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      What Is an All-Abilities Theatre? An Interview with Jodianne Loyd

      What Is an All-Abilities Theatre? An Interview with Jodianne Loyd

      Back in February I attended the Senior Showcase of the University of Oklahoma's School of Drama. In the lobby afterwards, I spoke with several of the students about their goals and plans for the future once they graduate. I was particularly impressed by a student named Jodianne Loyd. Aside from acting, her interests include occupational therapy and its role in the theatre. Her enthusiasm on the subject was contagious and prompted me to conduct this interview.


      Kate McCoy: Can you explain what an All-Abilities Theatre is? What exactly does that term mean?
      Jodianne Loyd: Of course! There are varying terms when it comes to this type of theatre. There are several accessible theaters (in which theatre is accessible to disabled audiences and/or disabled performers), and there are theaters for specific disabilities like Deaf theatre, Downs Theatre, etc. All-Abilities Theatre is an umbrella term for “anyone is welcome and accommodated, audience or performer.” Neurotypical, neurodivergent, able-bodied, disabled, seasoned performers and first timers, kids and adults are all able to create together.
      KM: This is a wonderful concept. How did you first hear about it?
      JL: In Oklahoma City there was a community theatre called KidsAlive! which called themselves an All-Abilities Theatre. I am actually unsure how universal this terminology is acknowledged, but I would sure like it to be!

      KM: Absolutely - I love the inclusivity it provides.

      JL: For sure. I was so blessed to work for KidsAlive! as an acting teacher, director and stage manager for its last season before they closed their curtains.

      KM: I imagine you had some pretty memorable experiences working with the kids. Any standouts?

      JL: I directed “A Year in the Life with Frog and Toad Jr.” with a cast of 3-year-olds to 10-year-olds. Our kiddos had a range of experiences and abilities, but one child stands out in particular. This kid had the coolest wheelchair with light up wheels, the brightest smile, but was quite shy. All of the children played several parts (that is the nature of a large show and a small cast). However, over the course of rehearsals this kid had learned every single part and quickly became the star of the show, singing with the loudest voice and the biggest dance moves, a performance so filled with joy that it spread to everyone in the audience!

      Frog and Toad - KidsAlive!
      Photo courtesy of Jodianne Loyd

      KM: That’s awesome. That’s definitely a memory those kids will take with them for the rest of their lives.

      JL: I hope so - it will definitely be with me the rest of my life!
      KM: When I spoke with you in the lobby after your Senior Showcase, you mentioned you want to start an All-Abilities Theatre of your own (which was the impetus for this interview). What inspired that decision?
      JL: I actually have to credit a mom I met years ago during a high school internship at a local pediatric therapy clinic. I told her about my extracurriculars and that I felt like I had to choose either theatre or occupational therapy, and I wished there was a way to combine them. She told me that her kids were all in various activities from music, dance, sports and visual arts and she found that even with accommodations, people were just forcing kids to fit within a system that was not made for them. That is when it all started. I began to ask why we could not change the system? Why can’t art and therapy unite recreationally? Why can’t we create a system to benefit everyone?

      KM: An excellent point. What steps are you taking to pursue that mission?
      JL: In the Fall I will be attending an Occupational Therapy program. Currently I am deciding between a few offers. Occupational Therapy is a wonderful field that looks at the body and mind holistically. In physical therapy, a problem is addressed by focusing on the area of concern. Occupational Therapy expands to understand how everything operates together. Specifically in pediatrics, there is an emphasis on social-emotional skills where pretend play, scripting, and creating stories are utilized. Now all that needs to happen is empirical research and a re-evaluation of the theatre infrastructure currently in place.
      KM: Can you expound on the real-world application of theatrical therapeutic practices?
      JL: Yes! One of my favorite researchers is Thalia Goldstein who has been exploring the intersection between Acting and Psychology. She has a wonderful paper called “Dramatic pretend play games uniquely improve emotional control in young children” which provides an empirical structure to explore this area more. The paper compares three groups of children: one group acts out stories, one group listens to stories, and the last is the control group that plays with blocks. Then they go through a series of tests to determine if acting has any effect on empathy, theory of mind, altruism, comforting, etc. As theater-makers we know the power of stories and Goldstein is providing empirical research to supplement that. With this knowledge we can focus on the development of social-emotional skills.

      KM: It’s such an important topic that I don’t think gets enough attention. Thanks so much for your time, Jodianne. I know you have a lot on your plate right now. What other projects do you have on the horizon?

      JL: My current project is directing my own adaptation of Antigone at The University of Oklahoma. For the past year I have been writing this adaptation, writing proposals to the school, casting, and now finally we are in the rehearsal room! It is such a fun experience so far. We perform at the end of April. I have long held the opinion that theatre always attracts a similar audience, and if we want a diverse audience we have to take the theatre to them. We will be having an outdoor performance in the center of campus for anyone to watch, and we will also have streaming available starting in May. After that, my focus is graduating and making a few more memories with my class before we spread out to various cities!

      Antigone promo photo
      Promotional photo for Jodianne's adaptation of Antigone. Photo credit: Drew Lotter


      KM: I’ll post a link here to the stream once you have it available. Best of luck to you! It sounds like exciting things are on the horizon.

