As a working actor in New York City, Logan Keeler is a very busy man. Days before his premiere in the medical drama, Men In White, Logan took time to sit down with Carpe Juvenis to discuss advice for those interested in acting, what he did to become a professional actor, and to explain how he prepares for roles. New York City is an exciting place to be an actor and participate in the theater, and Logan continually builds upon his experiences with each new role.
Thoughtful, kind, and knowledgeable in his craft, Logan is someone you will be inspired by and learn a lot from. When he’s not taking walks in the park, rehearsing lines, or auditioning, you can find Logan on-stage in the rare revival of Men In White, which opened on November 8 and runs until November 24 in New York City.
Carpe Juvenis: How do you define ‘Seizing Your Youth’?
Logan Keeler: I don’t think youth is something that we have to lose. I think a lot of people are very much afraid of that. Adulthood means giving a lot of things up. I think perhaps it’s the business that I’m in, youthful experiences is so coveted because that’s where human beings want to live. I live in New York City and so many people are wrapped up in their jobs and have schedules and responsibilities.
Youth is really just appreciating very simple joys without critique. Seizing your youth would be more like retaining appreciation for smaller things. Just as you’re a kid on the baseball field and not watching the game, just picking up the blades of grass, that’s nothing that we have to lose, and that’s something that I personally try to retain.
CJ: What did you major in at Connecticut College and how did you determine what to study?
LK: I majored in Theater and minored in Film Studies. A liberal arts college worked for me because I still wasn’t quite sure what to do. I always liked acting and maybe started as an attention-getter or something so that explains the theater major. I went more on a whim and had very little plans but it gave me a chance to say, “Hate this, hate this- love this.” If I went back, I would pick up the film major as well.
CJ: Did you study abroad? What was your big takeaway from studying abroad and do you think it was worth it?
LK: I studied abroad in London at the British American Drama Academy. I almost stayed in Connecticut at the Eugene O’Neill Center, which is a really good program for acting. It was only 15 minutes away, though, so I decided on London. It was great to get out and see another perspective. The British look at acting very differently and neither side of the pond is wrong. You can pick and choose which things you like. If anything, studying in Britain just solidified my interest in acting.
CJ: What or who inspired you to become an actor?
LK: It was very much a combination of my parents. I have three siblings and we all went in very different directions with our lives. We very well did not have to, but we were brought up by my mother and father who were very open to giving us opportunities to try something and hate something and then find something that sticks. I tried a whole bunch of things – swimming, soccer, sketching – I wanted to be, like every other 9-year-old at some point – an astronaut. Just personality-wise, I grew up with my mother’s warmth and my dad’s humor and just the combination of the two, once I discovered theater, was a way I didn’t have to hide this weird personality. It’s cliché, but it’s mostly them and just the circumstances of life. Oh, and loving these old movies. Maybe it was West Side Story; that could have been it, too.
CJ: You were in the off-off Broadway production of MONEY – what was that experience like?
LK: That was last summer in 2012. It was fun to work in the big leagues. I worked with the same director at Connecticut College when we worked on You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Gerald Moshel. He called me out of the blue, someone had dropped out, and I was a little reticent but I agreed to do it and I’m glad I did. Financially, it gave me the opportunity to leave my regular day-work for a little bit and focus. It’s a fun show. No one really knows it so there wasn’t the pressure to live up to what happened last time or to how a famous actor played the role. The play is cute, it’s farce, it’s all making fun of the upper class and bureaucracy and doctors.
CJ: You can next be seen in the production MEN IN WHITE, which opened November 8. How do you choose roles and how do you prepare for them?
LK: There’s a lot of opportunity in this city. I don’t want to put myself in a corner and say “I only do musical farces, or dramatic death scenes on CSI.” I find opportunities that come along and I often just seize them because they are rare but if it is a question of “is this something I’m interested in,” I try to find the challenge in it. Men in White is a beautifully written show, it’s from the 1930s, and it’s a hospital drama. The challenge is that it’s a period piece and it’s seeped in medical terminology. It has quite a legacy to go with it; we haven’t seen it professionally in this city since it was done in 1933.
I stepped up to the plate with this role and it’s the next project – you can only put your attention at one place at one time. This is where I’ve been putting my attention for the past month or so. We had a long rehearsal period. The play wraps up in December and then I continue on, and that’s how it goes, unless I find that Broadway role and it runs a couple of years, but that’s a bit down the road.
CJ: Do you have a pre-show ritual?
LK: It has morphed over the years. I borrow from people and I see what works. I am a very physical actor, I like to get loosened up and stretch. Otherwise that pre-show tension or any residual tension from the day – nerves, if you will, I’ll just get locked up. I’m a big proponent for stretching. I’ll find an empty room with my headphones and get my mind off of the audience. I like to be jocular and light but the last 15 minutes or so, that is for me.
CJ: How do you stay motivated on-stage night after night of performing?
LK: If the story is intriguing enough and you’re invested in it, it’s nothing you really have to worry about. When you see acting done really well on-stage, it’s seamless and effortless. Similar to the movies, it feels like watching a scene for the first time, not the fifteenth take. It’s a lot of hard work behind the scenes where I explore a lot of questions and details about what’s happening with the character in the scene. The other characters are there, the problem is there, and you are there. Whatever happens happens, and it’s a very scary thing to think about but you have to have faith that you and your cohorts have done the work. You and the actors are leaves floating down the stream, it should just carry you, and mistakes really only happen when you resist it.
