TAEM- The Arts and Entertainment Magazine has many followers among students of the Arts who use our publication as a learning tool to hone their careers. By taking the learning experiences of successful actors they are able to undertake the learning processes and avoid the pitfalls of those that we have interviewed.
One of the success stories that we like to tackle is the transition from television to the silver screen. We also like to explore the differences between the two types of acting for our readers to digest. One actor who straddles these venues is Ashton Bingham.
Ashton, what enticed you to take up acting for your career and who were your greatest influences to do so?
AB- I was first enticed at the age of 8, when my grandfather taught me a magic trick. That small action became the catalyst that completely shaped the rest of my childhood, all the way through high school. Every fiber of my being looked forward to learning my next magic trick, and performing it for my next spectator. I wasn’t much of a partier in school; I spent my time and allowance practicing, honing my sleight of hand, and acquiring more learning materials. By the time college hit, I was working very consistently in the northern Nevada area at corporate gigs, kids’ birthday parties, restaurants, and theaters, performing everything from close up card tricks, to large stage illusions (yes I did cut my assistant in half!). How did this lead me to acting you ask?? Well, like magic, I had a major fascination with making movies and acting in them. It was hard to catch me without a camera in my hand; but despite the fact that this hobby fell by the wayside a bit when magic came along, it was a fire inside me that never died. As I was finishing up my second year of college, I had to pick a direction. And as much as I would have loved to have my own show in Vegas…I dreamt bigger. It took me about 9 months, but I made all the necessary arrangements, packed everything, left everyone I knew, and moved to Los Angeles on January 9th, 2010 – the most exhilarating and terrifying day of my life to date.
TAEM- In pursuing your career what education and training did you take for your success?
AB- There are countless people that I have learned extremely valuable lessons from to date, both inside and outside the industry. But I owe my biggest amount of growth as an actor and a participant of this industry to my coach Joe Palese of The Actor Space. I was introduced to him by the only person I knew in this town when I moved here, and have been training with him ever since. I don’t believe an actor ever “graduates” from his or her training. The minute one thinks they know everything there is to know about this art, they should stop. This place gives me a safe space to develop my craft, take risks, and better refine the tools of my emotional instrument. It’s like a gym for a body builder. Consistency is a must. Outside of this, I continue to learn from every single audition, every mistake, every risk, and every failure (and believe me I’ve had many). But I find a way to pick myself back up again every single time. As a close friend and mentor of mine Karen Storms once told me, “Actors don’t fail, they quit.”
TAEM- Your first taste of the silver screen was a role that you played in the short Transit Authority. How excited were you to land this role and what confidence did you earn towards your career?
AB- Any outsider might laugh, but to me it was a huge step and very memorable moment. I could tell you exactly where I was sitting when I got the news. The feeling of being wanted for something, the feeling of achieving something, and the confidence of knowing that I CAN DO THIS was overwhelming.
TAEM- It wasn’t long after that you landed a role in the top TV series 90210, in 2011. What sense of exhilaration did you feel for this achievement?
AB- Again, this was another HUGE stepping stone. One I am thankful every day to be blessed with. It was an emotional experience to see my hard work materializing into something. Working on the show was like a vacation – a vacation from all the work that goes into making it happen. I am NOT a morning person, but I popped out of myself like it was on fire every morning of my shoot days. It also served as a serious eye-opener. Many people who want to be actors don’t fully understand the process. It’s 10% SHOW, 90% BIZ; and you have to truly have a passion for every aspect of it. Getting to work with such a wonderful group of people, and doing something that genuinely fuels me, was an incredible reminder that this IS what I want to do. Going back to a day job after my run on the show was dreadful. But that dread served as fuel to go on vacation again!
TAEM- You appeared in three episodes of that series. Tell us about the character that you played in it and how it bolstered your career.
AB- I played “Allen,” a close friend of one of the leads in that season. I was a member of the nerdy “clique” that followed a particular character through the different ups and downs of his romance with the character “Naomi”. Being my first national television booking, it was a very good learning experience in regards to my “type.” It is extremely important for new actors to understand where they belong in this business. You have to think of yourself as a salesman selling a product. You have to know exactly what the product is, and where it is most useful, or nobody will buy it. Many new actors make the mistake of thinking they can play everything, which intellectually, they probably can. But the business doesn’t work that way. Getting “type-cast” is a positive thing, especially when you’re just getting your feet wet and trying to make a name for yourself. From this experience, I was able to gain a much stronger platform for networking. I now had a “type.” Marketing the crap out of that has allowed me to be memorable to casting directors, secure many wonderful talent agents, specifically the one I have now, and get sent out on numerous huge opportunities that I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning for.
