The Actor CEO Podcast Episode 90 interviews Elizabeth Inghram
Mike Moreno: The Actor CEO Podcast. Episode 90.
Elizabeth I.: Lean into what you naturally bring to the table. You might be the really bright sunny comedic actor, and if you’re in a room full of dramatic actors, that sometimes, it can feel pressure or you’re less than, because that muscle may not be as strong for you. That’s not to say you shouldn’t work on it. You absolutely should work on all facets. If what you bring to the table is this Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt type of energy, to know that about yourself and to not apologize for that, and to lean into that.
Speaker 3: Going up. You’re an actor, but you’re also a business. Take control of your career by learning how to manage it like a boss. Be driven, be responsible, be in control, be an Actor CEO. Now, your host Mike Moreno.
Mike Moreno: My guest today is an actor based out of New York City. She graduated with honors from Oklahoma City University with a bachelor degree in music. She started out as a music theater girl here in NYC, and loves seeing the country, doing four national tours and lots of regional work. She’s studied at the Maggie Flanigan Studio, a two-year Meisner conservatory here in NYC, and recently has been working on and off Broadway, in plays, and of course on film and television. You’ve seen her opposite Kristen Wiig in the film Girl Most Likely, the Netflix show “Gypsy”, “Person of Interest”, “The Blacklist”, “Royal Pains”, “I Love You but I Lied”, “Gossip Girl”. Up next, you might catch her on the upcoming AMC show “Dietland” and the new Ocean’s 8 film. She’s also done a number of national commercials, both on camera and behind the mic as a voiceover artist. If you’re here in New York City, you can catch her teaching at the Terry Knickerbocker Studio. Please welcome Elizabeth Inghram to the show. Elizabeth, thanks for joining me on the podcast.
Elizabeth I.: Well, hello. I’m so happy to be here.
Mike Moreno: Yeah, it’s great to have you.
Elizabeth I.: One correction on Broadway, not quite yet, just off. Off Broadway. It may seem off off, but not on Broadway quite yet.
Mike Moreno: Oh, that’s my mistake.
Elizabeth I.: No, that’s all right.
Mike Moreno: I’m reading your bio there. I’m so enamored by your credits that I just wish all the best for you.
Elizabeth I.: Well, soon, soon.
Who is Elizabeth Inghram?
Mike Moreno: That’s fantastic. Yeah, that was me rolling through your credits. But listen, you’ve done a lot of work. Obviously, you have a lot of credits under your belt here, but I’d love to start with the teaching, because that’s a good place to start, because you’ve been doing that for a little while and you have a lot of experience to draw from. I wonder, what has been lessons that you’ve learned from not only helping actors manage the craft themselves, and start to become a little more studied in it and understanding how this works in the professional world, but then taking some of those lessons out of the classroom. Has there been anything that’s transitioned over into your daily work and to your daily practice as a professional?
Elizabeth I.: Certainly. I think I have grown as an actor myself, just from trying to help other people. Absolutely. I think I’ve gotten better at making decisions quicker, which is something I definitely need work on, and script analysis type things. But the biggest lesson I think for me, is learning to take my own advice really, which can be hard. When I’m working with students, one of the biggest things I hope to impress upon them is to lean into what you naturally bring to the table. You might be the really bright sunny comedic actor, and if you’re in a room full of dramatic actors, that sometimes, it can feel pressure or you’re less than, because that muscle may not be as strong for you.
Brand Versus Type?
Elizabeth I.: That’s not to say you shouldn’t work on it. You absolutely should work on all facets. If what you bring to the table is this “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” type of energy, to know that about yourself and to not apologize for that, and to lean into that. Again, that’s not to say you shouldn’t work on all parts of your instrument. Not saying that at all. You absolutely should. But trust what you do have and don’t let yourself feel pressured to be something you’re not. Does that make sense?
Mike Moreno: Oh absolutely. That is something that, I mean, every actor runs into that on a fairly consistent basis. As you mentioned, it is something that sometimes, if you’re teaching, you can see pretty directly when you’re watching other people work, but when the pressure’s on for you in an audition scenario, or sometimes even in a rehearsal performance process, you can forget those simple standby lessons that are actually going to help. That’s what helped you get the job in the first place. That’s what helped you get called in to the room in the first place and you should double down on that, and as you say, really trust what works for you, trust your instincts.
