132: Erick Lopez: Blending Technology With Creativity: An Actor’s Journey Into Entrepreneurship
People are beginning to get into tech entrepreneurship earlier and earlier in their lives probably because it is the young people that have their fingers to the pulse of what the target demographic wants. But it’s never too late to get started because there are so many niches out there that aren’t quite filled. Blending technology with creativity, Erick Lopez is an established actor from Los Angeles, California who’s making the jump into tech entrepreneurship with a new social calendar app, Bizzy. Thane Marcus Ringler interviews Erick about the origins of his love for technology, and what finally got him to make the jump into creating an app. Erick has sage advice for both aspiring actors and tech entrepreneurs, so this is not to be missed!
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Erick Lopez: Blending Technology With Creativity: An Actor’s Journey Into Entrepreneurship
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Now onto our interview with Erick Lopez. He is an actor-entrepreneur from Dallas, Texas. He resides in Los Angeles, California, where he continues to work in the entertainment business. He’s most known for his role of Hector on CWS Emmy winning musical comedy show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Erick has also appeared on other shows such as MTV’s Faking It, Shameless on Showtime and many others. He frequently makes trips back to Dallas to teach workshops for local actors. His podcast, Erick Lopez Explains, guides young entertainers through his journey of becoming a working actor in Hollywood. He launched a new startup called Bizzy, a social calendar app for friends and couples. Find out more about Erick by following him on Instagram @Mr.ErickLopez or visiting ErickLopezExplains.com.
This interview was a lot of fun for me. I’ve known Erick and he’s a great guy. He spreads a lot of joy and light to others in the world. We talk about a lot of things including his early love of technology. We talk about trade-offs of technology in world and about his journey in tech entrepreneurship. We talk about developing as an actor. We talk about the importance of awareness, dealing with anxiety as a human, creativity and self-expression and so much more. This is chock-full of great stuff that I know you’ll benefit from and you’ll enjoy. He’s a great guy. I did some background research and how people described him in a few words. They said authentic, goofy, easygoing, loyal, joyful, compassionate, quirky, Energizer bunny, driven, fearless. He’s a selfless guy. He shows up well for others. You’ll be able to get that in this episode. Sit back, relax and enjoy this conversation with Erick Lopez.
Erick Lopez, welcome to the show. E.Lo, as you’re known on the streets from what I hear. This is something I am curious to hear from you. Do Cheerios lower cholesterol?
Yes, they do because my cholesterol hasn’t been high since then. I also think it’s because I started eating more vegetables.
You had a two-week experiment with Cheerios, is that correct?
When I first moved to LA, I didn’t know much about cooking. I had my meats and my spaghetti and all your basic cooking stuff and I wasn’t eating enough vegetables. When I got my first job, they’re like, “You’ve got to do the drug test.” I’m like, “That’s fine.” I peed in the cup and did all that stuff, then the guy comes out and he’s looking at my pee. He’s like, “Cloudy.” I was like, “Is that bad?” He’s like, “Eat more vegetables.” It came back that I have high cholesterol, so I was all like, “This is not good.” I saw a commercial for Cheerios. The dad was eating Cheerios and the kid was like, “Why are you eating Cheerios? I thought that was for kids.” He’s like, “It helps lower my cholesterol.” I was like, “I’ve got to eat Cheerios. I’ve got to go get it.” I made the switch.
You made the switch to only a Cheerio diet.
It wasn’t a complete Cheerio diet, but I made sure that I was eating my fair share.
The things you learn in life. As an adult, you’ve got to worry about your cholesterol. It’s important. I also have heard from some sources that you have been pretty adamant about reinventing the internet. Tell me a little bit about your plan for reinventing the internet. This is fascinating.
That was a while back. I was in my learning about different things phase. I started learning about IP addresses and email addresses. I was like, “Why is every single email and every website, www?” I started learning about how the first computer was done and all that stuff. I found out how unsecure everything is. I’m like, “What if instead of doing this, you did everything based off every phone, every server bounced off each other and it wasn’t necessarily one-stop shop IP address-type thing?” I told a couple of friends that and they were like, “Erick, I think you’re crazy.” Here’s the thing though. They saw it on Silicon Valley. They talked about it and that’s exactly the forum where they were going for. They were like, “I can’t believe that you had the exact same idea.” All these crazy people have the same ideas.
Has that transpired? Is that on a different browser or is that similar to the blockchain system?
It would be blockchain where it’s decentralized. That’s what makes it more secure.
That brings up another great point. From what I’ve heard too, were you diagnosed as a genius as a kid?
No. It was something more like I was in advanced classes. You sign up with these advanced classes. You take some tests and then they were like, “You’re allowed to come to class.” You take a couple of IQ exams, which don’t mean anything. It’s like, “How quickly can you do this?” Those don’t matter. The IQ test came out mostly to see if people were ready for college, but then now everything’s changed. I know who said that, but I don’t agree.
You were a smart kid. We’ll leave it at that. Did you have gifted programs?
We did those as well. Those were cool.
