I love Instagram.
Of all the social media platforms, it’s the one you can really interact with people you might not otherwise. Post a pretty picture – and someone, anyone – might like it. And then you follow them, and they follow you. Sometimes, they’re actors that you admire, too.
That’s how actor Kate Bergeron and I met.
She’s an actor. She’s a director. She sings. She writes. She thinks. She’s swoony. And dammit to hell, she’s really effing funny. And real. She has a cool job and does cool things. She does cooler things still away from her job.
What gets me about Kate, though, is her heart.
She spent a lot of time during this interview. She bore a child during this interview. (Not actually while answering questions, but … wait, she might have. I didn’t ask about timing.) As you’ll see, she truly sought to make a connection with anyone who reads this.
Please give a warm CD welcome to Kate Bergeron.
Eli: When you were little, what did you think you’d grow up to be?
Kate: Mariah Carey. Ha! But seriously. I used to sit by the radio working on hitting all her high notes. I’m sure it was a delight for my parents!
After I realized that particular position was already taken, I toyed briefly with becoming a marine zoologist. But my heart was in the performing arts. so what choice had I? It was the actor’s life for me!
Eli: The world will have to do with just one Mariah Carey then. Seems to be more room for growth with the path you chose (or chose you), right?
Kate: Yes, especially these days when most people aren’t just one thing. Everyone’s a multi-hyphenate. For example, I’m an actor-writer-singer who produces when I have to… And directs very occasionally. Ha! Not the most succinct business card. But everyone in this business wears multiple hats these days.
Eli: How’d you get to have so many hats?
Kate: I’ve always loved acting, singing, and writing. I had a great children’s theater program in my hometown that I enrolled in at age 5 or 6 that really solidified the acting bug for me. I did school plays and sought out every opportunity within an hours drive to act. I sang in choirs and local musicals. My dad, little brother, and I performed in our town’s yearly “Day of Music” as “The Bergeron Trio.” We sang a lot at home. Books were a big part of our home life as well so writing came naturally.
I was in “Young Authors” in elementary school and had an encouraging teacher in 5th grade, Mrs. Longstreth, who gave us daily creative writing prompts. My mom encouraged journaling.
I guess I have a creative family! My dad the musician and my mom the visual artist; a love of reading and writing from both sides. And considering the small town I grew up in, there were a number of wonderful teachers and opportunities in the arts available for me as a child. I was really lucky.
As for directing and producing… I directed my first play when I aged out of the children’s theater program at 16. I loved it and went on to direct and teach kids as my day job during and after college in both Chicago and L.A. That sort of lead to directing a couple comedy shorts and pilot presentations when asked.
The producing is mostly a matter of “If you want something done…” Ha! I had ideas for things I wanted to make so I made them! I’ve been lucky enough to meet a number of self-motivated creators out here in L.A. who encouraged me and showed me the way. I currently write/act/and produce with onewordnocaps, a very funny digital sketch group. I must say though, I look forward to being able to hand that hat (producing) off to someone else for larger projects in the future. There are only so many hours in the day (much to my chagrin)!
Eli: Tell us a little about this onewordnocaps group.
Kate: We’re a digital sketch group producing short funny content for YouTube, Funny or Die, and other online platforms. We all work as a team, writing, giving notes, pooling our resources to produce the highest quality content we can on little to no budget. It’s a great group of talented and driven creators. A number of our sketches have been featured on the Funny or Die front page, in various comedy short festivals, and recently on the digital platform created by Elizabeth Banks, WhoHaHa. I’m proud to work with them. You can see some of our stuff at onewordnocaps or via my website.
Eli: Elizabeth Banks?? I loved her since Invincible. I just watched Relax So Hard, though. Holy. Moly. Now that’s funny! How fun is it to put together something that awesome?
Kate: Well thanks very much! Yeah, I had a lot of fun writing that one. And my daughter makes a cameo in it, so it was fun to have her on set. That sketch was actually a really quick turn around from writing to release. We had one day with everyone available for the shoot and of course, it rained. Not a problem we have a lot here in LA! Luckily we were able to get the outdoor shots in between downpours. The whole team rolled with the punches and made it happen.
Eli: I’d be remiss not to ask you about an addition to your family at this point. How are mom and baby doing?