Elizabeth I.: Yeah, and even as you’re training, to know that the colors that are really bright in you might not be that way for another person, and to trust that that’s okay. We can’t all be everything at the same time. It is important to continue to work on those muscles as well. But, when you’re going into the audition, when you’re working on the script, for the audition, let that stuff go and know, “Okay, what is the thing that I bring?” I guess with students, I see sometimes, them trying to fit themselves in these molds of what they want to be. I’m not criticizing it, I get it. I think I certainly still do that sometimes. Like, “Oh, but that thing in me. I really want to be Frances McDormand, that really tough gritty person.”
Elizabeth I.: But you know what? I’m not going to be cast as that. If you look at me, I’m not going to be cast as that. That’s not how people see me, even if that’s an aspect of me. When I’m working on the audition, try to be like, “Okay, well, not how Frances McDormand would this, but how would Elizabeth do this?” With students yeah, trying to help them embrace what they have and to trust their gut. You said at the beginning of the podcast, then how do I apply that to myself? Yeah, it’s been really wonderful to see that in other people and to try to help guide them as much as I can. I’m just one person.
Leaning in to your type
Mike Moreno: I think, talking about it now, it really actually is a very important aspect of working as an actor, because being able to focus on the elements that you bring really strongly, as you put them, the colors that shine brightly in you, those three, four, five or six colors that you bring to the table all the time, that maybe not everybody can. If you know that, “Okay, I’m going to focus on these, and in my training or in my work on my own craft, keep mining these parts of me and keep digging deeper, and keep honing these tools that I have that comes so easily to me. But make them even better, and better, and better.” Then that’s just going to make you a better actor. It’s going to make all of this, that you bring to the table, so much sharper and make you a better professional, because then, when you get out into the casting world and people see these colors in you, and that’s what they want to bring into the room. That’s what they’re trying to apply to the story.
Mike Moreno: You can do that so well, so much better than perhaps other people, who might have similar aspects, because you have been working on those in a really deep way, and a really focused way. Rather than maybe being like, “Oh, that’s something that’s easy for me, so I’m going to ignore it,” and try to grow other aspects that you might only be 20 or 30 percent on, when the other stuff you’re at 80%, and you could actually make it 90, 95 if you really focused your time on it. That’s what makes people who do something, a few specific things really well, that’s what makes them incredibly castable, because people know. They’re like, “If I need somebody to do this element or have these characteristics, this person is great at it, because they’ve been working on it.”
Elizabeth I.: It’s a little bit of branding too, knowing where you fit into the world, whether it be theater, what kind of shows, what kinds of roles, or TV and film, what kind of casting directors are casting that kind of show. It’s a little bit of branding too. Again, just to be clear, I’m not saying don’t work on the other aspects. A color for me that sometimes is not the most accessible is a certain kind of vulnerability, and that’s something that I will probably be wanting to access and work on the rest of my life. But the things that I get cast as don’t necessarily … Obviously, I get cast as things that don’t necessarily require the specific kind of vulnerability.
Elizabeth I.: Yeah, I wish I was more that way, but I also have to recognize my bread and butter is coming in other directions. Believe me, I do continue to work on that other part of me that feels more challenging. But, when it comes to getting the audition, if that’s not there, I just can’t focus on that, I have to go with what I have. Does that clarify a little bit? I don’t want to say I don’t work on stuff. As a teacher and as an actor, I think that we always need to be learning and always need to be working on ourselves emotionally, personally, and as professional actors as well. I just wanted to put that out there.
Mike Moreno: No, absolutely. I think it is good to clarify that. But it’s a point we talk about often on the podcast, because it is necessary to talk about. Actors always want to do as much as possible. There is room for that, but you also need to make sure that you can set yourself up for, as I say all the time here, sustainability in your professional career.
Elizabeth I.: Absolutely.
Where should we focus our creative energy?
Mike Moreno: Focus is a big part of that. Which leads me to talking about the number of baskets if you will, that you have creative energy, that you’ve thrown your creative energy in. Obviously, there’s theater, there’s television, there’s film that you’ve been working on. Of course, there’s the voiceover side of things and there’s commercials, which is another beast in and of itself. How have you Elizabeth, how have you devoted your energy into focusing on developing any set of skills that applies to these elements.
Mike Moreno: For instance, in your bio of course, theater was probably one of the first things that you were introduced to and grew in, in terms of the professional world. How did you then decide, and how did you spend your energy, in terms of deciding, “Okay. Now I’m going to work on this next thing, and this is how I’m going to focus on it in order to grow.” How did you find the balance in order to continue what’s already working for you, but also devote your energy towards growing these aspects that would allow your career to blossom in other areas?