Have you been in the gifted program too?Creativity comes out through doing stories. Click To Tweet
Maybe. It was fun memories with my buddy. It was a funny thing as a kid. I remember going and doing a lot of problem solving, but it was fun. The different activities or exercises you get to do or craft fairs. You’d build marble mazes, stuff like that. I remember they were fun memories, fun times back in the Yoder Charter School. That’s a flashback. That’s a long time ago. We’ll leave that for another time. What were your interests as a kid? Were you always into technology? You’re very tech-savvy now and even talking about the internet. When did that interest in the technology side start as a kid or were you mainly a sports guy because you were also an athlete?
I played sports all the time. That was the first love like playing basketball, soccer, baseball or whatever, but mostly basketball. The tech thing came about when my dad brought home a work laptop and it was a big deal to have a laptop back then. I remember whenever he wasn’t around, I would sneak on there and play around with it, changing wallpaper. I’d figure out how to play tricks and change the mouse to look different things and make things disappear. They would always get upset like, “You broke the computer.” I’m like, “No, I didn’t break it. Look, I’ll fix it.” There are times where I went a little bit too far and something happened and then I had to figure out how to fix it.
What did your dad do?
He started in the printing business. As he started going up, he was a general manager for this printing warehouse. Essentially what they did was they created these plastic bags and they would print things on them like Ralphs or Kroger. They would have their logo on there. They were in charge of printing that and then Frito-Lay would have their bags. They were in charge of printing those things. It was a lot of mechanical work. He had to use a laptop to look at all the renderings and stuff.
Back in the day when that was novel, that’s fascinating. As a kid, was that an obsession with experimenting and seeing what you could come up with or what you could mischievously change? Did that apply in other areas of your life or was it mainly with the laptop?
I like tricking people.
Were you the jokester as a kid?
I was the jokester. I had some teachers pull me aside a couple of times and be like, “You learn when to joke and learn when not to joke.”
Do you have a legendary prank or joke that stands out most from your childhood?
I learned how to make a pop-up. You can custom make a pop-up and then have it pop up as soon as someone goes to a certain website. It was cool. I took a picture that my sister had and then I put it on the computer. This is so bad. I did a pop-up that said, “Want to see girls in your area,” or something like that. It was some dating webcams-type situation. I put her photo on there and it was only for that computer. It’s almost like a reminder. It’s only going to live on your phone. It was only on the computer and didn’t live on the web. I timed it perfectly where she came in and used it. It popped up and she screamed, “Erick, what did you do?” She started crying. She’s like, “What photos are out there?”
That is genius. That’s well-played, I must say. You have how many siblings?
A younger brother and an older sister.
How many years older was she?
That’s the same with mine. I feel like that lends itself to a lot of mischief, games and pranks being played. With this early experimentation, how has your love for technology changed over the years? With your interest or passion or discovery within technology, have you had periods where you’re deep in the game there and then you separate and do other things? You have many interests, you have many pursuits, but what has that process been with technology itself?
Technology has always been the through-line. With acting, it’s all physical, emotional and you can’t do anything on a computer that involves acting other than maybe looking up videos and documentaries and stuff. All my other interests, the through-line is technology. Editing and graphic design and being creative with a computer. It’s cool. That’s the through-line.
What would you say if it was a pre-tech world like 50, 60 years ago and you were transported back to that time? What do you think would come out from your creativity in that type of world?
If there wasn’t tech around? Before tech, I was playing with little wrestlers. I’m making up my own little stories and playing with action figures and whatnot. That’s where my creativity came out. It was through doing stories.
I think it’s easy for us in this time, in our generation, to think about technology. Life without technology is boring, lifeless or not even tangible. The reality is people have been creative since the start of time and we can make incredible things without technology as much as we can with. Sometimes it often is almost a limiter to our own usefulness or resourcefulness. Do you see that pendulum shifted for yourself? Are there limitations to technology or how do you experience those limitations?
Whenever you rely so much on technology for your day-to-day, it’s the same thing with taking photos. There was a research study that came out and talking about if you’re seeing something or there’s a moment and you take a photo, your brain relaxes. It’s like, “I don’t have to remember it because I know I have a photo.” It’s the same thing now with technology and information. There’s something about our brains that relaxed whenever we feel we have the technology to aid us or to help us. Whenever we don’t have it, that’s when the brain is like, “I got to compensate for not having technology, so I got to do something on my own.”
It shifts off and on like that. I feel it’s a more dangerous handicap than we realize because we aren’t even aware of it. If we were aware of it, then we’d at least be able to recognize it. A lot of times we don’t even think that it does produce limitations or handicaps within us, but the goal of it is to be resourceful. That is what leads us to create something, is to benefit others. Give me a little bit of the personal story behind Bizzy itself.
I had started shooting a TV show and I was a “working actor.” My old friends from the old job that I had, they had their hectic schedules. I was dating Sarah, which is my wife now, at the time. I was going through a tough period because I was so antisocial and introvert. I had this core group of people that I loved and I wanted to see more. I was like, “There has to be a better way to connect with people and to reach out and to let them know when I’m free and when I’m busy.” Most of the conversation was, “I want to see you.” “Sure. Let’s figure out a time.” The majority of the conversations was, “I’m not free this day. I’m free this day. Let me check with this, let me get back to you.” It was all this back and forth and people get forgotten about. That was how Bizzy came about. I was like, “There has to be a better way to schedule with friends.”