Kate: Little guy is officially one month old today. We are enjoying our getting-to-know-you time and as, you can see, waaaaay behind on everything else. Ha! But hopefully, we’ll start to figure out how to integrate our old responsibilities with the new in the next few weeks… months… years. Lol. We are all quite happy though. Happy and grateful. 🙂
Eli: Has he been funny yet? I mean, no pressure, but …
Kate: Ha! I mean, like his sister when she was little, he seems to be pretty on point with the “toilet humor” genre with well-timed gas and diapers boiling over at the most unexpected moments. So yeah. He’s age-appropriately hilarious!
Eli: What’s the biggest challenge of comedy?
Kate: Finding the “sweet spot.” There’s a technique to comedy and it’s important, but beyond that I find comedy to be very musical. You’ve gotta kind of feel around for the groove of “the funny” and settle into it. It’s not easy to explain because it’s something you have to intuit. And the “sweet spot” isn’t a static thing; it moves around based on the audience, your scene partners, the tone of the project, the mood of the people around you. But on the days you find it… ooh, it feels so good.
Eli: What question have I not asked you but should have in this interview?
Kate: About getting work! Lol. But truly it’s a tough, tough career. People talk about rejection in this career, about “hearing no” all the time and yes, you do hear no along the way. But what people don’t talk about is that often, unless you’re up for a series regular role, you just hear nothing. Nobody calls to tell you that you didn’t get the role and why. You just… don’t get a call, and the shoot dates come and go.
Or you’re sure you didn’t get it because it shoots the next day, and then you get a call that you booked it, and are suddenly running off to a wardrobe fitting and making a plan to be on set at 6 a.m. You have a wonderful day on set, head home feeling successful and on top of the world and then… your scene is cut for time reasons. It’s a crazy roller coaster. Betty Gilpin wrote a great article calling it “A Seesaw of Death” for the Hollywood Reporter. She really nailed it.
Here are some ways that I’ve found to remain sane:
1. Be great at what you do and have enough confidence to believe in your skills.
If you know that most days you do good work, it’s much easier to keep getting up and going to auditions. Have the training, self-awareness, and confidence to go into a room, give it your all, and walk away knowing you showed them your best version of the role. In fact, so much of this job is auditioning that I’ve tried to train myself to think of auditions as my chance, possibly my one chance, to play this role. So I might as well enjoy it.
2. Diversify your passions
This career requires a laser focus in order to move forward. Spread yourself too thin and you’ll get distracted from your goals. But spend every bit of your energy with single-minded purpose, and not only will you be a rather boring person to talk to, but you will feel every single down on the roller coaster with nothing to lift you out of it. It is very easy to become this career.
Most people who pursue acting are extremely passionate about it. You have to be! But having something else you care deeply about keeps you healthy and gives you a soft space to land when times are tough. Plus every experience you have can be used to deepen your acting, giving you a more expansive pool to pull from.
My husband is both a web developer and a drummer, and when people ask him if he wishes he could be doing one or the other full time, he says no. He needs one outlet to enjoy the other. (Isn’t my husband so clever?)
I’ve always wanted to be an actor and a mom. Those are my two main focuses at this stage in my life, and the two things that bring me a ton of joy (as well as pain, frustration, sorrow, and every other emotion under the sun!)
Get a hobby that brings you joy. I sing with a band called Jambox. It’s a friggin blast, and since my husband and I met in a band in Chicago, it’s great to get back to my roots.
3. Make something
Anything. If the phone isn’t ringing, find other places to direct your creative energy. Actors are creators. We can start to fall apart if we’re focused only on day-to-day business. Write that sketch or pilot script you’ve been imagining, redecorate your living room, make songs with your kids. Find different outlets to keep that creativity craving satisfied. It’ll keep you sane and keep that muscle from atrophying until the acting work picks up again.
4. Realize that this is your life
This. Right now. You’re living it. The hustle to get work, the roller coaster of emotions, the “struggle”; this is the life of an actor. There is no level you get to where suddenly everything is easy and relaxing. Actually, I haven’t double checked with Meryl on this… Hang on, I’ll get back to ya. But the point is don’t wait to live your life. Don’t wait until you reach a specific milestone to enjoy yourself because you’ll be wasting precious years of your beautiful and singular life.
Do what you need to do to enjoy the process, and if you just can’t? Well, find something else that brings you joy. Don’t let your big life dreams steal your days away.
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