CJ: What is one of the greatest lessons you have learned from being a working actor?
LK: It’s not a business that is a means to an end, which is the big illusion of the industry, theater or film, regardless. I had a teacher in New York, Bill Esper, and he said, “If you’re here to be star, you better stop right now.” There are thousands of actors in the city, and many of them are very, very talented, and it’s a one in a million chance to be Tom Cruise or Denzel Washington. And that is not to say that they didn’t work hard, they worked very hard.
The big lesson is if you’re in this business, you have to be a little crazy, there has to be a couple of screws loose. It’s not like many other professions, where if you work hard you get promotions until you can retire. Just because you work hard doesn’t mean you’ll get a role you really want. You may. You may be perfect for the part. Or you may be too tall or “not the look”. But that is not in your control, and you need to accept that. You do it for the art’s sake because it fulfills you. In the meantime, you have to be certain that you’re doing this for the love of it because if not, you’ll go crazy in a bad way. It’s not right for some people.
CJ: How do you overcome self-doubt and stage fright?
LK: There is a lot of doubt. That is one of my biggest struggles. Regardless of the profession, just moving out of the house and doing things by yourself. Let’s face it, it’s New York City, and there are thousands of actors. It is so easy to come out of an audition, to get turned down by something, it’s so easy to give up and after being rejected so many times. And that’s where the doubt creeps in – it’s a seed. Things like doubt, jealousy, and hostility – these are all seeds that are monsters that feed off of themselves and they are a hard thing to stop.
It just comes down to the work. Because there’s so much competition if you look outside yourself. If you look outside yourself, you see a thousand other actors in this concrete jungle that wants to eat you alive. That’s what you see. If you look inside yourself, you have your goals, inner strength, and beauty. It’s hard, and I escape by going to parks and finding serenity. It’s a personal quest, and I don’t know where it ends but if you can turn your fear into excitement, you can do it.
CJ: What advice do you have for youth who want to be professional actors/actresses?
LK: I would give a good amount of time to just experiment. Actor training is great to mix in self-exploration in general because you’re working from yourself. Even if you find your calling elsewhere in the meantime, you’re learning about yourself. I’ve learned so much through my acting studies just about how I react to different situations. I would take that time to study and to learn about yourself and dive in 100%. Worst case scenario is that acting doesn’t really work for you but you’re no worse for ware. Rather you’re better off in the next path you take because you’ve taken the time to be introspective. Just as with other professions, but this one is particularly crazy, and the rewards are not so visible sometimes.
When you discover that seed of inspiration, seize it. There’s no saying you can’t try those things later, but at the moment, this is where your inspiration is, so go 110%. When you put in the work, that’s when you’ll find the rewards. There are a lot of actors in this city that don’t put in the work and doubt can seep in, but it’s good to fend those off. You have to go to the smallest little seed in your heart, and it’s there under all the smog of the city and the howling voices of doubt, and that’s the seed to listen to, because it can be very hard to hear it sometimes.
CJ: What does a day in your life look like?
LK: Each day is very different. I try to see each week as a balance between things. There are daily professional regimens, finding roles, looking for a new headshot, finding an agent, working on a website. You’re the salesman and the product and that’s a lot of work. When I have the opportunity, I block out time to work on the craft. It’s as simple as stretching or time alone and meditation.
CJ: What activities were you involved in throughout high school and college? Were there any experiences that were most memorable or life changing?
LK: I had always done theater. I very much enjoyed and miss my acapella group in college. I did not have that opportunity in high school. As a puny freshman, it was a good home base. With little projects and that cheering band behind you, I loved the music and the rowdiness.
CJ: Who is your role model?
LK: There are many artists that I admire in different trades. Some for their refusal to stifle their personality, some for their ability to go full-on into a role and into a character that is unlike themselves, and some just for their hard work. Depending on what my focus is on the time, my mind will drift to one of them. I’m thinking of Matt Damon right now. It’s cliché and he’s a big name artist and he’s one of the hottest actors out there. You hear a lot of stories of actors being discovered, that someone discovered a famous actor in the cereal section of the supermarket. That’s so rare.
I hear about Matt Damon’s story about him and Ben Affleck as teenagers taking the train down to New York on the weekend to audition. It was that dedication that is inspiring. I remember Matt Damon talking about going up to his teacher and asking him, “What is the secret? There’s gotta be some sort of secret!” The teacher says “Just do the work, kid.” Everyone is expecting a hand-me-down, and that’s not to say there’s not natural talent, but that’s raw and needs to be molded.
We all have our shortcomings, we get in our heads, and some of us have stage fright or trouble memorizing. There are all different personal problems. In a business this big, you have 100 people auditioning for the same part, and you want to be cuddled but really, no one cares what your problem is. It is upon yourself to do the work and get over it. Matt Damon did the work, he wrote his own stuff, he did minor roles, and he had the vision to look 10 years down the road and work towards what has yet to happen.
CJ: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
LK: Get a haircut. Looking back on how I stuck to certain friends and interests, I would give the advice that there’s less reward in safety. As nice as that feels, it can be scary to do that as a 20-year-old when you have your group of friends. When you’re in high school and college and you see this looming graduation. A boat is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are for. I am beginning to take bigger risks to get bigger rewards, and I’m willing to make a little bit of a fool out of myself or take a chance at that if there’s a chance at a good outcome. A friend once told me that “Even if fear is 100 feet tall and 100 feet wide, it’s only paper thin.” Take a chance and do something you wouldn’t have dreamed yourself doing.