That was the moment where you see a problem and there needs to be a solution. What led you to decide on taking action? Because that’s a big step for moving from, “There’s this problem, it needs a solution. Here’s a solution. Why isn’t someone doing it?” to, “I’m going to be the one to do it.” What helped you bridge that divide to say, “I’m going to take this step?”
I didn’t want to solve it. I wanted to be an actor. I don’t want to solve some problems. I don’t know anything about startups and I don’t know anything about apps. It was such a tough thing where I spent probably a solid week researching, trying to find something. I’m like, “There has to be something out there already. That way, all I have to do is invite friends and then I don’t have to do the work of creating it.” I realized that it was going to take a lot of work. When I realized that it was not out there, I said, “Small baby steps. Let me see what it would look like.” Once I started seeing what it would look like, I started talking to other people and being like, “Do you have this problem?” I’m trying to figure it out in my head if this worth to go through. What I slowly started realizing was everyone dealt with that problem, but everyone was like, “I do this. I set reminders on my phone. I send them Google Calendar invites. I use this website.” Everyone was using all these different ways to get it done, which I didn’t find out until way later on that’s exactly the first thing that someone creating a startup wants. They’re like, “It’s a problem. People are doing all these different things like a hodgepodge to find the solution. What if I did it all in one stop?”
It’s like a conglomeration or consolidation into one. I love what you laid out there because I think that’s true in any process where we move from idea to reality. First the idea, then there’s researching, “Am I crazy? Are there other people doing this? Has this been solved already, so I don’t need to do this?” If it’s realizing it’s not out there, then it moves to, “What would this look like? Since it’s not out there, I think it needs to be out there. What would be the effort involved? What are the steps to get there? Is that something that I even have the capacity or willingness to do?” You went out and got market research. You started testing loosely and starting small. One of my favorite things to do is if I have an idea that I’m passionate about and it sticks around for long enough, I’m going to talk about it with as many people as possible. Because one, I want to refine my idea and two, I want someone to steal it and do it for me so I don’t have to. If someone doesn’t, then maybe eventually, I need to do it. You spaced all those things well. That process is healthy for all of us to do. Once you realized, “I need to create a consolidated area for this,” what did the process look after that?
After that, I kept on going with doing different designs and I realized at some point, I have to learn how to code. I taught myself how to code and then I have learned from my mistakes of trying to do everything myself. When I first started getting into acting and filmmaking, I tried to do everything myself like editing. I taught myself how to do audio mixing, how to shoot, how to lighting, how to write. I taught myself everything because I was like, “I don’t want any excuses. I want to get this done.” I realized that I did not want to do that same thing because it was such a lonely process. I was like, “If this is going to happen, I have to get a team together.” I started talking to some people. I think it wasn’t the right time because I started getting worn down trying to find a developer, trying to find someone that would be into it. I didn’t have the funds at that time to even try to pay a developer at all. I’m like, “This is where the dream stops.” I gave up on it for at least maybe a year or two. It wasn’t until later on when I started getting more funds and then I started thinking about the problem again. I was like, “Maybe this is something that I should pursue again.” I started hearing from friends who were telling me the same thing. I’m like, “Am I crazy?” Bizzy came alive again.
Isn’t it interesting how push and pause allows ideas to marinate beautifully? From that pause period, where there any breakthroughs or insights that came from taking a break from it?
Honestly, no. It was just a pause that I needed. You never see the grand scheme of everything until you look back on it. I was not ready to handle that. Looking back on it, whatever I’m handling now, it’s like I was not ready for that. Financially, I was not ready to deal with that too. It all came together. The second time around after the pause, it was a whirlwind. People came in to the group, the community I was searching for. It came into place and the developer came out of nowhere. We paid him at first and then it was like, “This is what we’re trying to do.” He was on board and then it kept on going from there. The team was a wave of this is where you’re supposed to go. I was like, “I guess we’re going.”
The stars were aligning. They were coming together. What I want to know some more is you said you taught yourself how to code. What was that process like? From what you’ve said and what I’ve found in research, you are very self-driven and self-taught individual in many different regards. What was the process of learning coding like? If I came to that place as I see it now, I probably go the route of, how do I find a way to partner with someone or hire someone and find a way to make that work? If you don’t have funds and you don’t have the time, teaching yourself is the best option, but that’s a tougher road. It’s a harder road because it takes more effort and time from yourself. What was that process like in learning how to code?
It was tough, but in college, I was very fortunate enough to meet a buddy of mine who taught me how to do video editing. He not only told me how to do video editing, he taught me how to do other things too. The thing that was key about that was he taught me how to teach myself and that was something that I had not been taught. You think about teachers and going to school and college like, “You teach me how to do this, teach me how to do that.” The old saying, “Give a man a fish, he’ll be hungry again tomorrow. Teach him how to fish.” One step further from that is teach a man how to learn. That’s a whole different level because then now you’re not learning fishing. You can learn anything else. Once you start from there, then you can move forward.
