Featured Artist Series: Justin Phillip On Leaning into Success

Screen Shot 2016-11-15 at 4.10.22 PMAfter seeing his tweet that he booked an audition the day after signing up for Cast It Talent, we interviewed Justin Phillip to get his take on the business and how to get one’s career rolling. Justin is the picture of a self-made career, though acting wasn’t always his primary goal.

Justin originally went to school for Journalism and Creative Writing. He happened upon acting by accident when he took a 101 class in pursuit of an easy credit. There, he threw himself into improv scenes and caught the attention of his instructor, who offered him a part in a children’s show. After that it was off to the races.

Bouncing from college to college, acting remained consistent in Justin’s life. He dabbled in Shakespeare and collected scholarships straight through to grad school. After his mother passed away in 2009, Justin got the opportunity to travel abroad, and, being a huge fan of Chekov and Stanislavski, went to Russia. There he trained at the Moscow Art Theatre School, which he cites as his most important period of education.

Upon his return stateside, Justin hit grad school and signed with an agent in Detroit so he could start working immediately. His first experience on a big budget set came when he booked work as Aaron Paul’s stand in. “And I just knew, that the world of film was so much more tantalizing to me,” Justin recalls, “there were real sets, and they didn’t have to worry about the back row hearing them, because the camera is there. So I knew I wanted to pursue film instead.”

With that in mind, Justin eventually moved to L.A. He collected the usual cornucopia of odd jobs, driving for Uber, working as different mascots, doing promo work. He started booking acting gigs.

Justin cites a slew of mentors that helped him on his way, including Paul Bawek, an instructor from undergrad who filled Justin with enthusiasm for Chekov and Stanislavski. “Another important figure in my life is a man named Michael Watts,” Justin says, “He has been like an uncle to me. I struggled the majority of my twenties with drugs & alcohol, and Mike helped me to get into a sober living situation when I first moved out here in 2013…And once I did that, I really started gaining some momentum with not only my career, but my life as well.”

Cast It Talent pinged Justin’s radar when he saw a video on Facebook, soon followed by an interview with Ryan Gosling where Gosling spoke of finding a lead actor through Cast It. “So I signed up that night.”

Justin booked two auditions from Cast It Talent shortly after signing up. “Two PAID student films,” Justin stresses, “Father Malcolm in Confessions of a High School Teen, and Jimmy from It Hits You.” He says his favorite feature of the site is being able to submit directly to casting offices and production companies. “I submitted directly to Judd Apatow Productions, and agencies such as Abrams, and Casting Offices that I am targeting, such as Alyssa Weisberg. Having that service is very unique, other casting services don’t have that option; submitting directly to those offices… Communication has been great. One of the casting directors let me self-tape submit since I was double booked.”

Up next, Justin is pursuing opportunities with festivals. At the moment his is involved with projects being considered fro Sundance and Tribeca Shorts. “So, it is exciting,” he concludes modestly.

To other actors, Justin’s advice is predictable, given the path of his success: “Just do as much as you can. Just go all in. Let your passion be violent. There’s a quote from a show called Party Down that I live by, and have lived by since 2010, and that quote is, ‘No Risk, No Reward.’ And I think it’s pretty self-explanatory.”

You heard the man. Go big or go home. This isn’t an industry for the faint of heart. And I for one, have faith in your courage and commitment. Let’s go.


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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

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