Will Roberts: Riding into the Self-Made Sunset

Faced with the same rejections as we all are, Will carved out space for the life he wanted.

All right, I’ve got a special one this time. Continuing in our series of actor profiles, I am very excited to announce that this week’s subject is none other than the wonderful Will Roberts. If you don’t know who he is, you should (you are, in fact, about to find out), and I couldn’t be happier to share his story—one from which actors at every stage of their careers can draw strength and inspiration.

I had the great good fortune recently to be put in touch with Mr. Roberts through Cast It Talent, and have begun doing a weekly segment called “Right Actor, Right Job” as a part of Will’s radio show, Acting Up (actingupradio.com). A consummate professional, Will graciously welcomed me into his show, and recently I got to chat with him and get the whole scoop. Buckle up, friends. This one’s worth sticking around for.

Will never had any doubt that he was destined to be a performer. “I’ve been one of those people that was born and went ‘I know I should be doing this’” he confided, “…I’ve always been that way.”

Though he admitted he “didn’t do great in school,” Will quickly discovered a special talent for magic. “I was a professional magician in my early years,” he remembered. Roberts expanded his repertoire to include walk around, stand up, and close up magic. One day he was approached by a fellow magician who complimented his skill, and Will seized the opportunity to seek professional advice. “I said ‘Well, what’s a tip about being able to get better?’ and he said, ‘If you want to be a better magician, be a better actor.’ So that was the switch that flipped…”

From there on Will was on the fast track to making his lifelong dreams of acting a reality. He was later cast in Beyond Therapy in San Francisco, which boosted his career in theatre. A casting director convinced him to do a successful commercial; he got an agency and immediately bought into SAG, ignoring the now-common wisdom that advises waiting. At the time, Will explained, it was more affordable, and the timing seemed right.

The decision turned out to be a good one. Will’s on-camera career blossomed. He became a co- host for Fox Kids, and threw himself into the work. “I was a one man band in the news industry,” he recalled, “I was a shooter, editor, I did it all.” It was exactly this kind of ingenuity and drive that would go on to define Will’s career.

The real springboard for Will’s later work arrived with a production called The Will Roger Follies. Offered because of his previous work in Singing in the Rain and also his reputation for a talent for “cowboy stuff,” The Will Roger Follies represented an enormous undertaking. Utterly dependent upon the title character, the show included twelve numbers and a very specific requirement: trick roping. But Will was game. They hired a trick roper as a coach, and the project became a springboard for Roberts’s other work, including his radio show and “now being considered the modern day Will Rogers…Finding my niche, meaning, I wanted to emulate the life of Will Rogers…I basically created all that.”

The eventual creation was methodical. Taking cues from Will Rogers “The Will Roberts Weekly telegram,” and laying the foundation with his own impressive two decades of radio experience, Roberts later built and syndicated his own show, which went on to be the nationally recognized Acting Up.

How many of us have a hero, actor or otherwise, whose life and career we hope to emulate? How many of us achieve that goal? Take notes, ladies and gentlemen.

Will’s life soon took a geographical turn as well. He moved to Arizona because his girlfriend at the time went to ASU. “I basically stalked her,” Will joked, “but it was OK because I didn’t wind up going to jail and she married me.”

Will was on a roll. He started his company, Wild West Performers (wildwestperformers.com) and got a job with Cirque du Soliel. When he was done with the show, he moved to L.A. got an agent, “and the rest is history.”

Looking back these milestones, he reflected on their origins. “The reason why I got that…is because I took my special skills to the other level.”

It is a practice that has served him well. Will Roberts is one of the top trained ropers in the world (check out trickropers.com for more). He is a world record gun spinner and uses those skills to book coaching gigs on set.

Will tossed the casual cherry on top: “I’m also a professional clown.”

These days Will has a specific piece of advice he gives actors and performers: “The best way to really get out there and do what you want to do…is don’t wait for it to come to you.” As an actor, Will explains, you have to “find ways to unconventionally knock on peoples doors. Well, in the midst of doing that you meet some fine people.”

Luckily for us, some of these fine people were from Cast It Talent, and a new partnership blossomed. Recent changes in the format of Will’s show ushered in a new focus on acting and performance. Will was excited about the opportunities Cast It’s service provides to actors everywhere. “…the product is so cool, he enthused, “…the idea about being able to have all that and then being able to reach out and get the attention of casting directors…with Cast It Talent the cool thing about it is that you start off in the beginning at the top because you’re dealing with the top…Where else can you get in front of a casting director on purpose and not have them go ‘stop bothering me?’”

You guys. This. This is how it is done. When it came to creating his own opportunities and using the tools available to him, Will never looked back. Faced with the same business, the same rejections, as we all are, he carved out space for the life he wanted. There are many who would have shrunk from the prospect of cobbling together a career that was part-cowboy, part actor, and part-specialist performer. Will Roberts built a horse from the ground and rode straight for the sun.

For more from Will Roberts, check him out on Twitter, and Instagram, (@WillRobertsUSA, and ACTORWILLROBERTS).

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com