Not everyone understands the reality of life as an actor. Some people see the highs of being an actor, going to top restaurants, driving fast cars, and living in big houses. In reality most actors lives are not like that.
Being an actor is one of the most competitive professions in the world. There are more than 135, 600 unemployed and employed actors in the USA. If you visit Los Angles, then don’t be surprised if you are served in a bar or in a restaurant by an out of work actor.
Most actors spend more time out of work than in work, but that is the life of a jobbing actor. So why do all these actors put themselves through the worry of not knowing where the next pay cheque will come from and worry if they will ever work again. The simple answer is, they love their craft. Most actors are not in it for the fame and money, they are in it because they were born to do it.
One actor who is determined to succeed, and who has already won an award is Canaan John Dewey. The actor comes from a normal family background. His dad is a policeman, and his mum is a Clergy, but Canaan wanted to follow his own path, a path of the arts.
We sat down with Canaan John Dewey to learn more about life as an actor, and this is what he had to say:
Canaan John Dewey, you are an American born actor, podcaster, producer and travel photographer, but if someone asked you what is your one profession, what would you say to them?
I’d say I’m an artist because I keep myself busy with various creative endeavors but google says I’m a film actor and honestly, I love seeing that.
You are a man of many talents, but what do you prefer, being an actor, producer, travel photographer, or podcaster?
The ultimate goal is to become an established actor. Most of my energy nowadays has been put towards training and marketing myself as an actor. I mostly work part-time with my many other creative outlets, though podcasting, travel photography and my notebook/journal collection gets a good amount of my attention.
Your road into acting is a strange one if I am honest. You started performing in church plays, but then studied administration in college and then went working in retail management, before becoming a professional actor. Why did you take that route, and was it important for you to have something to fall back on if acting did not work out?
Having a secure backup career is optimal but that’s not what I seemed out. I originally thought I was going to have a career in fashion design, fashion retail or visual merchandising but had a change of heart after taking an Acting 101 elective during my last year of community college. Up until then, it never occurred to me that acting was a career path I could choose. I’ve been hooked by acting ever since, good and bad, I’ve stuck with this journey and want to see what happens next. I remember every year when I was much younger, my church would have the youth put on a church play during a festival that was celebrated by members of the church organization. One show, I dressed up as R&B singer Luther Vandross in an all-white suit and drawn-on mustache to lip-sync the song “A House Is Not A Home”, it’s not necessarily what you’d think of when it comes to a church play, but for some reason that happened. Other church productions are fuzzy in my mind but I remember that one vividly; there was also some school plays and me performing the trumpet in an elementary school recital. I started out creative, pivoted to a safer career choice and then lunged back into the world of actor and artist and happier now then I was with my former career paths.
You live in Los Angeles where it is known for nearly every waiter or bartender saying they are an actor, why did you want to become an actor?
I want to become an actor because I’m naturally dramatic. Ha! I also enjoy dressing to fit a mood or theme, bringing a character off the page and enjoy being a part of the worlds created during a production. There’s also the ability to express thoughts and feelings that maybe aren’t usually expressed in real life, that can be somewhat cathartic. I tend to be guarded in my natural life and feel acting has been a great way to explore my emotions and reactions to life occurrences. It’s also work that doesn’t feel like work because I’m helping the human or human like experience. I love that so far I’ve received a rich life of experiences because I’ve done principal, crew or background work on a television, film or stage production.
What response do you get from people when you tell them that you are an actor?
Well, since I live in Los Angeles, there’s usually an automatic follow-up response of “What can I or have I seen you in?” I tend to freeze up and forget but this time I’m prepared, you can see me in the short film “Chirp, Buzz and Other Sensations” on Amazon Prime show “Discover Indie Film” in season two, episode one and me in a smaller role in feature film “The Education of A Negro” on Apple TV and my other short films and trailers are linked at my website www.canaan.one
You received the Best Supporting Actor award for the short film Last Tonight, which was directed by Kevin Williams, are you hoping that has lifted your profile to be recognized by big Hollywood directors?