Elizabeth I.: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think it’s something that I’m still always re-figuring to try to do as many of the things that I want to do in a day as possible. I’m not an expert at it. I’m still figuring it out too. I think I do work really hard, and I think sometimes even just having the knowledge or the self-forgiveness of, “You know what? I can’t actually do everything in one day,” and knowing when to stop, which is something I am working on. I guess in terms of the forgiveness aspect, one thing that I have let go, which has been a little sad for me, and I want to pick it back up again, is the music aspect, which is what I came to New York to do originally, was music theater. It’s one of those things that right now, I can find a way to bring music into my life again for fun, but I just have to set that aside. I’m like, “You know what? I’m just not pursuing musical theater right now.”
Elizabeth I.: I’m just not. That’s not to say that I won’t again in a year or two years, but it’s just not what I’m doing right now and I need to accept that, and not try to put that on the burner too, and then beating myself up for not getting to that. For the other things, I guess it kind of does go in spurts. There was a period of about a year where I really took some time to do some voiceover coaching. I had met a casting director through a play that I did, who thought I could be successful in the industry, and kind of took me under his wing and worked with me. I paid him for my coaching and stuff. It wasn’t a free deal. It ended up being a wonderful introduction to the business for me, because then I had a voiceover demo after that and I met agents. I really did take that like … Okay, I’m still obviously going out on my TV auditions when I get them. When I get auditions, obviously, I’m doing it, I’m pursuing that. But I really did take some time to focus in on the voiceover, because I knew that was something that I wanted in my life.
Elizabeth I.: It’s been one of the best decisions for me to diversify my portfolio if you will. As an actor, to have another source of income. Frankly, one of the reasons why I wanted to start doing it was I was worried about being a woman in the business and getting older, and how can I sustain a career in this. Hopefully, times are changing and I’m grateful for that, and hopefully that this stigma on women getting older will continue to shift. But that was one of the reasons why I wanted to start getting into voiceovers, because it doesn’t matter what you look like. I guess I do sort of compartmentalize, especially when I was really starting to pursue voiceovers and working with that specific casting director. Then I just did two plays right in a row at Theater Row, and when that happened, I just didn’t have the time and the energy to invest in my voiceover career. That’s not to say, again, I would go to auditions if I got them, but I didn’t do anything extra.
Elizabeth I.: I get a lot of home record auditions. I kind of was a bad actor. I didn’t always even get to them, because if I got home from the theater 11:30 at night, I’m exhausted. Sometimes I could do it in the morning before they were due, and sometimes I just couldn’t. Again, then I had to accept, “You know what Elizabeth? You’re giving everything to this play right now and that’s all you can do.” There’s a balance between … Someone once said … Oh God. I’m going to butcher it. She made a list of all these things that she wanted to do. I’m going to paraphrase. I don’t remember all those things. “I want to learn Spanish. I want to learn how to play cello. I want to get super muscular legs,” and all these things. Realistically, how many of these things can I accomplish this year, this week, this month, and then pick one? Okay, well, learning Spanish is sort of an epic thing.
Elizabeth I.: Say I want to spend the next month really seeing what kind of commercials are on TV and who’s getting cast. What do they look like, what are they wearing? If you want to do on camera or off camera, what do they sound like? What is the timbre of their voice? What are the inflections? Then spend some time doing that. Then for me, the way it’s worked is, I just have to let other things slide for a while. I think in an ideal world, I’m like, “Okay. I’m going to spend 10 minutes today working on voiceover, in addition to the home records and the regular work I have to do. I’m going to spend 10 minutes doing that. I’m going to spend a half hour doing my TV research. Maybe that’ll be watching a TV show. I’m going to spend 30 minutes looking into theater castings.” In the ideal world, maybe that’s how it would go, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way for me yet.
Mike Moreno: Hey actors. I’ve got amazing news. I thank each and every one of you for joining me on this journey in seeking out this great insight from our guests. If you want to show your love for this show and all the amazing info we get from our guests, head to actorceo.com/resources to buy your next book on acting, your next piece of self-tape gear, or your next awesome video series like Acting Shakespeare. You’re going to make that purchase anyway, and this way you can show a little support for this podcast you love and all the people that make it happen. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I cannot wait to keep delivering great guests and outstanding info on how to treat your career like a business throughout the year. Now back to the show. You bring up a good point, which is first of all, you only have so much energy that you can devote to anything in an effective way.
Elizabeth I.: Exactly.
Mike Moreno: I mean, you could fill your day up with 10 minute projects over, and over, and over again, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all going to be done to the best of your ability, right?
