A Fil-Am actor’s life: Marc Fajardo
Seventh of a series
LOS ANGELES—In a scene from “The Leisure Seeker,” Marc Fajardo’s Terry character helps Helen Mirren’s Ella look for her husband, Donald Sutherland’s John, who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“It was my first feature film,” Marc said as he recalled shooting the scene. “I was fortunate enough to be working with those two legends and a crew of Italian artists. You would hear the crew and director (Paolo Virzi) speaking in Italian, the translator communicating from Italian to English with the actors and the locals with their slight Southern twang. So it was like a cultural melodic interplay.
“Helen’s presence was calming and angelic. She made me feel at home. It felt like she was taking care of me—from making sure I had a mango sorbet to mentioning to Paolo about my ‘cute reaction’ to one of her lines. I’m going to sound sappy, but the whole experience felt like I was ‘living the dream.’ I’m still on a high from working on that film, even though it was two years ago.”
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marc graduated from Glendale High School and continued his education at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he double majored in film and community studies.
While in college, he choreographed and danced with the Haluan hip-hop dance team. In his senior year, Marc’s interest in acting led him to Rainbow Theater, a multicultural theater group.
Upon his graduation, Marc moved back to LA where he trained at various places, including The Berg Studios, The Clown School, John Rosenfeld Studios and Second City Improv. He booked his first national commercial for Carl’s Jr., as the sad robot. On the side, he enjoys training in hip-hop and gymnastics.
Marc’s recent credit is 20th Century Fox’s “The Hate U Give,” starring Amandla Stenberg, KJ Apa, Regina Hall and Common.
How would you describe your journey as an actor so far? Lots of peaks and plateaus is the best way to describe it. It’s been a steady but slow rise, and a lot of personal, emotional growth that comes with it.
I do feel myself getting stronger, more confident as an actor, but the business side can be messy to some extent. I’ve been lucky to land some gigs, but the grind can be overwhelming at times.
How do you prepare for an audition? Any good luck rituals? I try to understand what’s going on in the scene before memorizing my lines. If it’s a meaty role, I would get coaching from my acting coach.
There are times I get coaching from several coaches for one audition, just to see different perspectives. Sometimes, I even get coaching after I book a job because I want to be overprepared when I get on the set.
Maybe I’m just neurotic, but a bit of information helps out a long way.
One ritual I do whenever I get nervous before an audition is to meditate in my car before I step inside the building. It grounds me and gets my mind into game mode. I get focused and relaxed.
What is the most frustrating part of trying to land roles in Hollywood? It’s when you almost land a role. When you get to the final callback after having auditioned three times, and it’s between you and two other dudes who look like you. Then, you find out you didn’t get the role.
It’s such a punch to the gut. The whole process is an emotional roller-coaster of excitement, hope, anxiety and despair. Then, back to normalcy. It’s crazy.
How do you handle rejection? I treat myself to Yogurtland. I’m kidding. I take care of myself in a generous way, so that I won’t be so critical about my performance and second-guess what I did or didn’t do.
It used to hit me harder back when I started acting, but I’ve since learned how to move on with my life. I keep reminding myself that there’s more to life than booking a job.
Have there been times when you almost gave up? What motivated you to keep trying? There hasn’t been any time when I gave up, but there were times when I definitely needed a break. I would drive down to San Diego or up to San Francisco and stay with friends to recharge.
What keeps me motivated is the whole mystery of my future. I never knew I’d get into acting when I was a kid. I never knew I would be a robot for Carl’s Jr. I never knew I’d be on television opposite a beautiful talented actress. I never knew I’d be in a movie opposite an Oscar-winning actress. I guess it’s the curiosity that’s kept me going.
Do you, as an actor of color, feel that opportunities for minority actors are improving or getting worse? And do you think that the inclusion rider (mentioned by Frances McDormand in her best actress acceptance speech in this year’s Oscars, which is added to an A-list actor’s contract to ensure that the production meets certain levels of diversity) is helping? I do feel that opportunities for actors of color are getting better, but there’s still so much to improve. There have been many diverse actors taking on tertiary roles in film and television, but I’d like to see them take leading roles.
Every billboard I see around Hollywood shows a white lead up in front and the supporting characters are diverse actors in the background, sometimes out of focus.
Look at “Ocean’s 8.” You can barely see Awkwafina and Mindy Kaling in the background. I want to see them up in front. And with many platforms open for programming such as Yahoo!, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and now Facebook, the playing field is much wider and open for more opportunities.
It’s hard to say if the inclusion rider is taking fold. I think the results will show in time and, hopefully, will have a snowball effect of social change and diversity in casting.
What’s your stand on whitewashing—or the casting practice in which white actors are cast in nonwhite character roles—in Hollywood? I detest it immensely. It’s disrespectful to the culture being represented, to the fans and the authenticity of the storyline. I’m referring mostly to the recent casting of films like “Ghost in the Shell,” “Doctor Strange” and “The Great Wall.”
I understand that the typical Hollywood formula for a film’s success is to attach an A-list celebrity, but it actually destroys itself in the process.
The general public is more socially aware, politicized and vocal about inequality nowadays by using Twitter and other social media outlets as the main vehicles for protest.
Conclusion: Cesar Cipriano
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