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Daily Inspiration: Meet Justin Anthony Long

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Anthony Long.

Hi Justin Anthony, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Growing up, I was quiet. Like pin drop quiet. Scared of my own shadow quiet. For a while, the most noise I made came out of my alto saxophone. I fell in love with the story that music could tell. When I was ten years old and saw the musical “Annie,” I realized I could make so much more noise with my big gigantic mouth.

In my teenage Paramus, NJ years, I fell in love with acting and singing. Many nights involved me closing my bedroom door so I could sing along to VHS tapes of “Pippin” or “Into the Woods” which I’m sure my brothers found annoying. I’m a middle child with two brothers and extremely supportive parents. My family has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams and for that, I’m incredibly grateful.

While studying theatre and acting at university, I began writing comedy and performing improv at various clubs throughout NYC like the Gotham, Stand-Up NY, Broadway Comedy Club, and more. To me, inventing on the spot is all at once terrifying and exhilarating.

While in school, I also started dating my partner and we’ve been together ever since – 17 years – which in gay years may as well be two lifetimes!

After graduation, I got my equity card from a TheatreworksUSA tour and began working professionally as a stage actor. While living in NYC, I co-created & starred in a musical web series called “City of Dreams” that was featured in USA Today, the NY Times, and IndieWire. There are 11 episodes all on YouTube. Check them out! Creating the show really made me fall in love with screenwriting and prompted the move to Los Angeles.

LA has given me the time and space to focus on and commit to writing and I’m happy to say that it’s resonating. My musical “Welcome to Shoofly” for which I co-wrote book & lyrics was selected for the ASCAP/DreamWorks musical theatre workshop at the Wallis in Beverly Hills, and a revisionist history comedy feature I co-wrote called “Benjamin Franklin & the Legend of the Vajra” won LiveReadLA. And during the pandemic, when it seemed like everything was at a standstill, a short musical for which I wrote book & lyrics and Ge Enrique penned music was published in “The 10-Minute Musical” and acquired by Music Theatre International for professional and amateur licensing.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
My creative journey has been filled with ups, downs, twists, and turns.

After getting my equity card, I didn’t work professionally onstage for years. I did occasional readings and concerts, but I wouldn’t see a contract again until I was cast as the lead in “Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?” at the Geneva Theatre in Wisconsin. After that, there was another long span of time before booking an acting job. There were many times where I almost quit the business, thought of doing something else, and took a road with less resistance. But I love it too much and can’t imagine doing anything else. Feeling the career stall and being unfulfilled creatively, I did what many do nowadays….create my own work. And shortly after creating “City of Dreams,” I booked a small role in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and working on that was like a dream.

Time and again, I’ve heard things like, “You can only be one thing. You can only either be an actor or writer. You can only direct.” In the past, I took these things to heart and have focused all my attention and efforts on one creative discipline and it never made me truly happy. At times, all that “noise” has made me lose my way. For me, I find that I’m in flow with my creativity when I follow my heart and give myself the time and space to explore. And forget all the bulls**t people say. Because if people really only could do one thing, we’d be deprived of brilliant creatives like Taika Waititi, Tina Fey, Jordan Peele, and Emma Thompson. And that’s a world I just don’t care to be a part of.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
In addition to my creative professional pursuits, arts education and paying it forward has always been important to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with an incredible organization in LA called The Miracle Project (TMP), an inclusive theatre and arts program for people with autism and all abilities. With TMP, I teach musical theatre & improv classes, and during the pandemic, I’ve been doing lots of video editing work for them. I’m currently editing their original musical movie, “Journey to Namuh,” for which I wrote the screenplay. The film premieres this October at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

I also work with A125 Studios and over the past year, we created Coffee Club, virtual speed dating for creatives. It was September 2020. Everything was still shut down and the vaccine was still months away. My studio partners and I wanted to restore one of the easiest ways for creative people to meet new creative people, the coffee date. Only in our version, you’d get to meet 4 or 5 people over an hour in a socially distant Zoom room. And we’ve had people from all over the country participate and even folks from the UK. In a time where we all felt so isolated and alone, Coffee Club, I think, helped folks feel connected, creatively alive, and discover opportunity.

It’s September 2021 now and I’m finalizing a music video for a song I wrote called “Gone Forgotten Year” about two lovers who, after a lost year apart, are finally able to reunite. I wanted to write something joyful and communal for a moment, that at times, has felt incredibly hopeless and isolating. The song is out now on Spotify, Apple Music, wherever you listen to music, but the music video, which I produced, DPed, and edited, will drop soon. It features Jelani Remy on lead vocal, Josh Breckenridge as co-lead actor, and the video is directed & choreographed by Brandon Burks.

Coming up, I’m very excited to start pitching a new musical tv series that I just found out is a Second Rounder in this year’s Austin Film Festival. And this winter, I’ll be stepping into a role I’ve wanted to play for a long time in a production of Jersey Boys. Very fitting for this big mouth Jersey boy from Paramus.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
My favorite parts of Los Angeles are the incredible mountains, sunset skies, weather, the food, and the creative energy and people. I love hiking the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena or jogging the Rose Bowl. My all-time favorite place might be the Huntington Botanical Gardens. Some of my favorite restaurants are El Cochinito, Pine & Crane, Spitz, Fig Sprout, LA Cafe, & Bistro Na. And I sure do love a gluten free Blaze pizza. (chef’s kiss)

LA can sometimes feel so spread out and it can be challenging to constantly feel a sense of community. I think it’s the traffic and lack of parking that makes people squeamish about leaving their neighborhood. But if you make the effort and don’t mind driving a little, you can find your tribe and feel the LA love. I know I certainly do.

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Image Credits:

Headshots & Editorial of me by Michael Kushner

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