Elizabeth I.: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Moreno: I mean, we’ve all experienced time in high school or college, or grad school or whatever, but crunch time’s when you’re trying to study multiple things at the same time. Not everything’s going to get 100% of your attention, and it’s not all going to stick, and it’s not all going to be effective time spent on the task. Whereas, if you open yourself up to the possibility that first of all, this is a marathon not a sprint-
Elizabeth I.: Absolutely.
Mike Moreno: … and you’re in this for the long run, then you give yourself the permission to say, “It’s okay that I am not going to accomplish this list of 10 things in a year. I’m going to focus on the next three things I would like to do and make those my focus for this year.” Then go from there, and then spend the appropriate amount of time working on that and feel like you’re moving forward. Then you can reevaluate and see where you go. But sometimes it’s tough, because there’s a lot of, I want to say impulse, but really, influx of other information from other people and just around the world, this sort of fear of missing out of opportunities of being like, “Oh man. You know so and so’s doing their voiceover. Man, I could do voiceover, so why am I not doing that?”
Mike Moreno: Or, “So and so’s doing their comedy thing,” or something, “Man, I could do that. Why am I not doing that?” “Well, first of all, what are you doing right now? Are you focusing on something right now, because they’re probably feeling the same way about what you’re focusing on,” if that’s dramatic television, or your Shakespeare work, or whatever else it might be. You got to focus on something, otherwise you’re going to keep trying to get around the next corner and you’re never going to go anywhere.
Elizabeth I.: Oh, absolutely. I think you’re right. The chances of spreading yourself too thin in this day and age, or the ability to spread yourself too thin, is up there. There’s so many ways you can spend your time. I encourage people to find … What just came to mind were some of the social media private Facebook groups for different guru … Not in guru [inaudible 00:22:23], because sometimes I think guru’s not a great word, not in my book anyway. Different people who run different organizations, whether they be a pay to play type of organization, or whether they help actors learn to market themselves. There’s lots of private groups, or classes, studios, et cetera, out there. I think it’s great. I wish there had been that sort of thing when I first came to the city, because I think they can be super helpful to crowdsource and get information.
Elizabeth I.: But then at a certain point it gets overwhelming, because there is so much information, and there are so many things that you can be doing. It takes I think, extra diligence. I’m saying this as one who is learning. I’m not saying this as one who is an expert. Just ask my husband. It takes extra diligence to really find the things that are your things and to lean into those. Kind of like what we said in the beginning of the conversation. That’s not to say that you don’t be open to take an improv class, or to do the comedy standup thing or whatever, like you mentioned. Absolutely try it out, but then learn when it’s time to cut your losses. I got a better way to say this. “I got what I needed from this and now what else is there for me?” That’s a really tough question to ask yourself, for me anyway, in this climate where there is so much information.
Mike Moreno: Yeah. But I have found, at least for myself and I think talking to others this has proven to be true in many cases as well, that finding time for yourself, finding either practices or exercises, specifically, time to focus on, “What do I really want right now? How am I moving my career forward? What are my true desires for this next period of time? What is maybe taking energy away from me? What is not worth my time, energy or resources?” Elizabeth, speaking for yourself, what are some tools, or exercises, or resources that you go to, to help ground yourself, and help get rid of some of the distractions or some of the extra energy that you’re throwing out there, and help bring you back to being able to make those decisions in a little bit more of a focused way?
How do we engage with self-care as an artist?
Elizabeth I.: Frankly, meditation is something that is incredibly valuable to me. There’s all kinds of resources to help you, if that’s something you want to check into. Headspace I think has an app. Oprah and Deepak occasionally run a free meditation. That one’s a little more spiritually-oriented I think. Still relatively secular, but there’s a little bit more spirituality in that. So, meditation. Also, my dog. My dog. Getting out with my dog. I don’t like taking him to the dog park. Things that are not acting. A lot of my life is … And I feel very fortunate. A lot of my life is filled up with … I was thinking about it today. I’m like, “God. I’m in a terrible mood. It’s raining. My appointment ran late,” and all these things. “But God, how lucky am I that all of my things are actor things today? How lucky am I?”
Elizabeth I.: Gratitude, that’s always something that I could work more on, and exercise for me is big. I need that to get outside of my head and it just helps me work off … I think there’s medical backing about how that helps relieve stress, and cortisol levels lowered, and all those things. Pretty basic, simple. I don’t go to a website. Yeah, shutting down those things actually, is where I can find ways to become more clear, by listening to myself. Yeah, that is the hardest thing in this city right now, is just to shut down the noise and hear yourself. I know meditation sounds freaky to some people. Honestly, I don’t do it every day right now, I’m a little bit out of the habit. But I find even just like 10 minutes, once I’m in the habit of it, I find it indispensable really.