      JL: Thank you!

      Explore more of Jodianne's work at jodianneloyd.com.


      The Working Actor: A Conversation with Linda Gillum

      The Working Actor: A Conversation with Linda Gillum

      Linda Gillum embodies the definition of "working actor." She is an accomplished actor, director, casting director, teacher and mom. I recently sat down with her to chat about the many hats she wears, her current work on stage and her advice to actors. She is currently starring in Sweat by Lynn Nottage at the Paramount Theatre (in the newly renovated Copley Theatre space) in Aurora, IL. Performances run through April 24, 2022.

      Listen to our conversation here:
      or read the transcript below.

      Kate McCoy:
      Okay so here we go. I’m here with actress Linda Gillum. We are sitting in my home in Chicago, IL on a snowy March morning, so thank you for making the trek here.

      Linda Gillum:
      You’re welcome, Kate.

      I want to briefly run through your resume. The title of this piece is going to be “The Working Actor” and when I think of the working actor your name immediately comes to mind. You are currently starring in Sweat by Lynn Nottage at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. First, can you just tell us a little bit about that show?

      Sure, it’s about the struggles of factory workers between 2000 and 2008, and the switch to industrial machinery where they start wanting to get cheaper labor and using mechanicals instead of people, and using non-union labor. And so we all fight for our rights in this small town in Reading, Pennsylvania. And there’s a lot of history there with some of us; our parents and grandparents all worked at this factory. So now our jobs are on the line. It also deals with class as well because there’s a shift in dynamics with white and black workers, where a Black woman gets promoted to management and has to make the really tough decision of locking out her coworkers/friends. It takes place in a bar and it’s where they all gather, and so there’s good times (celebrating birthdays) and then there’s some pretty rough times.

      It’s an excellent play, I’ve seen another production of it a few years ago and it’s wonderful. You are currently in tech, so thank you again for being here because any actor knows it’s the worst time to have any obligations other than the theatre.

      That’s why the coffee is good. (laughter)

      Let me know if you need a refill. So, aside from Paramount you have also worked as an actress at A Red Orchid, Remy Bumppo, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf…just to name a few. But you are not just an actor, you also have directed. Let’s see here, you've directed at Shattered Globe, Noble Fool, Next Theatre, and a few others here. You’re also a teacher. You teach at Acting Studio Chicago, and Remy Bumppo, too, yes?


      Great. And you’re also a Casting Director, and you do casting for Remy Bumppo. And it says here - which I did not know this before so if this is still true, do tell - that you’re also a speech consultant for corporate executives?


      Do you still do that?

      I don’t, actually. I did that, let’s see, 2005 to 2009. And some of the people I did coaching for were in the insurance and banking industry, and then as you know what happened in 2008 - everything crashed - and I was a consultant, so of course, you know, we don’t need that anymore! But it was a great gig while I had it, and sometimes I do a little bit of freelancing on the side if someone needs a speech consultant.

      Wow. And then you’ve also been on screen, most recently in Chicago P.D., I think?


      So basically it sounds like you lead a very boring life and have nothing to do.


      So, I just wanted to ask you, you clearly wear a lot of hats - do you think that is born out of necessity or desire, or both?

      I think both. Yeah. I slipped into casting kind of by accident. I belonged to a theatre company called Defiant.

      R.I.P. Defiant.

      Yeah, R.I.P. And we were a bunch of, you know, ragtag group of students at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I got my M.F.A.. And we started a little company down there, and we all moved up to Chicago and we were here from 1993 to 2004, so a really nice eleven years for a group of kids who had no money. And I directed a lot. I directed downstate and I also directed here in Chicago for Defiant. And what I loved about directing - one of the things I loved about the directing process - was the casting. And so then I just kind of slipped into it via directing and found myself doing more and more of it. And when I joined Remy Bumppo in 2001 - and once again we were just kind of a small company, everybody…we all pitched in and did something - I became the resident Casting Director in 2003. Yeah, and so once again just kind of slipped into it. And then I find that I am actually a better actor when I’m also casting or directing, because sitting on both sides of the table is super helpful. It just takes the mystery out of the whole audition process, so that I know going in as an actor…I kind of know what is in my control and what is not. And it just helps take a little bit of pressure off. And also as a teacher, I can teach those things to students.

      That’s such a good point, too because I do think a lot of actors who haven’t been on the other side of the table, they, you know, they don’t get the role, they think, "What did I do wrong?" And so many times it has nothing to do with them. It’s maybe height-wise they didn’t work with this other actor that was already cast or, you know, a scheduling thing, or whatever it might be. So, I think that’s a really good tip for actors out there is that, number one, work begets work, so when you are doing directing at one thing and kind of slip into the casting director and then also you’re acting, that’s how you make your connections and then that’s how you continue to get hired project after project. And, so you went to Illinois, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign…Champaign-Urbana?


      (laughter) Okay great - I was going to ask what made you choose Chicago, but that seems like it was the natural progression from that school to here if you were already with a group of people that you started a company with and all moved up together.

