The following is an excerpt from a series of interviews I conducted with people who gave everything they had to their creative passions. In spite of attaining various levels of success, they aren’t household names, don’t regularly walk red carpets, nor do they consider themselves rich and famous. Yet they continue to pursue excellence with everything they have. And most importantly…they’re happy with who they are and content with exactly where they are in life. I published all of these interviews in a book called “How To Succeed In Show Business (Without Making It Big).”
Jack Plotnick built a career as an award-winning actor, director and performance coach. At 51 years old, he has appeared in countless TV shows, commercials and features (117 credits on IMDB). You most likely will recognize Jack from his series regular and recurring roles on “Grace and Frankie,” “Z Nation,” “The Mentalist,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Reno 911,” “Action,” “Ellen” and “Drawn Together” and his appearance in the films “Meet the Fockers,” “Down With Love,” “Rubber,” “Wrong” and “Gods and Monsters.”
How did your creative life start?
As a young kid, I was really into the idea of performing, but being in the Ohio suburbs I really had no idea how to channel it. I remember that in fifth grade I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live and I asked my teacher to let me stop classes every month or so, to perform a skit (usually a parody of Weekend Update) for all the other fifth graders…why they let me do this, I have no idea! Ha!
However, in sixth grade, I discovered there was a thing called musical theater when I saw the high school perform Oklahoma! and I was hooked! I just so happened to have a BOOMING singing voice for a kid (after seeing it, I would sing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” ad nauseam, as loud as I could, in my echo-ey dining room for full reverberation). And as soon as I could, I got involved in any theater I could and did tons of musicals in my hometown.
Do you have a day job or are you making a living doing what you love?
I’ll never forget the day I realized that I could afford to stop working as a cater waiter and trust that I could make my living solely as an actor in Los Angeles! I was around 25, and have been making my living this way ever since.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned while chasing your dreams?
Throughout my life, I have always been interested in self-help, studying teachers of “new thought” such as Marianne Williamson, to learn to control my thoughts and therefore my anxieties. Without realizing it, I was applying all these techniques to my life as an actor and eventually realized that I had something valuable to share with other actors – an approach to acting that is based on love and joy, instead of fear.
Out of a desire to find a way to “give back” to my community, I began teaching actors my approach, at first out of my apartment, and now it has grown into working with actors on both coasts! In an effort to touch as many lives as possible, I wrote a free e-book entitled “New Thoughts For Actors” in which I share everything I teach, and it’s available to view and download on my website: JackPlotnick.com
Have you ever considered giving up?
Everyone will and does have periods of darkness, and I am certainly no exception. When I turned 30, and then again at 40, I experienced a feeling of hopelessness and despair. So I gave myself the gift of seeing a psychotherapist. I believe that seeing a person who can help you get back on track is something everyone should do in times of need. And each time they were able to talk me through my issues and return me to joy.
What I discovered is that for me the quickest route back to joy is to return to my first love, which is to create and play for my own sake. I define my “raison d’être” (“reason to be”) as A JOYFUL CREATOR. So when I get sidetracked by the anxieties or depression about the past or future, I get back to doing what I love and it always returns me to joy!
Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? Or are you still chasing the dream?
I am happy to say that I have made so many of my dreams come true! Working consistently as a film and TV actor, but also bringing my pet projects into reality. The first is a Sony Pictures feature film I co-wrote and directed called Space Station 76 starring Patrick Wilson, Matt Bomer and Liv Tyler (all living on a space station in a 1970’s version of the future). The other is a Broadway musical called Disaster! which I co-wrote and directed on Broadway! It’s a 1970s disaster movie…musical! With all hit songs from the ’70s!…I sound like I’m obsessed with the ’70s…and I probably am!
However, I can still get down on myself for the imagined things that I “haven’t done or achieved.” But as they say “Compare equals despair.” So when that happens I always try to refocus on being grateful for what I have and have done, versus what I haven’t.
One time, when I was being particularly hard on myself with thoughts about how much I haven’t achieved, a friend told me, “Jack, no one can take your past achievements from you. You have had successes, and you OWN them. Your past accomplishments will never go away.” And I find that sentiment brings me peace whenever I start down the road of “coulda, woulda, shoulda.”
What gets you out of bed each morning?
Whenever I do my art for my OWN sake (instead of to get a job, or a paycheck) then I am getting the opportunity to commune with the magic of art and to commune with my higher power. Being creative, and making content is a gift I give myself.
Define your idea of success.
Well, definitely being involved in doing what you love, but I also see “success” as being in a state of gratitude for your life and circumstances. Being able to spend your life focusing on love and not fear. Here is how I feel people can miss out on this – imagine your life as a road you’re going along. When you are depressed it feels as though your car is off that road, bumping around through dark trees and brush. You look back at that road, getting farther away, and say, “No, this is not where I am supposed to be. That is my road over there. I was supposed to be over there!”
Well, I have good news. You CANNOT leave the road of your life. It is impossible. There is a higher plan. You are always exactly where you’re supposed to be, and I can prove it: If you were meant to be somewhere else, you’d be there. You are here, so you were meant to be here. And it’s for the best because you are ALIVE! Had you made any other choice, you may have gotten hit by a bus! It sounds simple, but it’s true.
To find out more about Jack and get a glimpse of his amazing acting/directing skills, please visit http://jackplotnick.com/
Check out these other articles in entertainment on Manopause:
How To Succeed In Show Business (Without Making It Big) by Brandon Beckner
Steve McQueen: One Of Hollywood’s Brightest Stars by Tom Lashnits