Mike Moreno: And scheduling that time again, is important, because as we’ve just discussed, you have to figure out how am I going to focus time to grow elements of my career or my craft, but you also have to devote time to growing the aspects that make you you, that make you the human that is able to do all this stuff, and the human that you want to be.
Elizabeth I.: Absolutely.
Mike Moreno: That’s so important to take care of yourself and make sure that there’s time to do that week in and week out, otherwise, as we’ve mentioned, you can just get so bogged down by needing to be something not only to yourself, but to other people, so many times over and over, day in and day out, that you haven’t devoted any energy to taking care of yourself.
Elizabeth I.: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mike Moreno: That’s what’s going to sustain you in the long run.
Elizabeth I.: Yeah. God, I had a point and I lost it while you were talking. But no, I totally agree with you on that. Crap. I thought it was really profound and it left. If it was really profound it’ll come back to me.
Mike Moreno: Well, and maybe one day music will start to creep its way back in and be some of that element for you as well. Not necessarily in any sort of professional aspect, but as a way for you to get back in touch with some self-healing elements that you care about, things that you enjoy personally.
Elizabeth I.: Yes. That reminded me of my oh so profound statement or thought. Sometimes I rush around, and I see lots of students do this as well, so I’m not alone in this. We fill up our days and we forget that we’re not machines, we’re creative. We came into this business because we’re creative people, and that needs to be nurtured as much as, “Oh, I need to work on my voiceover. Oh, who’s booking what, and what am I doing?” That creative self needs to be nurtured just as much. I don’t do it nearly enough. But one thing to add to my list of things to do to take care of yourself though … I haven’t done The Artist Way, but I know there’s the Artist Date is a big part of it, and I’ve heard of it. I was doing that for a while. It was so funny, I’d just go to a café and let my mind go where it wanted to go and write. I started to write a script actually, like two years ago, from one of these Artist Dates and I totally forgot about it.
Elizabeth I.: I opened up my computer and went to this program one day, and I was like, “What is this? Is this a sample script?” I didn’t even recognize it. I started reading it, and then one of the things that happened, I was like, “Oh no. I wrote this. Oh my God.” I was so excited, I stayed up until 2:00 in the morning, and I finished it two years later. It’s just a short, short, short script. It was so much fun. I sent it to two people, it’s not anything that’s going to be anything. But it reminded me of how that would’ve never happened A) if I would’ve not taken myself to a café and bought myself a fancy coffee, and let my mind just wander, and let myself be creative for a minute. That would’ve never happened. I found so much enjoyment and pleasure in actually finishing this script. I don’t know. It reminded me again, of, “Oh, I’m not just a machine that’s trying to book a voiceover job, or a commercial, or this TV gig. I’m a creative, fully realized person. I’m not a robot.” That’s vital.
Mike Moreno: Personal is such an important part of the process.
Elizabeth I.: Yeah, and I don’t do it enough.
Mike Moreno: You’re a professional, but you also need that personal element, otherwise these beautiful things won’t have the space to show themselves.
Elizabeth I.: Yeah.
Mike Moreno: That’s great.
Elizabeth I.: I would recommend that too. I should bring that up to my students too.
Mike Moreno: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Other people have mentioned The Artist Way. I haven’t heard of the other program though. That’s pretty cool. I’ll definitely link that in the show notes. Elizabeth, tell everybody where can they find out about what all this wonderful stuff is that you’re doing? Do you have a website? Where can people follow you on social media maybe, and see what’s going on?
Elizabeth I.: Sure. I do have a website. I have a funky H in my last name, so I’ll spell it out for you. It’s www.elizabethinghram.com. It’s Elizabeth, E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H. Inghram, I-N-G-H-R-A-M. That’s me. For my social media handles, it’s all @elizabethingNYC. So, Elizabeth I-N-G NYC, because get it? Elizabething NYC.
Mike Moreno: Beautiful. Well Elizabeth, thank you so much for jumping on the show with us.
Elizabeth I.: Oh absolutely.
Mike Moreno: And sharing your wonderful experience and some of the insight that you’ve gained over the course of time here in New York City.
Elizabeth I.: Well, thank you for having me. I hope that it’s helpful to somebody out there.
Mike Moreno: You can find all the resources for this episode in the show notes at actorceo.com/90.
Speaker 3: Thanks for listening. Subscribe to The Actor CEO Podcast on iTunes and at actorceo.com.