      Yes. I’m originally from Oklahoma - Tulsa, Oklahoma - and, you know, obviously when I got my B.F.A., in my young mind, it was L.A., New York or Chicago. That was kind of it. I did have a fellow graduate that was going to Seattle, and I actually entertained the thought of going there with her, but I had a teacher that really suggested that I look into grad school. And so I did, and when I went to Urbana-Champaign we were just two and half hours south of Chicago. So then the progression from Oklahoma to Chicago made sense because it’s the big city in the Midwest, you know? And I thought, oh, I can start there and move to L.A. or New York if I want to. But on top of that, then I belonged to this theatre company and we all moved up to Chicago, and then to top it off we also had a showcase, and I got representation. So everything just kind of lined up that the arrow definitely pointed to Chicago. I do have to say though, in ’97 I decided to go to L.A. during pilot season to see if I wanted to work in Casting in TV and Film. I thought that time was better than any, and so I rented a studio apartment, I went from January through May, and I just hit the ground running and I started working for talent agents, literary agents, casting directors…at one point the best job I had was working at New Line Cinema, and they happened to be casting - at that point it was called Two Brothers - it ended up being called American History X. And I just was a fly on the wall during that casting process and I really learned a tremendous amount. But I decided that L.A. was not the city for me as far as making my home base.

      Can you talk about that a little bit? What made you decide that?

      Yeah, it was very isolating. You know, in Chicago it’s almost - we’re in a big city but it’s compact. It’s a community. Everybody knows everybody, you run into everybody, it’s super easy to see somebody. It’s easy to see somebody for coffee, or to go to a show, or go for a drink, or go to dinner, and in L.A. it takes effort. In order to see somebody, just even for a drink, you have to travel an hour because of traffic. There’s really - public transport is kind of, you know, nada, right? You have to have a car, it’s more expensive, and I found that I actually knew more people in L.A. than I did in Chicago and I never saw them. And it was not out of us not wanting to see each other, it was just really difficult. And before I knew it I’m sitting in this studio apartment and I thought, “When I was in Chicago I saw people every single day, even if I wasn’t planning it I would run into somebody.” And we all were encouraging each other, we’d go to each other’s shows and everybody was really encouraging, you know? There were bonds here. The best word I can use is community, whereas in L.A. it was a bit more cutthroat, it was a bit more “What can you do for me?” And so there was this pretense: even if you were really good friends with somebody there was always that veneer of, “Is there something you can do for me?” And it just became really, I don’t know, just not my sensibility whatsoever, even though I loved the work I was doing, I knew that living day-to-day I would be miserable.

      I had a similar experience. I used to live in L.A. I was there for eight years, so I put some time in. But it was a similar thing of, number one, everyone there is in the industry. Everyone. And there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of diversity in terms of what people were interested in or what they did. It was, you know, everyone had a screenplay, and everyone had an audition, and, you know, it just - that got boring. And yes, I agree that it was - it’s a very much “what can you do for me” kind of town. Not to, like, hate on L.A. because I know there’s a lot of people that are like, “L.A.’s the best!” And for some people it is. But I was there before Lyft and Uber and all of that was around so it was incredibly difficult to get places, whereas Chicago I think is a lot more pedestrian-friendly. And so you’re out walking, you’re on the train, you know, whatever, and yeah, you run into people. I tell people all the time: L.A. is a great place to visit and a great place to work but a terrible place to live.

      You hit it on the nose.

      Okay, I want to talk about your casting a little bit. So how we met was I interviewed to be your intern when I first moved here, and for some crazy reason you said, “Okay!”

      (laughter) It wasn’t crazy, it was spot on.

      And I just wanted to ask you, because you’re doing so many things all at once - because you have to train a new person every three months to be your assistant, essentially - doesn’t that get old? Do you wish that you could just hire a person or does the internship program - is it more helpful? Tell me a little bit about that.

      Yeah. Well I think there are three parts to the internship: it was auditions - running auditions, showcases - attending showcases, and then the administrative. And I would say the administrative was the part that was more training, about, you know, the database and the filing and all that. Showcases, it’s just, “Here, meet me at this theatre and we’re gonna go in together and we’ll chat after.” So that was pretty easy. Auditions was kind of, you know, it’s interesting - some people come in with that, almost I want to say stage manager mentality of being super organized, and really knowing how to schedule actors and how to get them sides and the script and run an audition. For some people that just fits like a glove and I really don’t have to do much. For other people it’s something they need to learn, and if I can be instrumental in helping somebody learn that skill I really think it helps them for the future. For anything, really. And so, I found with you, you just came ready-made for it, you’re a very organized person.

      I literally had zero experience.

      (laughter) But that’s okay, you know? Because you just got it immediately, and it makes it easier for me. And then sometimes I would have overlap where I would have, well, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall interns, and sometimes there would be a little bit of overlap where the Winter intern can train the Spring intern. As they’re leaving, the other one’s coming in. And that helped, especially if I was in a show or out of town or whatever, so that was really nice.

      Nice. Yeah, if I were to give advice to actors I would say intern in a casting office.


      Because, and I’ll let you speak a little to it, too, but just even being a reader or just seeing that process, seeing who comes in, seeing how different actors approach the work differently, and what that teaches you. Can you expound on that a little bit?

