3. Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Driving to Los Angeles

In 1991 after graduating from Ithaca College David Boreanaz decided to move to Los Angeles to try and pursue a career behind the camera. “It wasn’t until after I started college that I sat down with my father and we talked about what I was going to do after I graduated. I had family out in Los Angeles and my intentions were to work behind the camera, because I’d studied film at college.” (14) David drove out there with his dad and it took them two weeks to get there. David: “My father and I, we just drove out cross-country… we spent two weeks on the road, had a great time - visited all the breakfast spots along the way. We used to get up at five in the morning, drive for two hours and then find the best pancakes along the way. That was our thing.” (168) David also spoke about his trip on a Regis & Lee show in 1999. Regis: “Talk about your Dad because you took one of these cross-country father/son trips?” David: “Yeah. When I first moved out to Los Angeles.” Lee: “You gotta like your father to do that.” David: “He's a good guy. We're best friends and we took some time- two weeks on the road. We packed everything in my old car- moved out to Los Angeles.” Lee: “Did you have a job waiting for you or is this...?" David: “No. It was just something that, you know, I just wanted to move out to Los Angeles and just put myself out there… We stopped off in small little towns …had Buffalo burgers in Billings, Montana - The Raspberry Festival I think- somewhere in Utah.” Lee: “Which made memories you'll never forget?” David: “Yeah. I mean - once you have those in your heart, they'll be with you.” (162)

Living on a Green Couch

David Boreanaz moved in with his sister Bo and slept on her green couch in downtown Los Angeles. David: “I headed out west after graduation with my father on a great adventure thinking that I would surely enough get a 2 picture deal but I ended up on a green couch in my sister’s loft in downtown Los Angeles. It was the single least comfortable green couch known to man, but it took an earthquake to get me off that couch and onto my ass, you see fear is such a great motivator…”(125) David: “When I first moved to L.A., I had some friends and family out here. The first place I lived, ironically, was downtown. I lived in the artists' district downtown, I slept on a green couch, people were coming in and out of the room every day and it was almost like, there I was, trying to find my way, confused, mixed up, trying to find any kind of help. And I was thrown into this big city.” (165) “Every day I would get off that couch and I would put on my suit, I actually had two suits. I would grab my briefcase packed with 200 resumes that I’m sure that my mother pressed before I left for Los Angeles and I would drive to studio back lots and I would go on in. I would act as if I owned the place, I’d hang on sets, I’d get unintentionally cameos in the crowds and then when they called lunch I would follow the pack, the craft service and I would eat. I mean why not it’s free food.” (125) “I lived downtown with my sister. I lived on a couch, and I had two suits I had gotten for graduation. I put one of those on every morning, and I’d drive into Los Angeles and I’d go to a studio, and I had my suit on and my briefcase full of resumes, and I’d walk through the front gate like I belonged. I walked on the set of Cheers; I walked on the set of a Francis Ford Coppola film. I just kept walking and talking to these people and made it more or less [about] getting insight into the business and trying to pass out my resume to the right people. I lived vicariously through this fantasy world I created, which kind of ran out pretty fast, ‘cause I had to pay the bills.” (40) In 2018 David Boreanaz talked about what it was like for him and anyone else starting out: "It was hard to find that role for me starting our in Hollywood when I moved out there and I was like' hey I'm just going to go direct a movie'. Well it doesn't work that way. 'I have these great creative visual images',' that's fantastic hold on to them, but why don't you go over and clean out that honey wagon that needs cleaning, why don't you gather all those 20 walkie-talkies and batteries that are dead, why don't you think ahead and get me a cup of coffee or a donut with some of those sprinkles on it?'...The sheer reality of it is that you start really low here."(314)


