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In this captivating podcast episode, Zander Sprague, the charismatic host of Epic Begins with One Step Forward, engages in an epic conversation with Kelly Perine. From reminiscing about college days to navigating the challenges of a Hollywood career, Kelly shares insights into his journey. The episode unfolds as a blend of humor, anecdotes, and profound reflections, exploring the essence of an epic career in the entertainment industry. With 26 years of experience, Kelly unveils the secrets behind sustaining a successful acting career and the importance of finding one’s unique voice.

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EPIC with Kelly Perine Part 2

Plan For Success

Why do I believe I should succeed? What is my plan for success? Is it to audition my way to it or is it for me to create my own work or for me to write my own stuff? What route am I going to take? I don’t see acting as different from any other vocation. I’m putting together a plan for my success. A lot of folks, unfortunately, when they come into Hollywood, one, they don’t know what the actor’s work is so they don’t know what to do with their 9:00 to 5:00 brains. I put eight hours a day into my vocation or my career because that’s the way I was raised. I was raised in central Pennsylvania and I have a 9:00 to 5:00 8-hour day work ethic.

I went to school with kids who did chores before they went to school, came home, did more chores, did homework, and then went to bed so they could get up and do it again. That’s hard work. When I go to Starbucks or talk to my friend, there are people like, “I had to write for two hours.” Get out of here. What did you do with the other 6 hours of your 8-hour day? W hat is your plan? What are the eight hours you put in? If you’re an actor, a writer, a producer, an entrepreneur, or someone whose livelihood is based on you doing you, what are you doing for eight hours to make sure that your business succeeds?

If you’re sitting around waiting for the phone to ring, sitting around waiting for your agent to call, sitting around waiting for Hollywood to discover you, or sitting around waiting for entrepreneurial chances to come and you’re not knocking on doors, not going to the gym to stay in shape, not reading the trades, or not doing whatever it is you need to do to get better at your craft, then you’re wasting your time. You’re taking food out of your mouth and money out of your pocket.

 

If you’re not doing whatever it is you need to do to get better at your craft, then you’re wasting your time. You’re taking food out of your mouth and money out of your pocket.

 

I am a structured boy. If I have a plan and I know that I’m talking to Kelly at 11:00 AM and after that, I’m going to go edit this episode or I’m going to work on my book, or I’m going to do whatever, it’s so much easier to do because you have the roadmap. You’re like, “I know what I need to do today.” If you get up and go, “I’ve got to read the trades. I got to work on my script. I got to do this,” oftentimes, people, there are so many things that they want to try and do that they get nothing done because they get stuck.

Growing up, in elementary, middle school, and high school, we were given by our teachers and by the school our syllabus. It’s like, “Here’s what you do. Here’s what you read. Here’s what it’s due by. Here’s when you need the paper. Here’s when the test is going to come.” When you are thrown out into the real world, it is your job to set your own syllabus. It’s your job to set your own curriculum. It’s your job to set your own eight hours.

I’m an actor. Going to the gym for an hour and a half is part of my eight-hour work. Going to see Tenet if I want to is part of those eight hours because I want to see the movies. Watching the new 6 or 7 television shows is part of my eight hours. There are amazing great things that fall under what I have to do to be good at my craft. That’s awesome. It’s also not only when I’m on the set. That’s the cherry. That’s the icing on the cake. When I’m on the set, that’s part of the eight hours too, but I’m using the eight hours before I get the job. Before my manager calls and says, “You’re booked,” I’m using those hours every day to get those jobs.

Epic success comes from having a plan, following it as best you can, and also defining what is part of your job. You’re right. Exercise is part of my own self-care. Saying, “I didn’t sleep well so I slept in, but I’m going to go do my workout at noon,” and they’re like, “Why are you doing that?” I’d be like, “It’s because I’m my own boss.”

Epic success comes from having a plan and following it as best you can.

Here’s the beautiful thing about it. 24 hours is a lot of time. That’s a load of time. If you sleep for 8 hours, you have 16 hours left. You put in your eight doing whatever, whether it’s going to the gym, doing your writing, or doing your work, and then you have eight hours to do whatever you want with it. That’s a lot of time.

Oftentimes, you find that your eight hours is not necessarily 9:00 to 5:00 because you might get to noon and be like, “The motivation’s gone right now so I’m going to go take a walk. I’m going to go to the beach,” or whatever. You come back and say, “It’s 6:00 PM now. I had a great afternoon. Now, I feel like I can sit down and do what I want to do.”