I hope so. I love films and want to be a part of the lasting legacy they leave when it comes to telling the future our stories, fantasies, ambitions and realities of today. I enjoy the fantasy of it all. My goal is to market my acting and hopefully land the opportunity work with some of the best creatives in the film and television industry. The accolades and fame is nice and shiny to desire but i want to be in some critically acclaimed and loved productions. I want to productions I’m in to impact audiences.
If you could choose a dream role to play what would it be?
I’ve always been fascinated by black cowboys and would love to be in an epic cinematic western adventure or a dystopian future movie; I love the appeal of westerns and its appreciation of the wild American landscape and films with interesting art direction and production design. In past interviews, I’ve mentioned other historical figures like disco singer Sylvester and various other storylines I’ve dreamt of portraying but I’ve become also interested in the stories of black performers, inventors, academics and such that made a life and career within an all-white environment, establishment or industry and found some personal success within the adversity they experienced. Many of these black men and women helped advance or even created the technology, genre or skillsets still practiced but have forgotten when history was being written and credit was due. I’d love to be a part of sharing and producing these stories, whether it’s fictionalized or historical.
Would you class yourself as a jobbing actor or would you like to go into a long running soap opera like General Hospital?
I’d consider myself a jobbing actor. When I look at my resume, I see different eras of my life. I enjoy working on different sets and productions but I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to work on a long running show.
One thing that has always puzzled me about actors, is how do you manage to remember all those lines. Is there a technique that you use?
For me, learning the story and what’s happening in the scene to my character makes it easier to remember my lines. When I know why I’m saying what I’m saying, reacting they way I’m reacting or knowing exactly I’m responding to, the dialogue becomes easier to remember. Being word perfect comes by practicing with dialogue repetition but knowing what’s happening and what’s motivating my character helps tremendously with memorization.
If someone wanted to become an actor and did not have a great memory, is there anything they can do to deal with the huge amount of lines they have to learn?
Relax and read your lines out loud, a lot. It helps to have the lines I’m not speaking recorded and I listen and respond with my lines out loud. I do that to practice being word perfect and help with memorization. I will say though, relaxation makes a huge difference in performance and memory. I feel like most times, when I’m having a hard time, it’s because I not relaxed because of lack of preparation. When I’m unsure of what the scene is about or my characters motivation, I become nervous, which blocks me from being in the moment of being that character. Knowing the story and why my character is in the scene helps me relax and memorize the lines at ease but practicing always triumphs when it comes to memory, so rehearse, rehearse rehearse!
Your first speaking role was in The Education of a Negro which is currently available on Apple TV, how did you feel to finally get a speaking role?
I was excited to land a role in a feature film within the first two years of me restarting my pursuit of acting here in Hollywood. I’m grateful to have been a part of that movie and I’m looking forward to booking bigger roles in a feature film and/or series productions very soon.
Your father is a police officer, how did he feel when you told him you wanted to become an actor?
My father was supportive of whatever I wanted to do with my life. He kept telling me to just stick with whatever I chose and I chose a lot of different ventures, and I still do at times. He didn’t totally understand all my decisions but he definitely supported me and wanted me to not give up on my dreams. He often repeated that persistence is key.
There has been a lot of media attention about Black Lives Matter and how some police deal with people, this must have caused a lot of conversations with your family with your dad being a serving police officer?
My dad was a very positive and private person, almost to a fault. Growing up, my parents sheltered me from a lot of what was happening in this world. Since my dad was a cop, I did have privy to how to avoid certain situations and consequences and what to say and do if ever pulled over by a cop but there was also this illusion of protection created because my dad was a cop. I often acted carefree. Up until around 18-19 years old, I sort of lived in a bubble and I think my parents did that because they knew what was coming for me as an adult black male. I’m still processing it all, I’m not sure if sometimes i’m just in a state of denial about my place in this world.