With coding, one of the things that I’ve taken from learning video editing and whatnot was take something that you want to do that you’re passionate about, but it’s fun and do a very small portion of it. When we were doing video editing stuff, we wanted to do special effects. We have no idea how to do that. We wanted to make it happen. We started out super small. Can we make this Windex bottle shoot out a burst of flames or something that? Can it look realistic? If it wasn’t a Windex bottle, could it look real? We started playing with that, teaching ourselves one little five-second clip or whatever. It’s the same thing with coding. I said, “Can I teach myself how to code? A simple music playing thing where I put in some sounds and then it responds and it can be fun.” That’s where I started and that’s what I did.
Thank you for sharing that buddy in college. I would love to know more how he taught you how to teach yourself. I think that is one of the most important concepts. I wrote about that in my book too, that if you can learn how to learn, there’s nothing you can’t learn. That whole thing is learning how to learn. It’s the key ingredient to life ultimately. What other pieces of learning how to learn? What else came to you from your friend in college as he taught you?
Learning how to google. I didn’t realize this, but that’s super key. You can ask Google a question like, “How do I code?” You’re going to get many different answers, but it’s understanding that you use that first vague search to get you to the right person that will teach you how to look for other things. Once you start going on your journey, you’re going to learn what verbiage coders will use. It’s the same with video editing. What verbiage are people using? What certain phrases are people using to find the answer? As soon as you figure out there are certain phrases that you can type in and people already figured this out and they put it out there, then that’s when you start finding these awesome answers.
It’s like the first wave is going the broad and wide so you can get a general grasp, and then you go a layer beneath that for more specific applications within that.
It’s finding the right person that will lead you there.
Isn’t it funny that there is an art to googling?
There is. Coders joke about it all the time. They’re like, “How did you know how to code?” I’m like, “I googled it,” knowing exactly what to google for stack overflow or something.
What would you say about your proficiency now as a coder?
When I first started out, I could do apps that stay on your phone and they weren’t necessarily social. They didn’t require log-ins and they didn’t have to do this back and forth with a server. I couldn’t do the back end. I could do front end stuff. That was my limit. Once I realized I want to make something social, that’s when I was like, “That’s way over my head. That’s not fun anymore.” I can’t even think of one thing that would be fun enough for me. That’s when you realize you can’t think of anything that would be fun enough to get you through it like, “I want to learn that.” Maybe that’s not a route you should take.
That’s a great point too. Personal enjoyment from learning is such a great motivator for it. When you go back to college and your friend teaching you not only those skills, but also how to learn yourself, what would you say to the empowerment from that? Did that change the way you approached, whether it be college or acting within itself? How did that shift things within different aspects of your life instead of what you were learning with that?For an actor, if you're anxious about something, it can come out as emotions. Click To Tweet
It wasn’t necessarily the moment of him teaching me. It was the moment where I went to my class and I was talking to other juniors and seniors and stuff and I was like, “You didn’t learn this in class but you need to teach yourself how to do this.” That realization that college was not necessarily meant to teach you everything. It was meant to connect you with other people that will help you learn. The professors are working on their own stuff too. The higher-end professors, they’re teaching the class or doing the same thing over and over again.
Rarely are you going to get something where it’s customized to exactly what you’re trying to do within the class. You can do a project and stuff, but you’re not going to understand until you start connecting with other friends and you start doing experiments on your own. You’ll have a full grasp of that and then you can start playing around. When I realized that what my friend taught me how to learn and having all this knowledge, I can fully grasp everything. I want more than what’s being taught in college. That was my, “I am ready to go.”
Honestly for me, it didn’t happen until the last year of college. It was when I was like, “I’m not just here to get good grades.” That was the first realization that school wasn’t about grades. Being married, I don’t have a family yet, but that may be in the picture down the road with even raising kids. How would you think about raising a child so that they don’t have to wait until their senior year of college to learn how to learn? It is partly to blame the system and it’s not the system’s fault. It’s the nature of the system. Are there any ideas that you have for even training a young child how to learn?
I always thought about that. I wonder how do I teach my kid all this stuff. At the end of the day, the harder thing to learn is how do I balance teaching everything that I know and also letting them learn on their own. There are many things that I look back on now that my dad was giving me advice and he had already gone through. He’s like, “I’m telling you this.” I’m like, “Sure, whatever.” I then learned it on my own. I figured out that he was right. No matter what, there are going to be things that our kids are going to end up looking at and being either, “I don’t believe you or I need to experience this on my own.” We have to be like, “Okay. Go for it.”
Letting that fall and picking back up happen. What was the best advice your dad ever gave you?
Always look around. He said, “Whenever you’re in new surroundings, look around, see what’s around, see what’s behind you, be aware.” Even my mom put it in us. They were immigrants. They came over, so they had to be hyper-aware from fear. I took that. Even as a little kid, I was like, “Being aware can take you to many different places.” They came from fear like, “Don’t let anyone rob you. If someone’s coming up behind you on the street, if you have someone to walk in too close to you, cross the street and go to the other side or something.” I started realizing that this can take you to another level once you go into a new workplace. Look around and see what everyone else is doing. See if people were by themselves. See how you can contribute. Being aware of what’s going on with the community that you joined. There are many things about being aware that goes hand in hand with learning that is so cool.