One of the ways David Boreanaz paid his bills was the fact that he started acting - it kind of just happened almost by accident, but thank God that it did happen. There are two versions on how he ended up in front of the camera instead of behind it. One is that he accompanied a friend to an audition and ended up being the one that was cast instead of his friend. (9) In another version someone took a polaroid photo of him and he was then cast in a TV-commercial for Foster’s beer. (13) This was his very first acting job. “I basically came out here looking for work behind the camera, but instead landed in jobs in front of the camera. It just kind of happened.” (167) David did more than 15 TV-commercials mostly for beers and cars (7) and no it wasn’t always easy – he tells a very funny story about an audition for a commercial for Double Mint Gum: “I had a horrific commercial audition when I first came out to Hollywood. It was for Doublemint gum. You have to watch this video for like 10 minutes, and they show you how to put the piece of gum in your mouth and then you have to pair up with people. Well, at the time I went in for the audition, I just got over this horrible breakup with this girl. I was in love, I got totally destroyed , and I go in and, lo and behold, who walks in the door for the Doublemint audition? My ex, and she’s like, “Hey!” I’m dying inside, you know, and she’s like, “We’ve got to pair up. Would you like to pair up with me?” And they have to be two people who put the gum in their mouth and kiss afterward. I’m like, “Yeah, sure, OK.” So now we go into the room and not only can I not get the piece of gum out of the wrapper – I’m shaking – but then I had to kiss her and I hit her cheek with the gum. It was a complete disaster, and she was like, “Oh my God, really? I always book these spots.” And I’m just standing there with a broken piece of Doublemint gum.” (169) Needless to say he didn’t book that commercial! In 2018 David Boreanaz spoke about how nervous he was at this very early point of his career even to the extent of not being able to remember lines: "There’s this experience - like I did this commercial it was David Fincher, [who] was doing these sets of commercials in the early 90s, it was these one line movie lines and I had to [say], 'Open the Pod bay doors, Hal' that was my line coming in [and] as everybody was throwing these lines back and forth – oh, Fuck I couldn’t remember that line, I was so damn nervous, I was like, I had the outfit on, I looked like this dude from the early 90s, it was like Nirvana, it was crazy, you knew it was crunch time and I just like 'Open the Pod bay doors' I literally had it written on the card board box, I was like, 'Open Hal pods' shit, fuck what am I doing man, I was just like a disaster of a, I just couldn’t, I would tell myself, you just need to [chill]." (311)

I found one commercial with David for JCPenney made around 1996 according to arijason, who published it on YouTube. Amazing that it is still in existence even after 20 or so years.

Learning How to Act

Obviously a commercial here and there wasn’t enough to make a living – making it as an actor in Hollywood really isn’t easy. David Boreanaz’s dad said about him: “David was aware of how challenging and difficult the acting business is, and that people spend a lifetime trying to become successful. Yet he was so focused so I sat back and said, `Go for it.’” (159) Since David only ever took one acting class in college he needed to learn how to act. Unfortunately most classes didn’t really make sense to him: “One teacher made me sit on stage and release tension by imagining that I had an LP record squeezed between my ass cheeks.” (167) “I took classes. I was always the misfit in the back. I didn’t really get the classes… Acting classes in Hollywood are very strange… They don’t really make much sense to me. I mean, they tell you to go up on stage and be a tree.” (168) David needed an acting technique that would work for him: “I was really raw…I was just kinda showing up, thinking I was Marlon Brando in Streetcar, I would dive on my knees and scream and cry and bleed. I thought if I was bleeding profusely, I was doing my work, which is a bit crasy.” (9) Luckily he found Stephen Book, who taught him the Viola Spolin improvisational technique and that worked for him.(9) (Read more under Actor). He also studied at the Gardner Stages on Sunset, where they did lots of monologues and scene study work. (40) David also did several plays in theatres one in 1994, where David played Johnny a drug addict in `Hatful of Rain’ on the Ensemble Theatre and I found an old review of this performance; here is what it said about David: “Watching Johnny descend is disturbing, mainly because David Boreanaz is so adept at conveying the character's desperation. While hardly an understated performance--Boreanaz twitches and shakes like all the junkies we've ever seen in the movies--it is an affecting one. Boreanaz seems in genuine pain.” (171) It sounds a lot like David knew what he was doing even then. David also did two plays written by Sam Shepard – Fool for Love (1996) and Cowboy Mouth (1996) (229). Cowboy Mouth was directed by Hamlet Sarkissian and on his Instragram page he has very kindly put up some photos from Cowboy Mouth among them some photos of David - here is a link to two of them (1) and (2).Apparently at some point the gurney, presumably the one Slim (David) was lying on after Cavale kidnapped him, broke down during a very emotional scene and they all started laughing hysterically. (230). David talked about his theatre experiences in 1998: “I did all theatre before I got into television. It’s part of my background. I prefer theatre. I did a… Sam Shepard play, and the whole experience was memorable in itself, and I worked with some good people. It was a lot of fun.” (170) These were all non-paying shows so David needed to find other kinds of work to make a living. He had a lot of very odd jobs.

