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NUEA Interviews Actor J.P. Manoux  

1. What does J.P. stand for?
Jean-Paul. I didn't turn out as French as Dad hoped.

2. What's your favorite NU memory and why?
Watching the MEE-OW SHOW as a freshman. I'd never seen anything like it. I was blown away by Jerry Saslow and John Lehr in particular. So brave, smart, funny, physically gifted, and connected to their audience. My ticket was for the first of their 8 sold out shows, but I convinced director Jessica Hughes to let me hang out in a corner of the light booth so I could see the remaining 7. I don't remember reading a book between that night and graduation.

3. Could you give our dear readers a short history of your career since graduating from NU?
Graveyard shift at Kinkos. Room service at the Chateau Marmont. Countless plays and student films leading up to my break-out performance as the bastard son of an evil entity in PUMPKINHEAD 2 -- a non-union role for which I spent two weeks in a special effects make-up chair, performed all my own stunts, and was compensated $300 cash. Since then, my more legitimate work has appeared in about 20 films, 40 episodics, 50 commercials, 4 gameshows, 3 video games, and 2 pieces for NPR's All Things Considered. I've also written a few screenplays and TV pilot pitches, but nothing that anyone has been willing to produce... yet.

4. You've really established yourself as the go-to guy for commercial work. Any advice to newbies on how they can break into that biz?
Yeah. Take it seriously. Do your homework. Read the commercial industry's specific trades. Advertising Age is a great resource and easy to find at a newsstand or online. Whether or not you've got an agent, try to get a job assisting the guy who runs camera at a commercial casting office. Even if it's only for a couple weeks and no money. You'll hear the reputations of the different agencies, meet the people who decide which headshots turn into auditions, and learn more in one day than you might in ten years about what NOT to do in an audition. Use TiVo in reverse. Study the current commercial campaigns. Find out which director is responsible for which. It's amazing how many actors, fortunate enough to even be considered for a role, seem to have no idea what performance is appropriate for whom.

5. Please expound on any other advice you have for actors new to LA.
Know your superpower and know what you want. Ask yourself, what separates you from the pack? Are you beyond sexy? A big tough guy? Got the voice of a four year old? The shortest path to securing a steady paycheck for acting in commercials, series, or film will likely show itself once you figure out how to market whatever that specific thing is that you do better than everyone else. Do that thing loudly. Get rave reviews for doing it. And then don't confuse people with, "Now, see me try to play King Lear at the blahblah theater in blahblahville." If you've got a bald head, bulgy eyes, and excel at comedic physical bits, sell that! You may end up playing a bell hop or quirky office assistant more times than you care to mention, but it's not such a bad thing being on casting directors' short lists for ANY role. You can stretch and win that Oscar later. Today, you're trying to survive as a professional actor. Otherwise... Live cheap. Eat right. Work out. Don't smoke. Get sleep. Drive a hybrid.

6. You're a veritable chameleon in your commercials -- from the island guy in the Bud Light spot to the bunch o'grapes in the Fruit of the Loom campaign. What's been your favorite and why?
I played a James Bond type for a Honda Civic spot a few years back, which was really cool. And getting to be Michael Jordan's smartass golf caddy for Gatorade was a blast, if only because I got to hang out with him for two days. But my favorite spot is probably the one running now for Washington Mutual. I'm pretty much playing my nerdy self, but I'm doing things that most people wouldn't dare. Like drive a motorcycle off a cliff.

7. You have your own website (jpmanoux.com). How has it helped to market yourself?
Like my headshot, it has become an integral marketing tool. My agents can sing my praises to casting directors and have them check out my site at the same time. Hopefully, a sense of my unique style and humor is immediately defined, and with a few clicks, they inch closer to saying, "Yeah, let's bring him in." Mostly, it saves time and money. Downloadable headshot. Downloadable resume. No more pricey dupes of my demo reel. And for interested friends and family, it's an easy place to find the latest news.

8. What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I'd like to keep making a living as a character actor while gradually moving to the other side of the camera. The actor who really wants to direct... cliche, I know. In five years, I'm probably working on the second sequel to my blockbuster romantic comedy, MY BIG FAT ARMENIAN COUSIN. That, or I'm the back-up field goal kicker for Glendale's NFL franchise.

9. Shameless plug time. Are there any upcoming projects we can look for you in?
I play an angry robot mime in EURO TRIP and a stuttering host to alien bugs in STARSHIP TROOPERS 2, coming soon to a theatre and a DVD rental store near you, respectively. This summer you can see the back of my bald head and hear me yell, "Tommy! Look out! Tommy!" in THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW. You'll see more, but hear less of me, as Curtis the Caveman on the new Disney Channel sitcom PHIL OF THE FUTURE.

 
 
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