The So-and-So Profiles shines a spotlight on Paul Howard, a chameleon-like actor, writer, producer, model and eternal optimist.
1. When, where and how did you decide to become an actor?
I’ve always been interested. It wasn’t until junior high that I got a taste of performing. I took a drama class, which I was put into accidentally.
I took art. Two weeks into the semester they pulled me out of class, took me to the office and told me, “We’re changing your schedule.” I don’t know why. They pretty much changed my entire schedule and changed my elective, which was art, into drama.
I thought I was going to die. Not only had they taken me out of all my classes where you kinda make friends, but then they took me out of my elective and put me into drama.
It was a great moment because I was forced into that then got a taste of performing and was bitten. It started really young, but I started pursuing it in high school more seriously and planning to go to college.
2. What was your first role -- professional or otherwise?
It was high school, but the first thing I auditioned for I booked. I didn’t book the lead, but I was like, “This is going to be awesome.”
It was called The Bad Seed. Mr. Dagle. He was 45. It was a high school play, so you get cast in these roles you would never play. It was very nerve-wrecking and very scary and very exciting. It continued me on the path of loving theatre, fine-tuning those skills and discovering can you do this, do you want to do this.
3. Is that the point you decided that this is something you want to do, that you’re meant to do and that you’re going to do?
That was the beginning of the understanding of the industry. In high school I was very limitless because you hadn’t learned the “rules” yet of the industry.
I started creating things. By the end of my high school career, I had directed a play. I was drama club president. I had been in multiple productions. I put together different routines and imitated Michael Jackson.
I had done so much in high school, but then life hits and I get into the industry and start to realize I’m not allowed to do that or I shouldn’t do that. Only recently have I come back to “Fuck it. I’m going to do what I want to do.” I’m going to create things I want to create, things that I’m passionate about and I’m not going to listen to what everyone’s rules are.
In the entertainment industry there’s no rule other than following your heart and following your soul and what you believe. I have yet to find any real rules and I would be fascinated to hear somebody prove me wrong. Tell me one of the rules of the industry because I could inevitably show you an example that does not fall under that rule.
Why do there have to be rules?
4. What is the balance for you between film, theatre and television?
The balance now is whoever the hell will hire me (laughs).
I would say I am a theatre-trained actor who is interested in film. I do primarily independent film right now but television has changed a lot too. I’m much on board with television than I was at the start of my career because television has gone through a change. It’s amazing now. I love shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire and every show on AMC. Great acting and great storytelling -- it’s a different world. Television to me now is film.
Theatre’s a passion, not really a career for me. Film is more of a career. I’m more interested creatively in that – writing and producing and doing that kind of stuff. I rarely think about writing a theatre show.
5. What is the burning concept in your head you want to produce?
I did one, Sauce, and learned a ton. Literally, one day a concept hit me like a lightening bolt. I co-wrote it with my roommate at the time. We started talking and having dialogue. It was like, “This would be a great film.”, and it came to fruition.
I finished a short that’s called S.Cart. It’s very Disney – a sweet story built on the same premise. All of a sudden I saw something. Through that you start to create scenarios.
There’s lots of ideas in my head – some that are much more tangible and some that are just ideas. I think of many things – photo sessions, television shows, music videos. I see lots of stories, characters, designs and colors. I hear music. You have to reign it in and do it. I love that. I see so much creativity in the world. That’s being an artist.
6. What is your dream role or type of role?
Any role that is different from who I am that isn’t playing type or isn’t playing what I’m seen as. Any role that really changes the way I talk, the way I walk, the way I look. I find those things fascinating. I tend to go after those kinds of roles.
I’ve always been fascinated by The Elephant Man. That’s one of my favorite plays. To play John Merrick, who is the elephant man, who has never known human kindness. Any physical contact he’s ever received has been negative. Can you imagine playing that? It’s something that most people have no reference to, thankfully.
To have never been touched in a positive way? I can’t even imagine. It’s something that’s so challenging and fascinating to me. How do you play that? You’ve only been hit. We’ve all been hit, but to have never been kissed or touched or caressed or pet?
In the play, he is touched for the first time in a positive way. That moment alone – what an amazing thing for an actor to play. Very extreme characters like that tend to interest me the most.
I love any villain too. To play Hitler. Hitler didn’t think he was crazy. He didn’t think he was wrong. To be true to him you have to play him like a man, not a monster. I find that fascinating because the tendency is for the public to judge and look at a person as a monster.
As an actor, we are not allowed to judge. Anybody who I disagree with venomously, I find fascinating that I would have to play them. To play someone who’s racist or discriminatory or crazy or a murderer, those are always the ones that you are the most fascinated by as an actor because they’re so different from who I am.