Earning a Living

  • David Boreanaz: “I cleaned out honey wagons,” (172) which is “cleaning out toilets on set locations.” (173) That must have been really unpleasant, but at least it was on set!
  • David continues: “I painted houses. I was a towel boy for two weeks at an upscale sports club in Los Angeles that was full of egos and that’s why I got fired. I threw a towel at somebody. I had crazy jobs. I had to dress up in a bear outfit and that lasted an hour. I had to go to some Bar Mitzvah for some kid show or something. I got there and the bear shoes didn’t fit and I said, ‘Guess what? They’re not my shoes. I’m not in this gig,’ and I left.” (172) David tells the towel boy job story slightly different in another interview: “I was in a white polo shirt and shorts with a bunch of egos coming in to work out being so rude. I got fired after three weeks for kicking a door down.” (166)
  • The strangest job he had lasted between two days and two weeks depending on which version of the story is the correct one – selling gourmet-food door to door. “I used to sell gourmet food door to door. I used to sell like steaks and chicken. I used to drive around in this little truck in Hollywood and ring the doorbell… That was the first thing, you had to try to get them to do is open the door, because… someone selling gourmet chicken or steak, it just doesn't make much sense. It's strange… Well, I actually made one sale, once. And I got so excited; I sold a box of Dover Soles to this older lady. And I took the box out of the freezer in the back, and I locked the keys in chest. And that was the last thing I sold. That job lasted two weeks.” (2000) (168) The other version is from 2014: “I sold gourmet food door to door, which didn’t work out too well – I think that lasted two days. You’d get into a car and you’d have the whole sales pitching and you’d walk up to the door and basically try to sell them flash frozen lobsters and fillet mignons and then get them to purchase these… This was back in 1991 so I got into the van after I did the sales training with the other person I was with and I said, `we should just go to Beverly Hills.’ I mean they’ll buy steaks and lobster and what not so we got out there. We finally got one woman to come out and it was this lavish huge mansion. It was like Sunset Boulevard and our truck was parked outside. We had to sell to her through the intercom so she came out and she said, `Oh that sounds pretty interesting.’ We went back to the van and we had locked the key into the back of the refrigerator truck so we couldn’t get her the goods so that didn’t work out too well for me…” (42)
  • The job David Boreanaz had for the longest was valet parking. He used to park cars at a very nice L.A. hotel and remembers parking Robert De Niro’s car – a large Mercedes: (158) “I remember it was the first year I was doing it [valet parking] and De Niro was doing Casino at the time and I parked his car… I was studying a Hatful of Rain – a play I was doing in a small theatre in Orange County and I had the playbook in my back pocket and he signed it for me… I have it right now it’s all wrinkled and what not. When I look at that playbook it reminds me where I was and where I would like to go.” (146) I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to keep believing that he would eventually get discovered. David did talk a little bit about his struggling years and what that was like: “With any job, I think you have to take away something from what you’re doing.I don’t want to go back to the days of parking cars or selling gourmet food door to door, but within those confines of work, you learn more about yourself in the days that you’re struggling. You confront your fears and use them rather than cast them aside, so I think with all the odd jobs I ever had, there was some kind of enlightenment but, yes, a lot of pain and suffering that I don’t want to re-live.” (153) And: "There was one point in my life when I was parking cars and I was looking at myself going, 'What am I doing here?' Parking cars really sucked! It was the worst job I ever had. I was really down and depressed and sad. But I kept doing plays and memorising my lines as I was doing the car parking. Living through those bad times, I learned a lot about myself, and I definitely gained as a person. I met some interesting people. I look back at that time and say, 'Jesus that was really difficult and hard.' I wouldn't want to go back there, but I see it in retrospect and I understand it. Now I feel blessed, in a way that I went through it in the way I did." (141)

Working as a P.A.