You’re an adult. Eat a hamburger for breakfast. You can do whatever you want. You can eat however you want. I was talking to somebody and I thought about this. I go, “I love being an adult.” People are like, “I want to go back to when I had no responsibilities and mom and dad were paying.” I’m like, “I like being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it.” If I’m on a show and I have a call time, I try to pride myself on being professional and being on time. I’m Black. I’m trying to be on time. I’m a believer that if you can’t be on time, be early. I’m a believer in becoming over-prepared and then letting it go. That’s where some of the improv is. Let it go.

I’m a believer in being a problem solver. You’ll find in whatever vocation you are, and if someone’s watching an office or whatever, you can think who the problem-makers are in your office, your life, or your surroundings. There are always people that are setting fires. There are always people that are making problems. There are always people that are expanding the amount of discord and chaos. Your job as a professional, even if you’re working for yourself or whatever, is to be a problem solver.

Part of the reason why I’ve done well in Hollywood is that when my job is to go on set and be on time, whether I’m a series regular or have 2 or 3 lines, it is to be a problem solver. I’ll say to the first-day crew, “My trailer’s right there. I have my costume on. I know my lines. When you’re ready for me, come and get me. You only have to knock once and I’ll come right out of the trailer. I’ll come right out, hit my mark, and get out of people’s way.” You hear so many stories of, “He wouldn’t come out of his trailer.” I’m like, “As long as that check is clear, I’m going to be right out of the trailer.”

It takes so long to build a reputation in two seconds to blow it. To go back to your story, if you are a problem or you’re a pain in the butt, there are 60 other, and I’m using your words, 5’6” chubby Black men. There are 50 other similar-looking dudes more than happy to come take your place, hit their mark, and show up on time.

As with any business, in Hollywood and the entertainment industry, there is a lot of networking. There’s talk between ADs, directors, producers, and stuff like that. When you get the reputation of being the consummate professional, being on time, hitting your mark, or whatever, you are the one who, as they’re talking about it, if your name comes up, they go, “He’s good.”

Time Is Money

The thing people have to remember for not only Hollywood and my business but also their industries is time really is money. Directors, producers, and production companies are working with the same people because they know their time and money are not going to be wasted. I’ve found that if there is a problem or there’s somebody who’s wasting people’s time or whatever, a lot of times, it comes out of the insecurity of that person.

Part of the reason I went to graduate school and got a degree in acting is not because the industry says, “You have to have a Master’s degree.” My Master’s degree isn’t related to my industry. Me being good, me knowing that I’m good, and me not having any hit games about what it is I can do is what pays off and what I went and got my degree for.

I also said earlier, and I will repeat it again, that you have to become good and excellent at your trade. As you do that, the anxiety that makes you go, “I’m going to get found out.” A lot of people who are scared of being found out are the people who are problem-makers because they’re trying to misdirect. I’m trying to be zen. I’m like, “I’m here. I know I’ve studied my lines. I know what I’m doing. I’ll make a strong choice. If the director doesn’t like it, he’ll have me do something else.”

 

You have to become good and excellent at your trade.

 

One of the things that I talk about to people, whether I’m giving a speech or I’m doing coaching, mental health counseling, or whatever, oftentimes, people’s roadblocks or the things that I hear of why they can’t do something are a mirage. It’s like, “I can’t do this because of this.” The roadblocks, you’re putting them in front of yourself. They aren’t there.

I’m with you. Here’s something that I think about. To be an actor or a creative artist is to, in some ways, sign up for uncertainty, insecurity, and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. There are stretches where I’m not working because I’m trying to get work and doing all that. I tell people, “If you want comfort and stability, this is not the industry to get into,” per se.

With some of the anxieties, I go, “They want you to be good. Everybody, when you walk into the room for an audition, is scared. The casting director is scared that they won’t bring in the right people and they never get hired again. The director is worried that the piece is going to be crappy. The writer is worried because it’s not going to jump off the page. The production company is worried because their last three shows were a flop.”

I walk in there and go, “My job is for all of you to know that when I walk out of the room, your shoulders are going to go, “At least we know we have a choice for that part.” When you remember that people want you to be good and you’re allowed to be good, and you’ve trained and prepared to be good, your anxiety and your shoulders can come down a little bit.

I know that as a motivational speaker and stuff, my message is going to resonate with my audience wonderfully. There are people who may hear me speak or read this and think I’m not their cup of tea. That’s fine. I don’t need to worry about those people. I need to play to the audience that wants to hear me.

