It’s true- I’ve chosen to give up acting, at least in the way I’ve been pursuing it for the last six years.
I know I don’t owe anyone an explanation. But I think it would be nice to provide one for all those who have supported and encouraged me during this journey. The first reaction I get when I tell people is usually one of sadness or disappointment, given away by the slightest twinge of certain facial muscles or the slightest swoop in pitch when they respond, “Really?” I assume this is because they believe I’m talented; they just know that if I kept working at it, I’d get somewhere. Or they see it as an admission of defeat and are disappointed for me. “He couldn’t take it,” they’ll think of telling their friends later. “It was too much for him.” Only my parents and grandmother have responded with unabashed relief when I told them I was stepping away, and I’m finally able to laugh at their reaction. But the people who are initially saddened or disappointed when I tell them have all been happy for me and supported my decision after I’ve explained myself. So I thought I’d do the same for you, if you’re interested.
From when I started acting professionally in 2011, there was something that worried me- I carried a sense of guilt because I didn’t have that fire I kept hearing about. I never felt like I needed to act. I didn’t act in order to feel whole, or at peace, or fulfilled, or myself. I didn’t have to act to express myself. I never treated it as therapy; I didn’t act to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression. It was simply something I enjoyed doing, had a knack for, and worked at. But I didn’t work hard at it because I needed to. I worked hard because I felt I was supposed to.
People very close to me know about the slavedriver in my mind/over my shoulder. Whether I’m passionate about something or not, I’ll still work at it as if I am. Maybe it’s pride or some other deep-seeded psychological issue. But I’ll throw myself into things. That’s why I did the mind-numbing administrative tasks that come with the business. It’s why I took classes, worked out, studied film, submitted endlessly, wrote letters to agents, sat in hours of traffic for minutes-long student film auditions. Why I slogged through the thankless crap that makes up most of a working actor’s life. Why I pieced together low-paying food service jobs, tutoring, and delivering to be able to make ends meet (sometimes). Why I dodged creditors’ calls and ate peanut butter and jelly and turned up the radio so as not to hear that grinding sound my car was making. Why I sweated thinking about asking a friend if I could borrow 50 bucks. Again. All that, because I liked acting? Well, it turns out you can drive a long way in the wrong direction if you don’t read the signs.
If, in the middle of my acting career, you had asked me why I was pursuing it, my heart would have answered something like, “Why am I pursuing it? Well, because I am. I can’t do something else, because I’m doing this.” I had started doing this thing, decided it was now my main thing, and I worked at it as hard as I could. It was as simple (or complicated) as that.
As the fall of 2017 began, I was gearing up for the next big push. I had pinpointed my essence as an actor (“dependable nice guy, slightly nerdy,” or “the passionate thinker fighting for a cause”) and was ready to use that essence to market myself. I hired a wardrobe consultant. I booked a headshot session. I joined a wonderful scene study class and really made some breakthroughs (my teacher actually started preparing me for an audition at the Actors Studio). I bought the book that listed the contact information of all the professional managers in L.A. Engines were go for ignition.
And suddenly, after years of increasing discomfort and doubt, just as I was about to start an important career climb, I was struck with a tidal wave of apprehension and was forced to ask myself a colossal question.
Do I still want this?
The answer didn’t come to me immediately. I realized, in order to find it, I had to take my foot off the gas and try and listen very carefully to myself, to the Vasilios that loved God, peace, quiet, stability, reading, writing, and lack of conflict. I’d be lying if I said that learning to listen wasn’t torturous. Questioning my life’s pursuit led to a lot of crying, plenty of lying awake at night, and pounding my steering wheel in desperation. I prayed, pondered, and talked to some of the people closest to me. Do I, gasp, just… stop? How could I? I was already/only six years into the chase.
