(Part 1 of this interview is Interview with an Actor in an Upcoming Bud Super Bowl Commercial (Part 1.) I put Part 2 here because in it soon-to-be-famous actor Tim Hornor and I talk about Christian stuff.)
John: What did you actually have to do in your audition for the Super Bowl commercial?
Tim: They brought us into the room in groups of four or five, pointed to a spot on the wall and told us to look at it while imagining that we were watching a Clydesdale walk by. That’s it. I’d to remind you now that I did three years of graduate school, which is the same amount that lawyers have.
John: That’s it? You came in, stared at a wall, pretended you were seeing a giant horse walk by, left, and hoped they’d call?
Tim: That’s really it. And, in fact, this was the only commercial I’ve ever booked that didn’t do a second, call-back audition. So, they only saw us stare at the wall once, and apparently had seen enough to make their decision. This may end up being the most lucrative job I’ve ever gotten, and I got it by staring at a wall.
John: What did you bear in mind as you tried to look at the imaginary horse in such a way that they’d choose you? What was your take on that horse?
Tim: Please don’t assume that I gave a particularly nuanced and inspired performance. I imagined a big, beautiful horse, but so did every other one of the couple hundred actors that stared at the wall that day. You very quickly learn when you are an actor that booking jobs is basically a numbers game. Study and diligence and God-given ability have made me a pretty good actor, and being a pretty good actor has gotten me called back for second auditions for an encouraging percentage of the total number of auditions I’ve had. But, once you make the call-back, you are there with twenty or thirty other people who are just as capable as you are to do the job. So, it comes down to completely uncontrollable factors—hair color, height, etc. Sometimes they’re looking for a redhead and I don’t get the job. Sometimes they need people that look like possible parents to kids they’ve already cast. On this particular job they were looking for people who looked like recent European immigrants. So, the size of my nose probably had a lot more to do with me getting the job than any subtle imagery work that I might have executed in the moment.
John: You say you’re a “pretty good” actor. But, honestly—you must think you’re better than that, right? You must think—you must know—that you’re a fantastic actor.
Tim: This is difficult question to answer without sounding like a jerk. I’m not as good as I hope to be one day, but I do believe that I can bring something unique to most roles.
John: That sounds pretty modest. I have this basic theory that nobody should go into the arts unless they think they’re a genius at their art. In your very own private heart of hearts, do you think you’re a genius at acting? Or should we just let your last answer suffice for this one, too?
Tim: I really don’t. I have confidence in my abilities. I think I’m better than most people I see at auditions, etc., and I believe I have a lot of natural ability. But, I’ve worked with and seen way too many actors that are far, far better than I am to think that I’m a genius. Not sure if it’s modesty or just an appetite to be better. It’s a revealing glance, however, at the self-perception of the interviewer.
John: No it’s not. Shut-up, dork-face. Now, then, tell us about any other acting gigs you’ve recently landed.
Tim: I’ve actually had a very encouraging last three months. I’m in a national commercial that’s playing right now for the National Association of Realtors. One for a computer related company called Nvidia that should start playing soon. One for AT&T that should also start playing soon. I shot an episode of “Days of Our Lives” that aired a week ago last Monday. And about two weeks ago I shot a regional commercial for Honda.
John: Amazing. Do you have little YouTube clips or anything like that anywhere online where we can see of any of that stuff?
Tim: I’ve tried to accumulate the YouTube clips that I can find. If you go here you will see some of the jobs I’ve done. Mostly they are older things, but the Realtors commercial and a segment of my Days of Our Lives appearance are up there. The Nvidia, Budweiser, AT&T, and Honda jobs are not there yet.
Tim: I got really tired just reading that question. There is easily a dissertation about that subject that could be written. I have neither the energy nor the acumen to really unpack all the issues that you’re bringing up there. But, it is certainly a topic that I have thought about and had a few uncomfortable conversations with Christians about. And, I realize I have far from an unbiased and objective perspective about it. But, I think the whole issue is pretty ridiculous. Basically, I think that being an actor is being a storyteller and the nobility of storytelling is tragically overlooked in our culture. When Christ was relating the deepest, most important truths about life to his disciples and followers, he didn’t write a math equation on a chalkboard or perform a scientific experiment. He told parables. I’m sure if there was a more effective way to communicate his lessons he would have taken advantage of it. But, he chose to tell stories. Those stories were rarely sweet nursery rhymes, in fact, they were often pretty gritty and featured people doing pretty horrible things to each other. But, they communicated larger truths.
It’s true that the bulk of my income currently comes from acting in commercials, but the bulk of my time as an actor has been spent acting in plays. I know that I have been involved in productions that have edified their audiences in some way—whether by providing something as simple as a laugh or as big as a new revelation about love or faith. I know that relationships that I’ve made with people through my work have enriched my life and brought me closer to the Lord. I acknowledge that the likelihood that a beer commercial will edify its audience is very slim. But, to vilify it as immoral in some way is pretty lazy thinking, in my opinion. If it’s because alcohol is in some way “un-Christian”, I would point out that wine played a central role in Christ’s first miracle and his last supper. If it’s because I’m contributing to our consumerist culture, than our churches will be pretty empty after we throw out all the factory workers, delivery drivers, store clerks, and so on and so on.
But, ultimately, all those answers are unsatisfactorily academic for my taste. I have a deep confidence that God approves of my career choice for profoundly personal reasons. He created me with certain abilities and by honoring them I glorify him. He has provided for me and protected me every day of the last decade. A decade when I’ve had no health insurance or guarantee of when my next paycheck would come or how much it would be. The day-to-day experience of my life has been proof of God’s faithfulness and pleasure. The fact that I have never missed a rent payment or meal is the very definition of miraculous.
Those that have ears to hear, let them hear.
John: “Those that have ears to hear, let them hear?” Wow! How … dramatic! It’s clear you have a lot of passion around this question. Do you have other actor friends who are Christian? Is this generally a question artists who are Christians deal with, you think?
Tim: I was really kidding with the “Those that have ears to hear” stuff. It’s just what Jesus would say after his parables, and while I don’t see myself as a genius, I do see myself as Christlike.
I have plenty of friends who are Christian actors and musicians and artists; in fact, most of my closest friends are. I think all of them have addressed this issue in their lives and work, but I don’t think it’s because they have self-doubt about whether their work honors God. It’s because there is a vocal segment of the Christian community that is certain that it doesn’t, so it becomes a topic of discussion.
John: I deal with that a lot in my own work; it’s a constant consideration for me. Speaking of me, when you become rich and famous, will let me write a vehicle for you? A play, a screenplay, a one-man show? I’d love that.
Tim: Why do we have to wait until I’m rich and famous?
John: Well, I DO have a play about Satan and God you might want to look at. It begins here.
Tim: Is it bad that I’d prefer the Satan role?