David Boreanaz also occasionally worked as production assistant and prop master on various films: “My philosophy was that if I wanted to be around and get involved in work in show business and be an actor I had to be on sets. I took the odd P.A. jobs and worked on a film called Best of the Best 2, when Eric Roberts was on it and Chris Penn was on it so for me it was like working in props as a PA person going out and getting coffee. Being there - being around the actors and seeing them work and I remember Eric was doing a scene and I was under the table as the prop master trying to make sure the chair didn’t fall over when he got up. You know seeing an actual show or film being produced.” (42) Another experience from Best of the Best 2 told in 2013: “We had to colour rocks in the middle of the desert – I painted the best rocks… we did a sweat lodge and it was raining and they were doing a sweat lodge scene and we decided to paint the other PA as the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. We did and we told him to go into the tepee with Eric Roberts and a bunch of other actors – they were very upset at the time… it was a bad joke anyway - I actually painted him.”(219) David was also an extra on Best of the Best 2 (1993): “Hand picks up piece of paper” (175) and on Aspen Extreme (1993): “Tenth guy in the back row waving.” (175) He was also in a music video: “I was in the chorus in the background.” (12)

Getting an Agent

David Boreanaz really needed an agent to help him book auditions and negotiate terms so he could concentrate on his acting. Getting an agent is however not that easy when you are an unknown actor. Apparently he turned up unannounced at CAA (CreativeArtists Agency) a really big agency representing some of the biggest names in the industry. He wanted to drop off his resume to them and ended up being chased out of there by security guards. “I wanted to be involved in the business – no matter what. I thought the only way to meet people was to go to where they were working so I went.” (159) The irony of this story is of course that today David is represented by none other than CAA. David also used another method to try and get an agent: “My way to get into an agency at the time was to call up and say to them, `You guys left a voice message on my machine saying that you wanted to see me cause I dropped off my headshot,’ because back then they had voice message machines right? They don’t [remember] – ‘Let me see in here, I don’t remember doing that’ – but that’s how I got in the door. I did this to two of them and one of them I went in and I remember sitting and it was not really the more adult oriented place and it ended up being a kid’s agency. One of the girl’s saying, `I don’t know, what you’re really doing here, cause this is a kid’s agency’. But the second one I got there and I signed on with them. I ended up having to do a scene for them…” (42) “So I picked this girl to help me do the scene. It was working great in [acting] class and then we went to do it in the agency and she was like a different person – she was all flamboyant and weird. I just did my thing and got out, and I said, `This is not gonna go down well. That was the worst experience ever.’ The next hour they called me in and they wanted to represent me. Lo and behold, I had an agent.” (40) “It was a small boutique agency… and at the time they said, `Well would you think about changing your name?’ and I said, `I would never do that’ so then they thought about it and acknowledged it and said, `You’re right we shouldn’t change your name’ – so I kept Boreanaz.” (42) Going through this process was hard “I guess all of us feel like an outsider at some point in their life… For me -- coming to Los Angeles, trying to find an agent -- all of that stuff makes you feel like an outsider. Trying to have your voice heard.” (176)

First Credited Role.

Getting an agent paid off they got David Boreanaz an audition for a part in an episode of the TV-series: Married with Children. “It was the second audition I went in on and I remember studying the lines and the scenes all weekend long just to get this part and I was so obsessed with it and I finally went in and I nailed it after the call back. I almost blew it cause I remember doing it and thinking – I’m gonna blow this. I finally got through the scene without shaking the paper. You know… you’re in a room and you’ve got all these people looking at you and you either have you sides or you don’t have your sides… – it’s pretty aggressive and back then I was very green. I didn’t know much, but I was able to get it and it was a great experience for me.” (42) This was 1993 – the sitcom Married With Children was in its 7th season and it was episode 21 titled Movie Show. David: “You know they were such a great group of people over there. The show had been running for some time. I played Kelly’s biker boyfriend.” (42) The scenes with David are of course on YouTube so we can watch Frank (David) the boyfriend of Al Bundy’s (Ed O’Neill) daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) ram his motorbike into next door neighbour Marcy (Amanda Bearse). Frank wants to take Kelly out on a date on her birthday, but she cancels the date and instead goes with her family to the movies. At the cinema Frank is there sitting in the back kissing another girl. Al beats him up on Kelly’s request. David also said that: “Ed O’Neill tried hard to get me on as a regular character, but that didn’t work out.” (13)