I tried very hard to acknowledge what I was feeling. I realized my acting classes, though I delved into the depths of and connected with fascinating, compelling characters, were actually taking away my peace. I realized that I didn’t actually want to go to or prepare for auditions, and that after I had finished them, didn’t care about the result. I thought about the necessity in this business of playing characters I had no wish to bring to life, of having to be physically intimate, on screen or on stage, with girls other than my beloved Melinda. I thought about the very likely possibility that even if I found what was considered success as a working actor five or ten years down the road, I wouldn’t have the kind of security I wanted for the family that, God-willing, I was planning to have. I realized acting and I were slowly drifting away from each other, two ice floats in the ocean. My heart had made its decision and was simply waiting for my mind to catch up. In my last week of auditioning, I had four auditions, landed two callbacks, and booked one job. And I couldn’t care less about any of it. That was enough for me. I cancelled my casting database memberships and quietly stepped away.
I want to make unmistakably clear that I have nothing but love and support in my heart for anyone, motivated by the pure intentions of storytelling and exploring the truths of the human condition, who chooses the path of acting. To those who eat, sleep, and breathe it, who need it: God bless you. You’re beautiful people who make beautiful things and enrich the world through your fruitfulness. I know you probably see things quite differently, and I respect you and your viewpoint. For me, the pursuit didn’t ring true. And to myself I must be true.
I have to admit that I sometimes wish I’d quit sooner. At a glance, it looks like I’ve got nothing to show for my efforts. But I have to remind myself that every second of my life, past, present, and future, is connected to the others by an unbreakable thread, and that I don’t and will never know what stopping earlier would have led to. I only know that I’m in a decent place right now and must be grateful for it. I also have to remind myself of the incredible training for life I underwent as an actor. I learned to live frugally. I learned a lot about rejection and how not to take it personally. I learned not to measure my own achievements against others.’ I became a better communicator. I learned how to juggle a schedule. I became generally more observant, swimming in life’s moments instead of rolling by them. I was inspired. And most importantly, the pursuit of acting brought me to this grand city, and led me to that Starbucks in Valley Village where I met that corporeal concentration of love and light named Melinda.
When I stopped, I felt mostly relief. There’s a bit of regret, sure, especially when watching a great movie or episode of television. But if you gave me sides and asked me to prepare an audition for the amazing character I just watched, I would turn you down. At this point, I recognize with some amusement that I’d rather “have acted” than actually “act.”
My problems certainly didn’t all melt away when I stepped away from acting. I still have my fair share of stress, anxiety and doubt for the future. But I have a job and a paycheck which affords me a modicum of stability. And more importantly, my inner peace is growing steadily, thanks to the great lifting of unnecessary pressure.
It seems to also relieve people when I remind them that this is not the end of Vasilios the artist. One of the most exciting things about my decision is the time freed up to devote to the pursuit I care the most about: writing, specifically, prose, my first love. I hadn’t written a short story since college (that’s 2009, friends), and since I stopped acting, I’ve already completed one, a disjointed surrealist, poetic piece that mostly confuses people. I love it. My New Year’s resolution, so you can hold me to it: ten completely new short stories finished by December 31st. Why not? I’ve also, along with Melinda, come up with an idea for a series of children’s books that makes us giggle, riff, and scheme.
Multiple people have said to me, as if almost to comfort themselves, “And if you ever change your mind, acting will always be there.” I suppose it will, but I can’t envision a reality where I drop everything and dive into something I’m not passionate about. If I ever do return to acting, it’ll be for a project I myself am curating, with a story I’m behind and a message I agree with. If there is going to be punch at this party, I won’t be the droplet in somebody else’s punch. I aim to be the man serving the punch I made in a ladle I own.
I also am making my triumphant return to my pride and joy, my baby podcast about all things Tolkien, Tolkien Takeaway. I’ve already scheduled a recording date and guest for Episode 6, and it’ll be a good one, featuring a well-known British health professional.
I want to thank all those that stood by me, who lent me their time, their ear, their arms, their money, their shoulder, their support, their optimism, their encouragement, their patience, their wisdom, their food, their hospitality, their love. I will be forever grateful, and your efforts have not come to naught. You have made me better, I’m sure of it.
As part of this kind of goodbye, and because I parted mostly amicably with acting, I thought it might be fun to cut together one final reel, composed of some of my biggest and favorite moments from this ride. It’s here; enjoy. I love you all. God bless.