One of my longtime students, Philemon Chambers, was cast in a starring role in Single All The Way, a rom-com on Netflix. What makes this extra special is that Philemon is the first black, queer actor to star in a Netflix rom-com! He has studied with me for over 11 years, and even after his recent success, he is still taking my class.
We sat down together in my acting studio and had a conversation on Instagram Live.
P: This is Netflix’s first gay holiday rom-com. There are so many barriers being broken and so many lights being shed on the queer community in a very mainstream way. We’re in 190 countries and over 214 million homes. To think that Netflix greenlit a project like this, with diversity in the cast, is monumental. I’m very humbled by it.
E: Oh, I love that. And you’re opening the door, aren’t you?
Philemon shared his insights on why he feels it’s important to study with a coach and take acting classes. He identified the things he has learned from me in class, what he feels are the most important to him as an actor, and how working with an acting coach has contributed to his success.
Preparation and Auditions – why going over auditioning in class is so important.
P: Auditioning helps us learn, because, at one point, we’re going to fail. We all have off days. Sometimes you mess up. I learned from Ellen to understand what didn’t work, so I know what I need to work on to conquer that.
E: That’s why we do a lot of auditioning in class. If you go back to the basics and you are specific, it really does ground you. Auditions are your chance to act. Instead of thinking it’s an audition, treat it like you’ve already got the job. Go in there and do it, because the more you do it, the more you get used to it, and that’s when you start to enjoy it.
E: Script analysis is not something every acting coach teaches, but it’s a cornerstone of my method.
P: This is a big one. Script analysis is important, especially when it comes to breaking down a story and breaking down your character. Nine times out of ten, what is on the paper is everything that you need. Of course, you need to create the back story, but script analysis definitely helps me out still, to this day.
E: Being specific is a key part of script analysis. The more the specifics the better. General is not good enough. Right?
P: Yeah, generally won’t get you anywhere.
P: It takes commitment to learn your craft.
I’ve been studying with Ellen for 11 years. I don’t remember the first class, but I do remember I was the youngest in the class.
E: That’s right and you were shy. You couldn’t hear him. I had to tell him I was a little deaf (I’m not), but I told him that so he would talk up. It worked. Right?
P: I’m a loudspeaker now. As people probably know.
Meditation and Relaxation
E: Meditation and relaxation are key.
P: A lot of the time, you are just go go go go go. There’s no real downtime, so you must find those moments in which you can relax.
E: An actor cannot have tension, so relaxation is very important,
Finally, we discussed what it really takes to become a successful actor.
Excitement is in the air. I am getting ready for the DESERT TRIP. OldChella here I come. Hell Yeah! Rock and Roll Never Dies!!!!! My wonderful friend Susan Duff and I are reliving the 60’s! Music….music…music! fun! Laughs! We are ready for all of it. A wonderful way to celebrate my birthday….Rollin with the Rolling Stones…Rockin with Paul McCartney…Blowin in the Wind with Bob Dylan…YES! Okay we will be packing very simply…comfy…layers. It will be hot in the day…chilly at night. Backpacks on our shoulders…comfy shoes. Hats for sun protection. We will be lookin for a good time and we will find it. ONWARD! And … hopefully the bathroom won’t be to far away from our seats.
Make no mistake a friend is NOT an acquaintance and an acquaintance is NOT a friend. When you cross the boundary from Acquaintance to friend ….well…that’s an honor….that’s special. A really good friend is not so easy to find so when you have one …take care and respect that friendship. It takes time to develop a relationship and nurture it and let it have it’s ups and downs. It is pretty incredible that a good friend will be THERE for you (wherever THERE is) and listen to you and pick you up when necessary and be concerned and be a source of help. In my experience I feel fortunate that I have some real good friends and I am a real good friend. I appreciate when someone gives me their friendship. To me it is like gold. They became my family. I can laugh my tush off with them and cry my eyes out with them. A wonderful experience in give an take. I Never stop learning how to be a good friend ….I am not alone. I have people who care about me. I plan on being a friend to the End….I also plan that the send doesn’t come for a very, very, very LONG time. To my incredible,understanding ,loving
Good God it’s great to laugh! Oh yes, laughter can uplift you..can cure you…can help you cope. People love to be around someone with HUMOR. I don’t think you can teach someone to have humor, it is something you are born with. This fact brings me to the thought that I am soooo lucky to have had the stork deliver me to a family with humor, they were organically funny. They couldn’t help it. My parents, Devera and Al were both not just funny but OH so funny. Such wonderful memories of my parents and my older sister Joan, I called Joannie, sitting around the dinner table and having a joyous entertaining meal. We were a fast bunch especially with eating. If you were a guest in the house I would inform you that you should take everything you want to eat and quickly put it on your plate because there no second servings because you will discover that when you want seconds everything will be gone.
I think that the humor kept my parents together and helped us through family trials and tribulations. If you have a sense of humor, enjoy it and the most important thing is to SHARE it!