      Oh definitely. I think one of my favorite stories is casting The Voysey Inheritance by Harley Granville-Barker, adapted by David Mamet. We did the auditions, well we first started talking about the script in 2007, and it’s a one hundred-year-old script. It’s a Ponzi scheme. It’s a family called the Voyseys and there’s six children and a mother and a father, and they’re extremely wealthy. But you come to find out the reason why they are wealthy is because they are living off of their clients’ money. And then when their clients want to be paid, they pay them with other clients’ money. And they’re doing this whole scam, this whole Ponzi scheme. In the course of the play, at the very beginning, the father dies and the conundrum for the family is: do we carry this on? And it’s called Voysey Inheritance because the grandfather was doing it, and he passed it on to his son and that father passed it on to his son. And the family is torn. Some of the kids don’t want to do this anymore, and don’t want to live on the lives of others, and some of the kids are like, “No, we want to live within the means that we’re accustomed to.” So there’s this rift in the family, and they get called out by one of their clients, and so it’s, you know, they can all go to jail. So, anyway, I gave you that backstory because we were casting the role of Hugh, which is the youngest son. And Hugh is an artist, and he’s not at all interested in being a financial person. So he doesn’t want the money, he doesn’t want to be any part of it. And we were casting this role, and by the time we got to callbacks we had two young men we were calling back. Tom and Bob were their names. I had two casting interns from Roosevelt, they were both freshmen. And they were sitting there at the table, and I was sitting there, and our director, James Bohnen, who founded the company, was sitting there, and then we had a reader - Raymond Fox - who was playing the elder brother Edward. And so the scene was between Edward and Hugh. We brought Tom and Bob in for Hugh, and Tom came in and he was just disheveled. He had long, curly disheveled hair, his teeth were kind of crooked, and he was kind of - he just was disheveled is the best way I can use it - but he came in completely off-book, just really tore it up, was really tortured, and just gave a brilliant read. And our hearts were broken for him, you know? James gave him a little bit of an adjustment, he did it, and then he walked out of the room. We were like, “Wow, he was amazing.” Then Bob came in. Bob was a hundred and eighty degrees from Tom. He came in, he had - his hair was almost, like, John F. Kennedy. It was very coiffed, and he came in a suit. I mean, he was very put together. He looked like a financial kind of guy, right? And completely off-book, banged it up, did a great job. He actually had some humor, which was interesting, which we hadn’t seen in Tom, but James gave him the adjustment to just have a little bit more of the heart and the anguish that he had seen in Tom that he liked. Bob did it, took the direction, was brilliant. And he walks out. And we all look at each other. Because they both were right. They both were right for the role. They both were very, very well-prepared, and they both took direction. But they were so vastly different. So our director asked Raymond, who was playing the brother, he said, “Which one do you think?” And Raymond goes, “No, no, don’t put this on me!” And so James goes, “Okay.” And he reaches into his pocket, and he gets a quarter, and he goes to flip a coin, right? My interns - their eyes were as big as saucers -

      Like mine right now!

      I can only imagine what they were thinking. “Oh my god, this is how casting happens?” But then James put the quarter back, he goes, “Just kidding, but really, Raymond, please give me your thoughts here.” And Raymond said, “Well, they both are right for the role, and I enjoyed working with both of them. It depends on which story you want to tell.” And James thought on it for a moment, and he took both of their headshots, and he just very, like, an eighth of an inch, just raised Tom’s up. And Tom got the part, because the story that James wanted to tell was when the family goes down in flames, Tom is not going to be okay. You know, he’s gonna be living in a box under the bridge and that is going to be tragic. Bob? You can imagine that he was gonna pick himself back up and become an entrepreneur and be alright. So the story that James wanted to tell was the more tragic one, even though Bob was an amazing actor, was very well-prepared, and was right for the role. And this is back in the time when I used to call actors to tell them they didn’t get it. We don’t do that anymore, but I’m an empathetic casting director, so what can I say? But anyway, I did call Bob, and I talked to him about it. I didn’t tell him the story, obviously, but I just thanked him for being prepared and told him that, you know, he was amazing and that we would think about him for something else. And then he went on doing Noises Off at the Cleveland Play House, he now lives in L.A., he’s fine. But I think the moral of this is what if when Bob didn’t get that role, that he just beat himself up and said, “Dammit, that was my part. I was right for that, and I worked my ass off. I was really well-prepared. Why didn’t they cast me?” And what if he spiraled into this, I don’t know, depression or “I don’t want to be an actor anymore” or those things that we beat ourselves up on because it’s so personal. We bring ourselves to the roles when we audition. And what if he had done that? Then the world would have missed out on a really good actor. So I tell that story a lot just to tell actors that there is so much that is out of your control, and you just have to let that be and know that the universe will take care of you and it will come back in some other form.

      That’s so good, that’s so good. I was gonna ask you what would be your one piece of advice to actors and I think that’s it.