15 Seconds in Macabre Pair of Shorts

David Boreanaz’s next on screen very small role was in Macabre Pair of Shorts from Troma Entertainment (1996). He is in it for like 15 seconds and I haven’t been able to find a YouTube video of just the 15 seconds, but the whole movie is online to allow anyone to watch it. It’s like a comedy imitation of a horror B-movie although I had trouble determining, when it was an imitation of a bad movie and when it was just bad! Two morons working late at the studio cleaning lenses for next day’s production find an old film no one has ever heard of and decide to watch it – the movie is of course Macabre Pair of Shorts. When they start the movie we see two vampires – he is playing the piano whilst drinking blood from a wineglass and she is snacking on an arm – a very important arm we discover at the end. They sit down to watch a television show – Macabre Pair of Shorts, which is a series of short films. One about a lesbian vampire couple out looking for dinner, then a couple dressed up for Halloween, where the man is being chased by the Headless Horseman, another a man being haunted by a Dr Seuss looking mime wanting him to dine on ham and eggs. Then they yell cut and we are on set with the two vampires, director, cameramen etc. and someone with a bloody arm – David - talking to the director explaining that he normally does family movies and whether he can get his own trailer next time. That is the 15 seconds, but yes he does have a couple of lines. Then back with the two morons, who are now being chased by the unwound roll film wanting to erase anyone who’s watched the movie. In the closing credits it says David Boreanaz – Dinner! Upon reading a little bit about Troma Entertainment it turns out, that lots of now very famous people all had a very humble start on one of their movies (see Wikipedia – Troma Entertainment).

Finally it Happened

Now David Boreanaz had a couple of credits to his name and he was doing theatre and a commercial here and there, but he was still waiting for that big break. It is amazing that he managed to stay hopeful and didn’t just give up thinking it would never happen. David: “Being from the East Coast, coming from a well-grounded family to this place? I do love this city, it’s such a vibrant place. It’s just that the morality and values are so different than those in the East. People come here thinking it will happen for them, but you have to be patient and not buy into the bulls… After all, success is measured only by happiness.” (58) And “it can be depressing if you come here to live – it’s materialistic and vanity runs high, but I had my sister here and a good group of friends, so I was able to see through all the bullshit.” (175) Another thing that he had was a dog. He never had a dog at home growing up, but “when I moved out to California, that was the first thing I wanted to do was get a dog… and that’s what I did.” (177) David rescued Bertha Blue from the pound, she was a black lab mix breed. (178) He owes his career to her: “If it wasn’t for Bertha Blue, I probably never would have gotten the part” (12) David was out walking her one day in 1996 and was spotted by his soon to be manager Tom Parziale, who became and still is his manager. A week later he was cast as Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the rest is as we say history.

Almost overnight David Boreanaz had become a star: “He describes it as a crazy tornado that took him in and spun him around. “You just don’t know what the ride is all about. At one point you’re just starving, looking for work and then next you’re being shot for covers of magazines. It’s this phenomenon. It’s a crazy experience. I look back and think, ‘Yeah, I was kinda grounded,’ but I wasn’t. I was reckless and irresponsible in certain areas of my life – with money and things that come with the territory, to be general about it. I experienced a lot and went through a lot. It was my late 20’s.” (9) In 1999 he was chosen as one of People’s Magazine’s 50 most beautiful people in the world. (11) He had become a teenage idol. There is this very funny Mad TV Funeral Sketch from 1998. David plays himself attending a friend’s funeral and lots of weird and unusual things happen – enjoy!

(Read more about his acting career in Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1997-1999, Angel 1999-2004, Bones 2005-2017, SEAL Team 2017 and in between some movies and other appearances).

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