I love that being aware and seeing how you can contribute. One of my favorite concepts was from a sermon by Judah Smith. He talked about the three core needs of every human being. It’s being seen, heard and connected to something bigger. If we aren’t aware, we can’t do any of those. Awareness is the precursor to every single one of those. What are the things that inhibit or rob you of your own awareness in daily life?
Once you are aware, there does come a moment where you’re not present. Because there’s so much in front of you, you have to analyze many different settings. When you get into a new setting, because you’re bored and you’ve done it many times, you start over-analyzing it and then you start thinking ahead and you’re not present. There’s that fine line of be aware, but don’t go overboard. Be present but be aware.
That’s self-awareness versus hyper-awareness, and the hyper is not helpful. There’s a great book, Strangers To Ourselves, and it talks a lot about the adaptive unconscious mind controls 90% of our lives. If you deep dive into that too much, it becomes unhelpful. You have to come to a place where there’s a simple understanding of that, but a recognition that if I can act out who I say I want to be, then that’s where I can be most healthy. That’s integrity, ultimately, being who you say you are or want to be. It is interesting that pendulum even in awareness. Do you have any helpful practices or tools or reminders for yourself in that?
At nighttime, it’s easier because I always looking up at the stars and then it puts perspective. Perspective, sometimes it always helps even living in Los Angeles. I was having this conversation with someone. We were talking about how coming from the South and I came from Dallas. There weren’t that many homeless people, only certain pockets. Being in LA, you see it all around you. It helps because we were both talking about how we didn’t want not to be aware of those situations. That helps us to be better people. It helps us with perspective every single day. You’re not going to go to the middle of nowhere to be away and hide from the reality because that is the reality. People are living on the streets and living in tents. The minimum wage is way too low. All these different things, you’re not aware of it until you see it personified in a homeless person.
It challenges us. That’s one of the things about LA that I’ve come to experience myself. Your daily facing tensions that are greater than most places you’ll live in the world, at least in America, where there’s a car worth more than you on one side. On the other side, someone’s asking you for whatever you can give to help. It’s an interesting place to daily be out here. The question is how can I be helpful in this? I think the awareness to see and recognize and to even acknowledge the humanity and not dismiss humanity. I don’t think there is the answer. That’s such a complex issue.
There are too much that as human beings we do want to help and sometimes people don’t even look at homeless people. Sometimes it stems from seeing them as lesser. A lot of times it stems from you want to help so much that if you look them in the eye, then you’re going to be like, “I don’t know how to help you.” You’re trying to get your own stuff together because you’re probably struggling in your own different way. A lot of times, people were struggling with mental health issues. Sometimes if you’re struggling with your own stuff or even a family member that’s struggling with their own stuff and you see someone on the streets struggling with their stuff, it’s almost looking in a mirror, especially being in LA. You’re like, “This either could be me, this could be a family member or it’s someone’s child.” You feel it so much whenever you look at someone in the eye.
That’s the ultimate humanity. It’s looking someone in the eye. If we are someone who doesn’t have high self-esteem or self-worth, we don’t look at other people in the eye because we feel lesser than. It’s an indicator of our own self-esteem and self-worth. When you’re able to look at someone, you’re seeing, “They’re human. I’m a human,” and you connect on such a deeper level. It’s a weird thing.
I’ve tried it many times. When I was younger, I had trouble making eye contact whenever I was on stage with people. If I was on stage or talking to a lot of people, it was hard because I looked at everyone’s eyes. I could feel many different emotions all at once. I was like, “So many emotions. I don’t know.” I’ll get nervous. I started realizing, “What’s something that they’re feeling.” There was something that Sarah had said. She’s like, “Whenever you go to a place where you get social anxiety or something, you see a lot of eyes looking at you, think about this. Everyone else here is probably as nervous or they’re thinking about themselves or thinking that they won’t talk to anybody. They’re worried that their outfit doesn’t look right or something. When you try to help the other person come out of their shell, it takes the stress off of you and it takes the stress off them too. Because people are okay talking about themselves and chatting it up.”
It’s interesting too what you mentioned a little bit ago. The unknowns, the not knowing is a thing that prevents us from taking action. When we don’t know what to do, we don’t do anything. Sometimes the answer is do something. I think about it even for me on a daily level. If someone sends me a text and I don’t know the answer, I’m going to ignore it and I’m probably going to ignore it until I know the answer. Maybe I need to tell them. I don’t know. That’s more human being. It’s more loving to say, “I don’t know. I’m going to work on figuring that out,” than ignoring it. I default to the ignoring because I don’t know. I don’t want to know.
You don’t want to say the wrong thing. You don’t want to lead them on. You don’t want to forget. It’s all that.