      Yeah. Well, along the lines of what’s in your control and what’s not in your control, right, and you can beat yourself up; “I didn’t get that part, I didn’t get that and I worked really hard or I’m right for it” or whatever you’re telling yourself. And the thing is, is that we have to remember that we are always planting seeds, and we don’t know when that seed is gonna come into fruition, we just have to be patient. And just to tell you a brief anecdote, I auditioned for Closer when it was at Steppenwolf. I auditioned for the role of Anna, and the director thought I was too young and literally stopped me in the middle of my audition. It was horrifying. But she stopped me in the middle of my audition and said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t get past the fact that you’re too young for this part.” And luckily the Casting Director, who was Phyllis Schuringa at the time, said, “Could she read for Alice?” And the director said, “Yes, by all means.” And so they had me come in the next day and read for Alice. Luckily she let me get through the whole audition, but at the end she did tell me, she said, “You know, you are right in between these ladies.” So I was given a little bit of a gift that I found out why I wasn’t gonna get it in the moment, where I didn’t have to perseverate over it later. But a year later, that same director called me in for Serenading Louie for the role of Mary, and it was for Roadworks. And when I walked into the room she said, “I remember you from that Closer audition. And you weren’t right for that, but when I got this project…this is the part, this is the one.” And I got it. And it was in my top five shows that I’ve done in my career - Serenading Louie. It’s one of my favorite roles that I’ve ever done.

      That’s awesome.

      I didn’t know it at the time, but I had to be patient and know that it was gonna hit at the right time.

      That’s so good. I have a feeling I know the answer to this, but go ahead and describe your typical day.

      Oh boy. It’s always different. You know, I’m also an adjunct at DePaul and in the Fall I teach the M.F.A. 3s Audition for Theatre. And so if I were to look at that kind of schedule it could be that I go and teach that class and then I might have an audition in the afternoon, I might have a show that I’m doing in the evening, and in the meantime I have two small children, and so I’m also getting them ready for school, and picking them up. And so that is, you know, if I’m teaching, and I’m acting, and I’m being a mom - those are three hats in one day I would say. But then there could be a day when I’m running auditions, when I’m a Casting Director, and mom, and maybe those are two hats that I’m wearing in one day. I think right now, because I’m in tech, I’m mom and actor and crazy person. Just because, you know, my commute is two hours a day, and so I’m now at twelve-hour days right now because of tech. And, you know, I’m also a mom that gets up early with the kids and feeds them breakfast and packs their lunches and gets them dressed. And thank god my husband takes them to school in the snow, and then I can come over and have a cup of coffee and talk with Kate.

      Yay! Well, this has been lovely, and I just want to say thank you for trekking it over here.

      Oh, you’re welcome.

      And imparting some of your wisdom and insight. And Sweat runs through?

      Sweat runs March 9 through April 24.

      Awesome. So if you’re in Chicago, you should go check that out at the Paramount Theatre and see Linda Gillum in all her glory and thank you so much.

      Thanks, Kate.

      Q & A with One of Hollywood's Most In-Demand Stand-Ins

      Q & A with One of Hollywood's Most In-Demand Stand-Ins


      This post originally appeared here on June 20, 2021. Since then, Kyle Humphrey received the award for Best Female Stand-In at the Los Angeles Union Background Actors Awards (@LABGawards) presented on March 13, 2022. The accolade comes as no surprise - read all about her Hollywood journey and path to success below!

      Kyle Humphrey didn't move to Los Angeles to become a stand-in. In fact, she had decided to leave the entertainment business altogether until one phone call changed everything. Now she's making quite a name for herself as the go-to stand-in for such A-listers as Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. I recently interviewed Kyle when she had a break from set to find out what exactly her job entails and how she built this career for herself.

      First off, could you explain exactly what it is a stand-in does?

      Stand-ins are really important on set because we help the DP (Director of Photography) and camera department light the actors and set up the shots. It is also usually our job to let the actors know if anything changes in their scene. What happens initially is that the actors will come in to rehearse their scene. Stand-ins will have a script and take notes on everything that their respective actor does (i.e. when they walk across the room, what hand they pick up their cup with, on what word they sit down, etc.). After the rehearsal the actors will go get ready (hair/makeup/wardrobe) and the crew will then use stand-ins in place of the actors. It is your responsibility to know exactly what your actor does in that scene! If the Director or DP changes something they might ask you to tell the actor about the change. For example: "I don't want your actor to cross across the room at this point, instead do it here.” It's also helpful (and sometimes required) that the stand-in look similar to the actor they are standing in for in terms of height, weight and hair color.

      How did you become a stand-in?

      Weirdly, I became a stand-in when I was looking to get out of the entertainment business. When I moved to LA I started booking infomercials, hosting gigs, a few commercials and a role in a movie. [Acting jobs] were few and far between though and I was working three other jobs at the same time, so I was hustling like crazy. I partnered with a friend of mine to start a casting/management company. Sadly, shortly after we teamed up he passed away. I decided then that I was done with the entertainment industry and began a new job as General Manager of a restaurant. After about a year I got a phone call from Bill Dance of Bill Dance Casting. I'll always remember his message... "Hey Kyle, this is Bill Dance. I'm not sure if you live in LA anymore or if you are still in the business at all, but Matthew Weiner, from The Sopranos, is creating a new show called Mad Men. One of the leads is Talia Balsam and you look exactly like her (which I do, ha!). We were wondering if you'd like to stand in for her on his new show?” I had just paid off all my bills as the GM of the restaurant, I was tired of working 80 hours a week and I had come to terms with the loss of my friend enough to possibly get back into the business, but I seriously had no clue what a stand-in did on set. I figured I'd go to the wardrobe fitting and see what it was all about (on Mad Men stand-ins also did background, so we were fitted with 1960s costumes). It was one of the best decisions of my life and Mad Men remains one of the best shows that I've ever worked on to this day.