7. How do you think you’re seen by producers and casting directors?
That’s such a hard question. I’m seen different based on who. We project a little bit who people are. I think I’m seen as driven, strong and reliable because I am. Those are things that come to me naturally – being on time, having my job done right, being prepared.
Character-wise, I think it changes because I look different and can act differently. Sometimes people think of me as something very different than I am.
I did a short called Rhapsody. It played at the Newport Beach Film Festival. The director had a group of people come. I met some of them. This one guy in particular was like, “You did a good job.”
I was like, “Thanks.”
As we continued to talk in the group, he was like, “You did a REALLY good job.”
I was like, “Thanks.”
He was like, “I say that because I thought you were playing yourself but now I realize that the character I saw on the screen is nothing like you. You are totally different.”
Those are the best compliments. I could tell it was sincere. He wasn’t trying to blow smoke up my ass. He was just sincere and surprised because he thought I was this guy that he saw on screen. When he realized I wasn’t, I looked like that guy but I wasn’t him, that’s when the real accomplishment came.
That’s what an actor battles all the time. That’s our job. You’re supposed to see us on screen and think that’s what we’re like. It’s always perception.
8. Do you ever feel pigeonholed into certain types of roles?
I don’t feel pigeonholed in the types of roles, I feel limited sometimes in the rules of the Industry. I feel very lucky. I have played a very diverse amount of characters and I do often get cast in things I’m not the first choice for but successfully accomplish.
I did a feature called The Secret Handshake. They initially called me for a lead role they were strongly considering me for but they needed a guy with long hair. It comes down to silly things like that sometimes. They really liked me and they liked what I did and so almost like a consolation prize, they offered me the supporting role of his best friend.
Even though I wasn’t right type-wise in their minds initially, they were like, “Would you be interested in this?”
I accepted it and the guy was very thug and hardcore and not how I read in real life. I’m lucky in that way. I’m lucky that I do play different roles. A lot of actors would love that opportunity. Maybe they get commercials but they only get the same thing. I’ve gotten a lot of independent film and got a lot of diversity with those roles.
So I don’t feel pigeonholed other than the weird rules of the industry that some agents will look at my resume and say, “So you’ve done nothing.”
Isn’t there value in everything? If I did only student films or plays in my high school, there some value [to that].
9. How do you describe your particular style of acting?
A blend of techniques based on the genre, the character, the forum.
Sometimes you are just playing yourself or an extension of yourself. Sometimes it is the dead opposite of you. That style alters. I never personally understood Method acting in a literal form. So you’re going to play a rapist or you’re going to play a burn victim. How the hell do you use Method?
Elements of Method absolutely make sense. Sometimes on set I have to be like Christian Bale and be more reserved and quiet and focused in my world because of what I doing asks a lot more of me. Sometimes they can say “action” and I just do my lines.
I don’t think I could ever say “my technique is this”. It’s based on who you’re working with, too. The people you work with demand more or less from you. Technique varies and is dependent on the project, the genre and the character.
10. Would you like to win an Emmy, Oscar, Tony, Grammy, all, neither or it doesn’t matter?
My instinct I would go with is all. I’m not one to say no. All of those awards and genres of the industry interest me.
As much as they say you have to find your own validation, everyone wants to be validated. I stand by that. Everyone wants to hear they’re pretty. Everyone wants to hear, “You’re the best.”
There’s nothing wrong with wanting that. It’s a little star on the wall like when you’re in kindergarten. For me, getting lots of stars just pushes me and motivates me so I say all of them.
11. What would you say in your acceptance speech and who would you thank?
At some point in the acceptance speech, I would encourage people to follow their dreams.
Yes, there’s work. There’s a lot of work. You’re going to be beat down. You’re going to be told no. You’re going to be told you’re fat, you’re not talented and all those things. You have to get up and you have to keep going. Anything that’s worth it is worth the fight.
There will definitely be an aspect that I share the award with all those who struggle everyday because I remember what it’s like and will always be struggling in some way.
Then of course my family and my friends. Anyone I’ve worked with or [anyone who] supported me because, sadly, those people are rare too. Most people are like, “Good for you.” But those who really support you, believe in you, are there for you – they’re the ones who deserve it.
12. What is the balance for you between acting and modeling?
It’s not balance, it’s an arm of the beast. Sometimes modeling is very specific to promotion. In that case, it’s just more of a machine. I do a lot of photo shoots because for me it’s a creative outlet. It’s good for marketing, it’s good for exposure. You never know who you’re going to work with or who they’ll be tomorrow or where that photo will go.
But more than that, I love meeting people. I love working with people. A lot of times I work with people who are new to the industry. I love that experience.
13. What photographer, publication and/or advertiser would you most like to work with?
It’s always a dream to be on the big ones – the GQ’s or the Vanity Fairs.