Now, we’re going to circle back to acting and I also want to come back to Bizzy some more, but with anxiety and stress, I want to know a little bit more from your experience or perspective. This is such a human thing. That’s the best way to say it. We all face it in different realms in different regards. As an athlete I faced it on the golf course as much as someone else in an elevator in that sense. We all are familiar with the effects of it because it’s human. For you, what are some other ways to think about it that has been helpful in facing times where we’re anxious or where situations cause us unease or stress?
Knowing that other people are going through it and experience it, that’s key. If actors right now are reading this, you are not alone. I still get anxiety going into an audition room and you still get nervous and butterflies. I guarantee that many other people still get that anxiety. There are many different reasons for it and at different stages of life, it changes. You might be able to conquer your anxiety of like, “I’m nervous about what they’re going to think of me.” Once that’s conquered then you’re like, “I’m nervous about me getting my lines down.” Once you have that, it’s like, “I’m nervous about getting my lines, but also making sure that I come off as real.” Once you have all that, it’s like, “I’m nervous about getting another job. Because I haven’t gotten a job in a while.” There’s always going to be something. Even sometimes it pulls from your daily life and your personal life. Knowing that everyone has anxiety and all that stuff and deals with all that stuff is what helps me be like, “This is normal.” Once you realize that it’s normal, you’re like, “I’m not alone. I don’t feel as anxious anymore.”
There’s something about the loneliness of it that isolates us and amplifies it, to realize that we’re part of a greater community, AKA humanity. The other is it’s interesting that it is such a human thing because anxiety can probably be defined as a fear of the unknown about the future. We all are that way because no one knows the future, 0% of humans know the next day. We all experience that, some to more or less extent, but that doesn’t make you more or less human. We’re all human. Sports allows a parallel realm where we can examine it too. For me, sports give an advantage to dealing with it because there’s an end result that’s desired and an outcome that you can produce. In golf, everyone in a tournament gets first tee jitters. You get anxious about that first tee shot because all this preparation and getting ready and this forecasting in your mind of how you’re going to play and then you get to that first tee, you’re like, “Here it is.”
I remember in South Korea, it was my first time traveling and playing internationally. I’m by myself in a foreign country I’ve never been. I’m on the first tee time on number ten the first day. I’m opening the tournament at 7:30 AM and it was one of the worst tee shots I’ve ever had. It went 30 yards out of bounds. I’m embarrassed and mad at myself because I know that was not the shot. That was way worse of a shot than I’d ever hit. I step up and hit the next perfect drive, perfect next shot and birdie my second ball, which is a bogey, but it shows. “Thane, you’re an idiot. That was dumb. You’re so much better than that.” Because I was so angry and it infused that emotion with reality, I then execute a perfect goal. It’s amazing what that little shift will do.
You’re saying that it goes to the point of everyone having anxiety and it comes out in different ways. For an actor, if you’re anxious about something, it can come out of an emotion. Being an athlete, sometimes your anxiety there comes out in your preparation because you’re so anxious about it that you’re like, “I need to over-prep and I’m going to prep like crazy.” Whenever you’re performing at the event, then having that anxiety kick into high gear and then you’re like, “Now you steel yourself.” It’s cool because we all do it in different ways.
In sports too and in life, there’s a benefit to it. There’s a benefit to that ramped-upness in golf. It can make your focus hyper-focused and amplify your abilities. I’m hitting the drives to 10 to 15 yards further. My focus is laser tight and I’m locked in because the anxiousness from that situation increases my flow state. Once you become familiar with it, once we learned from it, once we experienced failure with it, then we can start understanding it, recognizing it and growing awareness when we start using it to our advantage. It can be an amplifier in a positive way instead of a negative way. That’s where sports give it an advantage. The same is true in life and we can use it that way if we learn to. It’s a long process though. We can’t talk about anxiety enough or depression or these emotions that we experience because that’s part of their power. Isolation is saying, “I’m alone in this. I don’t know if there’s any way out of this.” There are a lot of ways that we can approach this. As many perspectives as we can hear, the better in that. Circling back to Bizzy, what has surprised you about the business and the process of developing an app?
Everything. I came into it with fresh eyes, so I didn’t know what was normal, what was supposed to surprise me. The most surprising thing was how similar the prep is to other stages of life. I understand when coming from basketball and then going to acting and then now going into business, the preparation and everything that you need to succeed is the same. Every single time, whenever I go into something new, I try to mimic the same process. The first step, you come up with whatever you want to do. The second step is doing something on your own to see if it’s something you passionate about, something that you like doing, getting a little taste of it. The next step is to find your community for it. Once you find your community for it, then you keep going into the next level. It’s almost a process of testing out the next thing. Once again, it’s seeing if you that and then going back with your community. It’s like a circle and making sure that you always stay connected and focused.
Do you find one aspect or one part of that process harder than the others for you?
The community part, for sure. Finding things I like doing is very easy. That’s why I got into acting. You can do whatever you want. The next part is testing it out. You can always figure that out like, “I’m going to do a play” or “I’m going to do this audition” or “I’m going to do a little YouTube sketch with friends.” Going out and finding that community is tough because I’m aware it stops me sometimes from trusting. You’re like, “Do I trust this person? Should I put myself out there? Are they going to judge me because of X thing,” or whatever? You get in your head a lot, at least for me. I get in my head a lot for a community stuff.