TAEM- You went on to play a role in another television series, Parks and Recreation, in that same year. How were you able to separate the characters that you played?
AB- It was very simple, and very much on the track of this “type” that I’ve established for myself. The 2 characters are not that much different. They’re basically ME, with different attitudes. Joe always teaches us to not “go to the script,” but to “bring the script to our self.” When I’m playing a character, I’m not trying to create or manufacture some facsimile of what that character could be. I’m researching within myself to figure out how I would feel, behave, think, and move, in the given situations and details of the script. It happens more than you think. Most major stars tend to play themselves…why? Because it’s the most honest and interesting way to do it. And if you ever hang out with any of them in real life, 9 times out of 10 you’ll find they’re pretty darn close to who they play on screen.
AB- I played Cole, a quirky but lovable (surprise, surprise) outcast who’s on a life-changing road trip with his closest (and only) friends to find himself, and set the course for the rest of his life. This was a very unique experience. It really was the gateway for my desires to create my own work, and not be hindered or intimidated by the terrifying thought of “budget.” The director had a vision, a passion for the story, and a love of telling it. Despite the many hurdles the team faced, they all stuck together, and completed the film. And I am lucky to have been a part of it.
TAEM- What are the differences in playing television roles and performing in movies, and how were you able to adjust to this?
AB- It’s really just about knowing the material and the audience that it’s aimed at. My audition for Comedy Central will be vastly different than one for a Clint Eastwood movie. Certain mediums will provide for what some might call “bigger” or “smaller” performances, or “over-the-top” or more “subtle” kinds of humor. But the most important thing is to always remain honest. My coach always says “Don’t ever let them catch you acting.” Especially in films, where the camera tends to go a lot closer into your face, you have to be careful to not “push” the emotion, but to remain honest. Any false moments will forever be printed in the history of cinema. Kinda scary sometimes.
TAEM- In 2012 you played in two widely different types of movies, Is This A Date and The Brute Killer. How were you able to portray the characters these productions called for by changing the style of your own acting, and how did you handle that?
AB- As I mentioned, it’s more about just understanding the tone. I play everything as honestly and close to my heart as I can. In films like “Is This A Date,” I just had to let a little more of my inner “funny” come out, where as “The Brute Killer” was a much more intense and emotional tale that required me to go to much darker places. But like always, it’s about bringing the story to my life and my experiences, and playing it the most honest way possible for me.
AB- I play the lead role of “Tyler,” who is a troubled kid that gets sucked into a business counterfeiting money for reasons of protecting his best friend and chasing the woman that he loves. Being one of the creative forces behind the project, I was able to explore many emotional levels that I hadn’t gotten to on screen yet, and go down a little bit of a darker road than any of the other roles that I had previously booked. It was an incredible learning experience in acting, as well as filmmaking. We had a small, but amazing team behind this film, which is currently in the final sound mix and color correction stages. I very much look forward to our upcoming screenings and seeing this film take off.
TAEM- We understand that you have several other productions that you are working on. Can you give us a sneak peek behind the scenes of these ?
AB- Absolutely! It’s extremely important to have specific focus in your career pursuit. For me, it’s continuing to book more career-boosting film and television roles. But, I feel it’s still healthy to have other outlets of creativity in the downtime. I take great pride in the wonderful people I work with and associate with, and have a blast creating fun projects on the side with them. I recently shot a pilot called Bug Busters, which is about a team of pest control gurus that think they’re superheroes, but are truthfully far from it. I’m blessed to share the screen with the incredible talents of Raja Deka, Art Kulik, Tony Mirrcandani, and Jamie Renée Smith; and the pilot was directed by the beautifully talented Anna Petrova. It was a quick shoot, but loaded with lots of fun. Also cooking is a feature film comedy script about a “Bro Getaway” gone wrong. Also behind this are Guile Branco, Raja Deka, and Lawrence Dwyer. Pursuing this career is very much a full time job, and it will be feast or famine more often than not. But even in the famine, I need to stay creative, stay inspired, and stay busy, 7 days a week! Because I have another “vacation” coming very soon…I can taste it.
TAEM- Ashton, we want to thank you for your time with our interview and know that our readers, and your fans, have enjoyed learning so much about you. We want to wish you much luck in all that you do and hope that you keep us informed in all your future career undertakings.