It’s a milestone. There’s a local magazine called Studio City Living or something, but my picture was featured in a little article and I thought it was cool as crap. For me, anything that you’re featured in is a milestone. You want to keep moving and you want those to be bigger and bigger but there’s not one place.
14. What has been your greatest artistic experience?
Sauce, my short, thus far. I co-wrote it and I had multiple producers and then I acted in it, but I ended up Executive Producing it. It’s a cool title to have, but a lot comes with it when you’re talking about independent and when you’re talking about shorts.
It was a lot of work. It was a lot of money, a lot of effort, a lot of blood, sweat and tears. It was amazing in the end to have a product and have it done and see people watch it and be very proud of it, which I am.
That it can make people laugh and entertain them is a cool feeling.
I really try to appreciate each role, each project for what it is. Even if it was a horrible experience -- what did you learn from it? Did you grow? What good thing came out of it? There is always something good. It’s just how you choose to look at it.
15. What was that horrible experience?
I’m one of those people that truly tend to forget the bad times. When you’re in the moment, sure, I could talk about that. There have been experiences where you don’t get along with people and you don’t get along on set. If I was pissed off about something right now, I could bring it up. But that doesn’t do anything for you, for me, for anyone else.
There isn’t a one time because I’ve forgotten it by now. I don’t choose to revel in those things.
16. Who are your professional inspirations?
Walt Disney. Michael Jackson was a huge innovator for me. I have a lot of respect for my peers like Edward Norton, Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling – I really love what they do.
I have a ton of respect for the Tom Cruises and the Will Smiths of the world. I really do.
Personally you idolize what you’re more like or what you more want. For me, it’s the chameleons. It’s the people who transition. The Meryl Streeps who play these dramatically different roles. I think that’s amazing.
The Angela Bassetts that exist in the world who aren’t huge stars but do good work consistently.
That’s what I say about Christian Bale. He always does good work. I liked him in Swing Kids. He’s really good. I love American Psycho. I love his choices in that. I understood them and agreed with them. I thought he was brilliant in it.
I’m truly blown away by anyone who does this everyday and continues to do it. Longevity is a big thing if you can survive. I’m a supporter of anyone who’s been here 20 years.
17. If a production was casting for a "Paul Howard" type, what would they be looking for?
That’s a good question. That’s a hard question to ask because you don’t want to be a type. In this industry you don’t ever want to be a type because then you’re that and only that. I will say that what I often get cast in is the boy next door that is a serial killer. I tend to get the simple guy on the surface, but still waters run deep.
At this point, the unassuming, nice guy who seems cool but can have a dark side to him – which is not unlike I am.
I am that middle ground. I could be your brother or your ex-boyfriend or your cousin, which is a great quality for me as an actor because I can blend into what I need to play. I don’t want to play just one role.
18. What is the ultimate goal?
I want a career of respectability, influence and longevity. Those are my three words that really determine what course I take, what roles. It’s really worked for me. I haven’t had that model the entire time of my career, but since I’ve had it, it’s really worked for me. It helps remind me when you get overwhelmed or you get disappointed or when you’re tempted to take that gig on that reality show.
I always ask myself if that’s what I really want. The thing I love about that model is it’s no judgment to anybody else. Those are my three words. I want influence. I want respectability. I want longevity. The all encompass something different.
To be respected in this industry, not everyone wants that. I do. To have influence, that’s about being able to greenlight projects. It’s about having an impact, having a choice in decision making. Then to have longevity, that’s because I’m not in it for a quick minute or for a quick buck. I’m in it because it’s my passion, because it’s my life, because it’s what I enjoy.
Those three things sum it up for me and remind me why I’m doing it and where I want to go.
19. What is going to keep you from giving up?
I’m not a good loser. I don’t losing. I don’t like quitting and I’m the eternal optimist. I always see what could be and what you could still do. I’m never backed into a corner that I can’t escape from.
I had a dream like this once. I was trapped. I was being chased and I was trapped. I was in a room that you couldn’t escape from but of course because of the way my brain works, I was like, “What if there was a secret thing on the wall?”
Then the wall opened and I got out. There’s always a way. Death is the only inevitable end and that’s boring. That’s going to happen to all of us so I don’t tend to obsess or focus on that. I’m more interested in what I can accomplish now.
I would have given up by now if I was going to give up.
Next up for Paul Howard: His film short “Sauce” is on Kickstarter until April 12, which he’ll continue to market and submit. He just finished another short (S.Cart), is writing a TV series pilot with another partner and has another concept idea that is solidifying in his head. In the meantime, he will continue to audition and do photo shoots.
More information on "Sauce" is available on the film's website.
For more information and to keep up with all things Paul Howard, check out his website at www.getpaulhoward.com