We take opinions so hard because we take them personally automatically by default. It’s like personal attack. It was like, “I’m giving you an opinion about your business,” then trigger. We all have experienced that. That’s what a lot of the books on any business and marketing that you read. You have to get that feedback and iterate or else you’re going to die within a business.
You have to learn how other people are doing it too. It’s the same thing as googling. It’s the right question. If you’re going to go into a startup business and you want to say, “I want a community. I want to meet someone.” Instead of saying, “Has anyone started a business before?” You have to be like, “Has anyone raised?” It depends on what business you want. “Has anyone raised VC funding? Has anyone raised Angel funding?” You want people that have already been through it and maybe sometimes you want to learn from their mistakes. You ask even further down the road like, “Has anyone raised a Series A?” and they’ve raised multiple times. You take them out to coffee and you learn from that. That’s also key. It’s learning what to ask your friends, learning exactly what you’re looking for a network or community.
It’s such an important part that is easily forgotten by myself too. I met with a guy. He agreed to meet and he’s a mental coach on the golf side and I’ve got a few coaching programs I wanted to get his feedback on. I wanted to hear his story. I wanted to go in, but on the way over I was like, “Okay, Thane. What is your ask? What are your clear specific asks?” I was going in blind and I hadn’t done as much due diligence in that as I wanted because I know how important that is. We get lazy and I didn’t go in as clear as I would have liked because that does an injustice or disservice to that person who’s granting me their time. We want to be respectful of that too. It’s like the show. I appreciate you spending the time with me. I want to make sure I do it justice.
Going back to the ask, did you end up figuring out or no?
It came out organically, but I wanted his feedback and perspective on the specific coaching programs and also hearing about his journey and where he’s at now and some of the lessons he pulled from that. It worked out pretty well. I did forget a copy of my book as a gift, as a thank you. I was bummed because you want to make sure they know you appreciate their time.
It’s super legit. You wrote a book, it’s like, “Everyone can talk about, “I have a coaching program. Here’s my book by the way,” physical copy in your hand, “Check it out.”
I want to celebrate that. You might share this as well, but we are hardest on ourselves. We’re our own worst critic. That’s some of the feedback I got on you too. You’re extremely gifted like a genius IQ, but hard on yourself. Celebrating ourselves is a good point. What do most people not know about developing or building or creating an app and building the business around that? What do you think most people don’t know about that?
Whenever you say that you’re building an app, people forget that it is a business and it’s software. Think about how hard it is to build an editing software or something or how hard it is to build an entire website that has a community built inside and everything that. It’s funny because in the early days, apps were seen as like, “That’s calculators and games and stuff and something fun.” People have lost sight of how much work it is. It’s legit software. There are very powerful and busy people using your apps or your software and they needed to work perfectly. If it doesn’t, then they’re going to go onto the next thing. You have to take it that seriously whenever you’re building something even for fun use.
If someone’s using Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok or YouTube, they’re using it for a specific purpose. It’s serving them in a certain way. If you don’t serve them correctly, they’re going to move on to the next thing. That’s something that whenever I’m like, “I’m building an app,” and they’re like, “I’ve got an idea for an app too.” I’m like, “What is it?” They’ll talk about the idea, which always sounds good. Everyone’s app idea is always awesome. It’s all about the execution. Are you willing to go through it to make it happen? That’s the part that hangs everyone up because they have the idea, they love it, but they’re like, “I don’t even want to begin to know how to go through that.”
Execution is everything. What’s been the hardest to execute for Bizzy?
It’s finding the right investors, the right people. One thing that my brother told me, he’s in the tech world too. He said, “Money is easy but smart money is hard to find.” If you are diligent and you execute, they’ll get take a shot at you, especially if you’re being charismatic and you’re nice. You’ve got a good team. People will take a shot with, “Why not? Let’s do this.” The thing is you want smart money where people can contribute to your business. They can elevate you where you’re trying to go and they have the right network already and community already that can connect you to the next step.
If you put outcomes aside, why would you say this journey of building Bizzy has been worth it so far for you?
Hearing from users how it’s helped them with either in their relationship to keep track of stuff or the hope. It’s very interesting because I hear the hope way more than I hear the current because we are still pretty early on. There are a lot more features that we want to implement. Everyone’s like, “Keep going. It’s not there yet for me but keep going because I can see where this could eventually go,” and I get it. I have a lot of friends that take scheduling very seriously. They are very busy. They’re the perfect users, but they have a more robust system in place. Until we get to the point where it is truly all in one, then for them it’s like, “I’m not ready yet,” which I totally understand. It gives me more motivation to keep going because people were like, “You’re onto something. Keep going.”
That’s the healthiest way to take and view feedback too. It was taking it for what it’s worth, which is worth something. Feedback is always worth something, but we shouldn’t take it for more than that and we should use it for motivation, not demeaning or demoralizing us and demotivating us to keep moving forward. That’s sweet. As you look at your plate now, when you self-describe yourself, do you mainly stick to acting and tech entrepreneur? How do you self-describe what you do?
