For Actor Robert Watson, Humility is the Key to Landing Gigs
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Photography by Guest Artist, Kristin Freeman
At first glance, Robert Watson, 24, doesn’t seem like a typical actor. He’s humble, a bit shy, and polite. He has a steady gaze and quick smile, and not an ounce of overt cockiness.
But while Robert notes that he’s found his unpresuming attitude to be crucial as he makes his way in the acting world. “When I was in college, one of my professors told me a story about this actor who was cast for a movie, and was given a trailer. When he went onto the set, he asked the director if he could have the trailer. The director obviously said no.” Robert chuckles, “So then this actor shoots most of his scenes. Then towards the end of filming, he stops showing up - basically passively threatening to sabotage the movie if he doesn’t get this trailer.” Robert raises his eyebrows and shrugs. “He was blacklisted after that. No one would work with him again. It was probably good that he at least had a trailer.”
So, in the midst of divas and dramas, how can Watson stay so calm and still pay his rent? “Well,” he explains jokingly, “I’m English, so I suppose that helps.”
Watson spent the first two years of his life in Brighton–just enough time to develop an accent–before his family relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area. “I tried to keep the accent, I really did,” he laughs. The result of his childhood efforts is a distinct cross between a southern lilt and a California slur, a calm tone that has set him apart from his peers in the performance space.
After his family had moved to Palo Alto, Watson started acting in his high school drama class. “The theatre community at Gunn High School was inspiring, to say the least,” Watson explains, “I went to this class every day for four years and felt like I belonged somewhere.” The program, which is locally famous for its exceptional performances despite their student status, prompted Robert to pursue acting in college. “My home life was very loving, but it was also very reserved, and there were things that I never wanted to open up to my family about.” He explains, “So the first time I knew that I had to act, that it was really my calling, was in a high school production of Twelve Angry Men. I spent a lot of time with that cast, and it was the first time I felt really close to a group of people like that. It happened really fast - in the play, for those moments and for that time, we were an incredibly close-knit community. It was like having an extended family that I could talk to and tell anything. Acting brought us together, because it was such an emotional challenge. We were baring our souls on stage, so it felt very easy and natural to talk about things that were hard in our lives. I realized that I wanted to spend more and more time around people like that.”
In 2012, Robert began his college career at UCLA’s school of Theater, Film, and Television. The frenzy and hustle of Los Angeles’s entertainment industry continued to capture his attention, as did the odd jobs that his chosen field led him to.
“I obviously did the fancy Shakespeare performances and the other classics–but I also spent a summer as an actor at an aquarium - I led tours on a boat and lived by the beach and performed in educational plays.” Robert muses, “It was very strange, but now I can say that one of my skills is manning a reed boat.”
After college, Robert decided to stay in LA and try his luck in the audition circuit. He’s on his way to acting full time, and in the meanwhile supports his additional income by tutoring. I’ve had to structure my life around acting - unfortunately somewhat around the boring stuff, or the grunt work: checking emails, going to auditions, managing the logistical stuff that is not at all why I signed up to do this.” He says, “But at the same time, I get to do this full time - I get to go to acting classes, and be in the audition room. Sure, all of the surrounding stuff is boring and hard and frustrating, but when you’re in the audition room facing a person and actually playing a character? Everything slips away. It’s fantastic.”
When asked why he keeps at this difficult and often unrewarding career path, Robert says, “I think I keep doing it because of the people. I have incredible friends here. I’ve found that community that I spent so long looking for. I love acting, and I think I’m good at it – but honestly, even if I weren’t, I would keep doing it. I wouldn’t give this up for anything, and certainly not money, or fame, or prestige. I wouldn’t give this family up for anything.”