The beautiful thing is that if they listen to you or read this hour or whatever it’s going to be and they go, “His philosophy is not like mine,” but maybe they take one thing away from it, that’s pretty good. If the takeaway is that what we’re talking about or what I’m saying is not what they want to do, that’s a takeaway. If you recognize a philosophy that is like ours, you’ll steer clear of it and spend your time doing something else. That’s a takeaway.

Double The Penny

I’m into exponential growth. I have a concept called Double the Penny. if you take $0.1 and double it every day, so $0.1 to $0.2 and $0.2 to $0.4, within 30 moves, you’re at $1 million. What I do in my career is wherever I’m at, I’m trying to double whatever. I double $0.1. I’m trying to take $0.16 and make it $0.32. I’m trying to make this $100,000 project and knock it out of the park so I get my $200,000 project. In another two moves, I’ll have my million-dollar project.

A lot of folks  get anxious because their time frames are out of whack. They expect to succeed too quickly. I give this analogy. If I was a senior in college and a freshman walked in crying, I would go, “What’s wrong?” They’re like, “I was away from home for the first time. I got all As. It was hard to adjust, but I did really well and they’re not going to let me graduate.” I’m like, “You’re a freshman.” They’re like, “I know, but I did well. I did this.”

I’ll be like, “Idiot. You’re a freshman. You use the goals of the freshman year in order to put yourself in a great position for the sophomore year. You do that in order to put yourself in position to get together for a great junior year so that you can go to senior year and graduate Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude. You’re not going to graduate after your freshman year. When you understand that and take that pressure off of you, you’ll go to the football games. You’ll go see some plays and go do some other stuff. You’ll be a freshman during your freshman year.”

I can’t say for sure, but most people know who the speaker is. It was Zig who said, “I was a seven-year overnight success.” I get that. You look at the acting community. The people that we go, “That person’s really great,” and because we have IMDB, we can go back, you see the 25 shows that person did where maybe they were an extra. Maybe they had one line that frankly wasn’t particularly memorable.

Success Does Not Come Overnight

Whatever it is. Whatever philosophy you want put into it. You don’t become a partner at a law firm overnight. There’s no lawyer that’s going to graduate from law school and  within a year, be a partner. That’s not how it works, and that’s okay. When you allow yourself the time it takes to mature and grow, it relieves the stress. It gives you the time to become great.

A lot of times, you see a lot of actors who maybe get opportunities that they’re ill-prepared for and they don’t knock it out of the park or they’re afraid, or they’ll sabotage it for some reason because they know they can’t sustain this mirage or whatever it is. You are allowed to give yourself the time it takes to become excellent. It’s not that you’ll be found out, but it’s that you’ll find your people. You’ll find your tribe and they’ll find you because you’re keeping the putting-out-in-the-universe great on that.

The fact of the matter is that our struggles and our failures are where our biggest growth comes from. There was a great book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. It’s awesome. In this book, what he’s talking about is how when we practice something, we build myelin. He was talking about this young girl playing the cello and she’s struggling to play this song. She gets up to a certain point and then she slows down. She’s struggling to find the right notes, the right bridge, and all of that. That’s where the most learning is happening.

Our struggles and failures are actually where our biggest growth comes from.

I know in my own personal journey that there’s stuff I’m going to do and put out to the universe and it will fail. People aren’t going to like it, but that’s okay. I’m building this YouTube channel. Some of the episodes are going to be great, and some are not so great. You’ve been in TV series where you would fully admit that there are episodes that are really great and there are episodes that are not.

I did a show. It was called Under One Roof. It was me and Flavor Flav played Brothers. I believe there was some magazine that called that 1 of the 10 worst shows of all Time. I wasn’t under any illusions that we were solving and curing cancer.

You were pretty sure that your name would not come up for an Emmy.

We weren’t solving cancer. We weren’t getting a cure for COVID. We were acting like fools. We had a good time. The show was what it was. When it got canceled, I called Flavor and was like, “Ah.” You go on to the next thing. In the meantime, you’ve met all those people. You’ve met the production companies. You’ve met the production entities. You’ve made people laugh in the scenes that you can make people laugh in.

You squirrel away a little money so that when there’s a little downtime, you’re living off one of the worst shows ever on TV history. It all can be positive depending on how you want to spin it. There are a million analogies. The guys who get into the Hall of Fame are 300 hitters. That means they hit the ball 3 times and fail 7. The NBA championship is going to possibly lose 3 times but win 4 times and they’re the champion. Losing means nothing. It’s this fourth one that puts the ring on this finger.

There are people who spend their whole professional sports career and never get to play in a playoff or never get the ring, but it doesn’t mean that they weren’t successful. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t good at what they were doing.

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