Would you like to see the TV and Film industry to tackle the Black Lives Matter conservation as lets be honest, not much as been mentioned when you look at TV shows and to my knowledge there are no films being made about this topic?
There are many films, series and stage productions being made to tackle the conversation but unfortunately it’s not always covered by mass media and/or advertised widely by the major studios or platforms that sometimes house them. I feel many productions are niche marketed unless the cast is majority fair skin. So, I often feel few know about these productions and that these conversations exist, unless the production sweeps up awards during the award season. I think producers are creating productions about and with minority stories but many productions seem to be pushed onto fringe cable networks, buried within streaming platforms or self-produced, crowd-funded and uploaded to a flooded video content platform as well as self-submitted to festivals all around the world. I feel big studios and major production companies have the ability to stop experimenting with minority stories and filmmakers and just start creating more film and series that implement diverse character faces and storylines, even within leading roles. They have the power to change this narrative.
What advice would you give to young people who are thinking of becoming an actor?
Do it! It’s the best job in the world. It’s the one job were you’re allowed to be the jack of all trades and skill sets. I’ll never know when I’ll need to utilize my archery or fight choreography lite skills, but I’m ready. Haha! That being said, it’s a tough business, even if you’re exactly what they’re looking for, it’s still tough. There’s a lot of rejection, there’s a lot of self-promotion, there’s a lot of persistent practice, there’s a lot of networking, initial free work and getting outside of comfort zone involved if you want to become a working actor or any type of established performer. It’s somewhat blue-collar work that I think most shy away from it when they realize what they have to physically, financially and mentally do to become successful. We see a lot of ‘over-night’ successes but I can guarantee that when you research that person, you’ll see that they’ve probably been persistent for a long time. Every job or career comes with its own set of challenges, no matter what. I like what my acting coach John Pallotta once told me during my off-off-Broadway days in New York City: “Enjoy the journey, not the destination!”
How many auditions would you say you go for each month, and how many did you attend before you got your first speaking part?
I’ve actually auditioned a lot more when I was a non-union actor. Now that I’m a union actor, I’m auditioning with sometimes seasoned, more reputable performers. Many roles I fit visually are sometimes very specific and seek certain archetypes and since I’m not a commonly cast or easily identifiable archetype, there’s some gap between the roles I land and audition for. I audition an average of 1-4 times a month either through self submission or from my agent or manager. I don’t know what kind of opportunity will present itself that I can be trusted with helping bring alive but I’ve been excited on my journey so far. For now, I’m enjoying the life of being an actor and artist and all it entails.
A lot of famous actors have become very successful directors, is this an area you would like to get involved in?
I would love to direct a feature film with a big budget with a major studio or production company backing it or a dramatic independent film. It’d be great to make a film that shoots on location at some of the most beautiful places around America or internationally. Three of my favorite films are “The Motorcycle Diaries”, “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Forrest Gump” and I’d love to direct an epic adventure where we watch the main character on a life-changing journey but the landscapes and architecture are also main characters within the film.
In the UK one famous gay actor caused a lot of upset when he said that straight actors should not play roles where the character is gay, but that actor has portrayed gay and straight characters, which to be honest is a bit hypocritical. What is your opinion on that?
I feel the best actor for the part should get the role. I love a great performance from any actor, and I have seen LGBTQ+ actors with exceptional performances in heterosexual roles and vice versa. I feel the best actor for the role should always be the priority when casting a production, but the world isn’t perfect, society still has to evolve past some perpetuated norms.
Where would you like to see your career in ten years time?
I see myself with a more established career and brand. In ten years, I hope to be making, creating, producing and acting in art that sparks a thoughtful conversation or motivates ambitious and creative endeavors. I would also like to announce here first that I’ve officially shortened my professional name to just, Canaan. Thank you for this time, I appreciate it.