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Life & Work with Eric Pierce

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Pierce.

Hi Eric, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I got into acting later than most, I think. I had done little things here and there, forensics back in junior high, but my first real experience with a show was during my senior year of high school. We did Twelfth Night and that’s when I caught the bug. It was at a time in my life when I was trying to think about where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to do for a career. After I did the play, I couldn’t think of anything I enjoyed as much as acting. I knew it was a risky profession to go into. I was quickly bombarded with the “If you can do anything else, you should” line from many directions. But my family was always supportive. I started looking at schools where I could study acting and train. University of Michigan had always been where I’d wanted to go to college regardless, and I found out that they had a pretty exclusive theatre program. They auditioned in NY, LA, Chicago, and Ann Arbor each year and only accepted about 20 students, ten or so of each gender. I decided to use that as my bar. If I could get into a program like that, I’d take it as a sign that I should give it a shot. If not, I’d consider other options. I was doubtful I’d make the cut, so you can imagine my surprise when I was accepted.

From there, I spent the next four years studying and training, then moved out to LA straight after graduation. Most of my classmates opted for NY or Chicago, but I felt like LA was a better fit for me. I’ve been here for almost thirteen years now and have really come to love this city. The time I’ve spent here has been full of ups and downs. Some successes and some disappointments. No huge “career making” breaks, but I never set out with the expectation that one of those would come. I feel like acting is a pursuit you can only take if you truly accept the possibility that you may never reach a level of success to the point that you can call it your sole source of income, though that’s always the dream. People always say this but it took me a few years to realize what it really meant. You have to love it. That sounds a little cliche, but eventually I figured out that the reason you have to love it is that if you don’t, you simply won’t be able to keep doing it for as long as it might take to build a career. And even then, that career might never come. And you have to be okay with that. So that’s where I am. I’m still doing it and still loving it. There’s nothing in my life that brings me as much fulfillment as acting does. Really, I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road has been anything but smooth. I think the biggest struggle has always been striking the right balance between “survival jobs” and acting. I know some people who just go full tilt on the acting side, and they usually burn out, get discouraged, or run out of money and have to move home. I also know some people who achieve success in their day jobs and that leads them to prioritize their income more than the pursuit of acting. They might never have intended to stop acting, but they wake up one day and find all their time is devoted to their new career that used to just be for the purposes of supporting their pursuits in the entertainment industry. The right balance is really difficult to maintain. Sometimes it means passing up opportunities that could bring you more success and stability in your day job so as to retain the flexibility needed to keep auditioning and working on projects. On the flipside, sometimes it means turning down a gig because it would really burn the people at your day job and might result in a total loss of your stability, the thing that’s keeping you here. I guess it comes down to planning for a marathon and not a sprint. That being said, you still gotta keep running.

It can also be tough watching others hit it big while you’re still struggling. Especially when they might be brand new to the industry and you’ve been grinding it out for years. Jealousy and envy can consume you really easily in the entertainment industry if you’re not careful. You need to learn to catch yourself when you feel it creeping on and acknowledge that the path those people took to success was different from yours. There is quite literally always someone who is further along or more successful than you. Learn to be genuinely happy for them and let it sink in that just because someone hasn’t suffered as much as you have, it doesn’t mean their success isn’t earned. Struggle is definitely something that defines the pursuit of acting, but I think the last one I’ll mention is the tremendous amount of rejection and disappointment that you have to be willing to tolerate. Imagine being on the hunt for a new job. You’re looking everyday. Finally, you get an interview. You prep, invest in it, then bring your very best to the interview. You don’t get the job. Back to the search. This goes on and on until, finally, you book a job. But, guess what, that job ends in a couple of months. Rinse and repeat. Imagine having a career in perpetually going to job interviews. That’s acting. You hope that all the hard work you put in opens some doors or amounts to something, but often, it doesn’t.

Sometimes, after a project you’ve put your heart into for months or even years, you’re back to square one. Sometimes the project doesn’t even turn out to be watchable and you’ve really got nothing to show for all of the time and energy you invested into it. Maybe it was your fault. Maybe it was out of your control. It doesn’t matter. Time to start again. You need to be willing and able to start over again, and again, and again. Learning from your mistakes and failures each time. But, it’s those magic moments, the ones where you get on a project and everything comes together, the right people, the right script, those are the ones that keep you coming back. Sometimes you find yourself surrounded by some really amazing people doing some amazing things, people you’re proud just to have bumped shoulders with, and you can’t believe how lucky you are just to be there. Those are the ones that make everything worth it.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m an actor. Gone are the days when actors can say they “specialize” in one type of medium. I think to be successful, you need to take whatever opportunities become available to you. Film, theatre, television, commercials, and voiceover are all areas I’ve worked in. I think it’s nearly impossible to build a career doing only theatre these days, but if I had to pick one, I enjoy theatre the most. The process is more fulfilling to me in theatre. There’s something magical about creating something that only lives in that moment. If you didn’t see the show while it was running, it’s gone. Even from night to night. At least in that form. That being said, who doesn’t love the final product of a really good film? In terms of what I’m most proud of, I hope it’ll be this feature that I’ve got in post-production right now by the name of “Aimee”. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s got a really good message regarding human trafficking that I think is pretty relevant right now. Keep an eye out for it!

What were you like growing up?
This is where most actors will tell you their heartbreaking childhood traumas, but I’m a little more boring here. I had a pretty good childhood growing up in Farmington Hills, Michigan. It was pretty much suburbia USA. My interests for most of my childhood revolved around two things: Football and Star Wars. The latter especially when I was on the younger side. For my brother and I, it was all Star Wars all the time. Come to think of it, I worry sometimes that on some level the actual reason I became an actor was that it would be the closest I could get to being “in” Star Wars. No luck there yet, but I’m still holding on to hope! As I got older, I got more into football, playing with a group of neighborhood friends. That became my main focus going into junior high and high school right up until acting became an interest. Football was probably the one thing I was more passionate about than acting. Let’s just say it became pretty clear I wasn’t going to go pro though, so eventually I had to start looking around for other options.

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Image Credits:

Nogen Beck Photography Joel D Castro Photography

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