      What are some things standing in has taught you about TV/film and being on set that you didn’t know before?

      Wow, this is a great question! I actually learn something new about TV/film every single day that I stand in. I've been standing in non-stop now for 13-14 years and it has been better than any acting class that I've ever taken. You are on set every day, you are a valuable part of the crew, you see the show from beginning to end...the opportunities to learn are endless.

      Has standing in ever led to acting jobs for you?

      I've been written into a film (Cat City) just by standing in on it, gotten a role on a TV sitcom (Young & Hungry) by standing in on it and gotten three voice-over gigs (Young & Hungry, Fuller House and Hot in Cleveland) all by standing in on the shows. This isn't typical, but it's not unusual either. Directors, writers, and producers all get to see you act, they get to see your level of professionalism and maturity...it's a great opportunity to shine! But, you also need to stay in your own lane. Don't overstep your bounds and try to become “BFFs” with your actor or any of the “higher-ups.” Just do your job and do it well! Many stand-ins will wander off, fall asleep on set, not pay attention...trust me, that is ALL noticed. This is a job just like an office job and you should always, always treat it as one. I think one thing that I learned as a stand-in is that acting really is hard work. It's very long hours and not always in the best conditions. I've worked in pouring rain, in hail, in sleet/snow, in 120 degree heat...I've done 15-hour days five days a week for seven months, and more Fraturdays than I can ever count (a Fraturday is when you go to set on Friday but you don't stop shooting until Saturday morning). Acting is a commitment. It's not all the glitz & glamour shown about Hollywood. You have to know your lines, hit your marks, be dedicated and BE GOOD.

      Can a person make a career out of standing in?

      Yes, you can absolutely make a career out of standing in. I did! It'll take a while to make the connections you need to make, but once you gain experience and trust from higher-ups you'll get called in repeatedly from the same people. When I was doing only multi-cam stand-in work I had three different ADs (Assistant Directors) who basically took me to every show with them. If they didn't have a show at the time they would pass my name on to other ADs who were looking for an excellent stand-in. When I got into single-cam shows the same thing happened...I was requested by a few ADs continuously, as well as recommended by the head of Casting from various casting companies. As I stated before, professionalism, maturity and experience will always shine. Don't be late, don’t cause drama, stay in your lane and you'll work a ton. Once you become a recurring stand-in you also become eligible for SAG Health Insurance and SAG Pension. This year I became vested in my pension which means I'll have it when I retire.

      Do you have to be SAG to be a stand-in?

      I know that in LA you don't have to be SAG to be a stand-in, but I’m not sure about the New York, Atlanta, Chicago or Canada markets. It's actually an excellent way to get a SAG voucher (note: not all markets operate on the voucher system). If you're non-union and you happen to be on set doing background work it's always possible (and happens frequently) that an AD will need an additional stand-in. They'll scan the people who are there and see who looks like a good match for the actor. If that happens to be you and you're non-union, you are usually given a SAG voucher for the upgrade, and you can tell casting companies that hire stand-ins that you now have experience. Again, this is just another reason for you to always, always be professional on set. If you're there as a background artist but you're sleeping/late/goofing off, you’re the last person they'll think about upgrading to a stand-in position.

      What steps should a person take if they want to become a stand-in?

      I would say that if you want to become a stand-in you should get on set as much as possible. Doing background work gets you seen by a lot of people, attending any classes at casting companies will get you noticed and networking helps a lot as well. I'm an avid networker! Go to social events that are being held by your local theaters (once it's Covid-safe, of course), go to meet & greets for fellow actors, attend workshops, etc. - anything to learn more about the craft and also be seen and network. Central Casting, the largest background/stand-in casting company in all of CA, holds monthly stand-in classes where they teach actors how to stand-in. I think Backstage magazine might hold a few too. We all create our own opportunities, so go out and create yours!

      What are some memorable experiences, positive or negative, you’ve had while working as a stand-in?

      Memorable experiences, wow! So many...both good and bad. Mad Men will always be dear to my heart because it was my first full-time stand-in gig. I got close to a core group of ladies who were also stand-ins on the show and I've remained friends with them to this day. Standing in for Meryl Streep was a huge moment for me too. I covered Meryl for the entire run of Big Little Lies-Season 2. Working with and around Meryl, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and the fabulous Nicole Kidman was a dream come true.

      Wow! Standing in for Meryl Streep - that sounds amazing!

      It was incredible! We shot in Monterey and Carmel for three to four months. We were put up in a nice hotel, paid a per diem each day and were carried for the entire run of the show (being 'carried' means that you are paid for the entire run of the show whether you work or not. You are basically on-call though, so if the schedule changes at the last minute and your actor ends up working, you have to be available, too). After we wrapped on that show, Meryl requested me to stand in for her yet again when she shot the film The Laundromat with Director Steven Soderbergh. We shot all over LA, flew to Vegas for two days to shoot, took a bus to Arrowhead for a few days to shoot and then wrapped back in LA. I ended up standing in for Meryl, Sharon Stone, Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure!

      Are there any other celebrities you've worked with that stand out to you?

