our city then?
I thought it was incredible! I stepped off the plane and there’s a band playing. It’s this cosmopolitan cityscape that feels really intimate. The people, in all their eclectic varieties, have a common pleasantness; it’s really welcoming. Sixth street, The Drag, Lake Austin, the Alamo Drafthouse, any movie theater where I can get a pizza and a beer is high on my list!
Tell us about your new movie, “Wake“?
It’s a really cool psychological thriller about a couple driving from Texas to Los Angeles for a wedding. They stop at an eerie motel where the peculiar residents know a little bit too much about the protagonists.
How did you get involved with the movie?
I started out as a “reader” for the casting sessions; I would read sides with the actors when they came to audition for their respective roles. That’s how I met Chad (the director), Amanda and Lea-Beth (producers), and Deanna (casting director). They were really sweet to me and I learned so much about the casting process.
Near the end of casting, they had a couple roles to fill for Paul’s fraternity brothers. They thought I was too nice to play one of these unsavory characters, so I just started shoving the office intern into a locker every morning until they gave me a part. But no, seriously, it was just persistence. I just kept begging for an audition, hoping they found my desperate willingness charming. I auditioned and booked the job and got to travel to the middle of the desert to film one of the coolest segments in the whole movie.
Who inspires your professionally?
It’s hard to answer without sounding pretentious. I’m intrigued by actors with versatility. They can transition from comedy to more serious roles seamlessly: Tom Hanks, Michael J. Fox, Edward Norton, Annette Benning, and Julianne Moore. Also actors who choose challenging projects that go against the grain. Leonardo DiCaprio comes to mind. He had this path laid out for him to be a cutesy teen superstar, but chose projects like “Basketball Diaries” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” instead.
Lastly, if you could go back to when you first arrived in L.A., what advice would you give yourself?
You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. You can be the most ambitious, motivated hustler and never realize your potential when apathetic people surround you. Be persistent. Don’t rely on others to do it for you These qualities will attract the right types of people into your life. You will feed off their energy and they yours. Be kind to those you meet, this is an incredibly small town teeming with talent ready to break out. And always remember, you’re here to do what you love, and not just ostensibly so. So…do what you love! There’s so much diversity and energy. I love being insulated and protected by a huge city.
In the end, the life you live is yours and no one else’s, so treat it as such!
Chris was born in San Antonio, TX, raised in 8 different states, mostly New Jersey and currently resides in Santa Monica, CA.
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