      I spent five seasons standing in for Wendie Malick on Hot in Cleveland and we became fast friends. Now I hike with her, go to her house and she frequently requests me to stand in for her on her national commercials, pilots, TV shows and films. She is an incredible person with a true heart - totally down-to-earth, passionate about animal rights and just an all-around lovely person. And yes, I did work with Betty White for five seasons, too! Although I wasn't her stand-in I spent many, many hours on set with her talking and joking around. She is a true gem.

      Those sound like some pretty incredible experiences.

      Yes, for sure. Other positive experiences are, of course, what I mentioned above about being upgraded to day-player or voice-over roles while on set. I worked with the same director, Andy Cadiff, on a number of sitcoms. He upgraded me three different times to principal roles. As far as negative experiences, well, there will always be those in this business. You come across challenging actors, difficult stand-ins that you may have to work with for a long time, unpleasant location shoots and then the (almost always) young PA (Production Assistant) who thinks it's his job to treat you like crap. However, now that the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements have come about, those experiences are fewer and far between.


      This has been great! Anything else you'd like to add?

      As far as becoming a stand-in, it's not something I ever sought out or thought I'd do for a living, but it's been quite a ride! I've worked with the best-of-the-best and I'll have stories to tell for the rest of my life. I have a SAG pension, I have continuous health coverage, I make a decent living financially and I've met some wonderful people on set who are now my best friends. I'm currently standing in for Julia Roberts on her new show with Sean Penn, and I never would have been considered for this opportunity without the professionalism and experience I've gathered through the course of these years.

      IMDB: Kyle Humphrey

      Q & A with Actor José Antonio García

      José "Tony" García is an actor who made the move from Chicago to L.A. earlier this year. His recent credits include Superstore, The Chi, Proven Innocent, Empire, Chicago P.D., Chicago Med, and Shameless, among others. He also heads up the Instagram account The Practical Actor where he provides acting advice and guidance. Tony and I met a few years ago while working together as interns at a casting office, and recently I interviewed him to learn more about his decision to move from Chicago to Los Angeles.

      José Antonio García headshot
      José Antonio García


      How long did you live in Chicago before moving to LA?

      I had two "Acts" in Chicago. I first lived there from 2003-2008, then from 2011-2020. We moved down to Houston in 2008 to be closer to [my wife] Sarah’s family and for a change of pace. We quickly realized we missed Chicago terribly as well as all the friends we still had there, so we moved back just in time for Snowpocalypse in 2011. Good times!

      What do you miss most about Chicago?

      The CTA, believe it or not. We sold our car back in 2013 and pretty much lived off the CTA and Lyft. LA has public transit, but it's just not as efficient. We have a car now and it's great, but I do miss being able to just hop on a train and let somebody else do the driving. I'll admit, I'd probably feel differently if I was actually still there taking CTA during this pandemic.

      What made you decide to move to Los Angeles?

      Opportunity. My last few years in Chicago I really started focusing more on TV/Film work. The Chicago market is great, but it does have a ceiling. I got the opportunity to work on a lot of the shows in Chicago, so I found myself staring at that ceiling. The LA market is the biggest in the country. There is no ceiling here. If a Chicago show gets cancelled, it's kind of a big bummer. If a show gets cancelled in LA, there's 10 new shows to take its place. Simply put, it's a numbers game, and there's just a ton more opportunity out here to find work in the TV/Film world.

      You moved at the beginning of the pandemic. Did that have any effect on your decision to pack up and go?

      Yes and no. We'd been planning this move since 2019, it wasn't just something we decided to do a few months prior. When March hit and everything started to shut down, we were already way deep into our planning. We did stop for a minute and discuss whether we should keep going or come up with a Plan B. We quickly decided to keep moving forward and come out. We'd been working on it for so long it just felt like we had to keep going no matter what. If we were going to be stuck somewhere, might as well be stuck out here. Plus at that time, we were all still under the impression that things should be going "back to normal" by July, so of course we wanted to be in LA when things opened up again. Moving during all this oddly worked in our favor as well, because everything and everyone was operating on high alert. Being super careful, super detailed, and making sure that everything was handled safely. 

      How has the reality of living in LA differed from your expectation?

      It has differed quite a bit. Because so much has been closed or at least not opened all the way, we haven't really gotten the "LA Experience" so to speak. We've certainly gone here and there and have gotten to the beach a few times, but everything feels held back. Nothing is operating at full potential or capacity, so it's just a "less than" version of everything. And since all of the auditions I've gotten out here have been Self-Tape or via Zoom, I haven't gotten to go to an LA Casting office in person, so I can't even compare that experience. It's kind of like going to the Target on Elston, or the one by UIC, and then going to the one on Belmont and Clark. That's a weird analogy, but yeah. 

      With auditions and many productions moving to a virtual format, what have been some of the challenges in adapting to the new normal?

      Making sure the mess is well hidden behind my pop up backdrop! I count myself somewhat lucky. I started familiarizing myself with doing self-tapes a while ago and had been slowly building my arsenal of equipment. I picked your brain pretty much every time I worked with you on a self-tape! Feels like I've been preparing for this "new normal" without even realizing it. The challenge then became making sure I had the right tools to get the job done and not just a bunch of unnecessary bells and whistles. Practicing my setup so I can get it up and ready quickly and not having it be a burden every time I have to do a self-tape. I'm still fine-tuning things to help expedite the process. I'm currently looking at creating a permanent set up so I can just hit the on switch on everything and be ready to go. The other side of this coin is maintaining an elevated sense of energy and commitment. It can be easy to relax a little too much with your self-tapes when you're in the comfort of your own home. That "in the room" feeling is gone, so you have to be able to create that energy for yourself. We don't have casting directors giving us notes, asking us to try it differently, or even a sense of how we might be doing based on the energy in the room. We have to be able to produce and perform in a vacuum, on top of now also having to be good at lighting, rigging, cinematography, sound, etc. Being able to create that world for yourself becomes that much more important when you've got a pile of dirty laundry and your dog doing unmentionable things to your throw pillow just off camera.

      What advice can you give actors who might be considering a move to L.A.?

      Come out for a visit. Get a feel for the place. Have a plan and commit to that plan. "I'm willing to travel" is one of the biggest lies actors use. Talent agencies and casting directors are not going to take a chance on anyone whose presence is dependent on the efficiency of Southwest Airlines. It's just not going to work. The new growing standard of accepting self-tapes is certainly going to open doors for some people, but being a local hire is still very much a thing that a lot of productions are not going to budge on. Especially with the dangers of traveling right now, they're just not going to do it. Find the right people out here. Everyone is an "actor" out here, everyone has a "project" they're working on, everyone has "connections," and there's a reason I'm putting all those words in quotes. Stay focused and do the work. That part doesn't change. Everything is just bigger and more plentiful and more spread out. Don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed.

      Lastly, what is your favorite thing about L.A.?

      Street Tacos!! Holy crap they are everywhere and they are all delicious. Dine at your own risk, of course, we are talking about street meat here after all. But dang, just good tacos everywhere. The ocean. Nothing like salt water. Lastly, fitness is a religion out here. Even casual fitness. I'm hoping some of that rubs off on me.


      When Tony is not busy eating street tacos, you can find him here:

      Q & A with Director Matt Miller

      Recently I chatted with Matt Miller, a Chicago-based industry professional who has been working in the arts for more than twenty years. Here he discusses navigating jobs through a pandemic and his thoughts on the future of theatre and tv/film production.


      What is your job title?

      I'm a director. Plays and commercials mostly.

      How long have you been doing that?

      I've been directing theatre professionally since I moved to Chicago in 1999. I've been directing commercials now for the last six years.

      I’m sure COVID-19 has caused quite a disruption in your occupation. Are you working or are things at a standstill?

      Live theatre is at a dead stop and will be for a long time I fear.

      Commercial and TV/Film production stopped for a couple months when quarantine began back in March, but, as we have learned more about the virus and how to contain it, production has adapted and slowly re-started. Commercial production pivoted quickly to user generated content at the beginning of quarantine and now more traditional shoots are happening with new protocols, social distancing, and on-set COVID compliance officers in charge of keeping everyone safe.

      How is your job different now than it was before the pandemic?

      In May I directed a commercial for Lowe's that took place in four locations across the country (LA, Chicago, Alabama, and New Jersey) all through Zoom. That was definitely a very different experience and not something I ever anticipated doing. I don't think anyone liked working that way, but we were able to keep people safe and capture some good content that the client loved. I can see that kind of shoot happening again.

      Matt Miller on set

      What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while working during this time?

      With the return of commercial production, the biggest challenge has been keeping actors safe. For crew, there are all kinds of protocols and procedures in place. However, most of those safety practices are rendered ineffective when you need to put actors in a scene together without masks. Right now most productions are casting actors or families who are already quarantined together to reduce risk. This will probably be the norm for the rest of this year at least until testing can become more readily available.

      Has anything good or pleasantly unexpected come from being quarantined?

      Well, on a national level I feel like our country is more actively wrestling with the many social inequalities and injustices that have long been allowed to fester in a culture that normally likes to serve up plenty of distractions. I think that has been positive and hopefully continues.

      On a personal level, I'm trying to use this time to read more and work on projects around the house that I have been too busy for previously. My girlfriend and I are also growing tomatoes on the back deck and they are straight up delicious.

      What are your thoughts on how you see the industry moving forward?

      For a time, I do think that anything that can be done remotely through Zoom will be. Already clients and ad agencies are watching shoots via Zoom rather than being present on set. Now that this option has been tested, that approach may be something that sticks as it's a big time and money saver. Casting directors have been able to use the break-out room feature in Zoom to good effect and virtual casting sessions have become more standard. This development puts more responsibility on actors especially to have quality at-home set ups for recording with proper lighting, backdrop, and microphones. So I think we are going to see--and already are seeing--the rise of the home recording studio for actors. While I think we will get back to in-person casting sessions when it's safe, I would not be surprised if Zoom casting sessions remain in the mix after the pandemic.

      What advice can you share with actors as they navigate through this crazy time?

      Read fiction. Engage with challenging stories. An actor's best tool is their imagination and reading fiction helps keep that blade sharp in the absence of actual stage or screen time. And, on a practical level, today's novel is tomorrow's movie.


      Check out some of Matt's work at mattmillerdirect.com.