I’m still trying to figure that myself. It’s very tough because people that know me from acting, they are shocked. Either they’re in shock or they don’t truly understand everything that I’ve done in the tech world and in the startup world and then vice versa. Everyone that hears that I’ve done startup first and they’re like, “You’re doing this. You learned that first,” they’re shocked. “You were on a CW show and you did all this acting stuff.” It was like, “What?” It’s tough, but the thing I always think back on is whenever I was acting, I wasn’t completely happy because tech was such a big part of my life. Whenever I was doing tech, I wasn’t happy because creativity and acting is a big part of my life. I look at people like the Elon Musks and the Childish Gambinos that do multiple things and you’re all like, “How did they do it all?” You look back at their life and they always had a passion for it. It’s not they’re doing it just to it.If someone's using Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, or YouTube, they're using it for a specific purpose. Click To Tweet
That’s a fascinating discussion that I’ve talked to a lot of people about. I keep thinking about a generalist versus a specialist mode of thinking. Do you specialize in one field and niche down or do you become more of a generalist and work in many or several? We both are more generalists than that, but maybe they’re not too broad but specialize in two different realms. How do you think about even the trade-offs between being a generalist versus specialist or even where you’re at in that spectrum?
The first time I thought about that was when people are saying like, “You can’t do everything,” which I agree, you cannot. It’s learning how to delegate. Chris Rock said this one time. They asked him like, “How do you do standup and acting?” He’s like, “I do a deep focus on each one whenever I’m doing it. If I’m acting, I’m focused on that. If I’m doing standup, I’m completely focused on that.” When people talk about, “You can’t do everything at once,” you’re right, you can’t. What you can do is you can be very strategic with how you schedule things. Also, not everyone’s built like that. Elon Musk doing Tesla and Space X, he structures his schedule where it’s like, “These days, I’m only doing this. These days, I’m only doing that.” He flips back and forth. You have to know how you work.
To anyone that’s a generalist out there, you’re not going to move forward until you realize how you work best and how you move forward best. There are going to be moments where you’re going to be like, “This is way too much,” and you have to cut one thing off temporarily and it’s not forever. That’s the thing that I always tell myself. When I was focusing on Bizzy and then I said goodbye to it, I started focusing on acting way more after that and writing. I knew that it wasn’t forever goodbye. It’s the same thing too, when I was working on Bizzy, I had stopped working on the CW Show. It was a perfect timing where now I can focus 100% on this startup. It’s always knowing how to structure where your focus is and knowing more about yourself.
That timing piece is massive too. The right time is worth its weight in gold. Holding onto those ideas in the back of the mind, you did it with a year gap of waiting. The timing wasn’t right and being okay with that, knowing that when the timing is right, it’ll make sense to move forward on that, especially as a generalist. Either way, you have to do that. Timing is everything, but I think that’s a beautiful way to help make those decisions on what do I take action on. Chunking it is massive. Getting into the acting side, you were an athlete. You played basketball and you enjoy the competitive spirit there. There was an injury and then there was a pivot into this other realm. Had you ever imagined yourself as an actor before that?
No. It wasn’t even in the peripherals. You have to understand, being Latino, I grew up watching these Blockbuster films with my parents. They were immigrants.
Where are they from?
They’re from Mexico. They focused on whatever the big marketing push was. It’s like, “This is the big Blockbuster this week.” Because especially when you have a family and you’re middle-class, you have to be selective about the movies that you see. If you can only see one movie, it has to be the big Blockbuster that everyone’s talking about. We never saw the films. Everyone grew up watching the Oscar films and stuff. Even to this day, when people are like, “What are your favorite movies?” it’s like they were films that I either saw on TV on my own or they were a comedy that I saw with my family that was out there.
What is it? How do you answer that?
I say, “Remember the Titans?” It was on TBS at TNT. We didn’t watch that in theaters. We saw that on TV all the time. Zoolander’s another one. Seeing that in the theaters was cool. It’s always an interesting reaction when people were like, “It’s not The Godfather? It’s not this?” It’s always a funny reaction getting people hearing people say that.
Before we keep going in the acting, Texas is Midwest-South hybrid. You spent most of your childhood there. What do you appreciate or what are you grateful for from those Midwest roots and how has it shaped you even as a man now?
It’s understanding of what it’s like. If I would have grown up in LA, I wouldn’t have understood what the real issues are in other parts of the world. There’s something that UNC and UN Tech and Silicon Valley, they live in a bubble. The problems that they have are not the same problems that your typical person or average Americans going to have living in Texas or Minnesota or anywhere else. I was always thankful that I got a chance to experience that and see honestly the average household, the average American family life. That way, I can truly appreciate what’s out here. When I talked to people that are living in LA, and they’ve lived in LA their entire life. Either they love it or they’re like, “I want to live a simple life.” I’m like, “You don’t you don’t know what it’s to come from there.” Some people enjoy it, some people don’t. It’s always something I’m thankful for.
The perspective is massive. If we haven’t ever experienced anything else, we can’t have a broader perspective. It’s the natural limitation of it. It is funny how many people who grew up in a place like LA, it’s often assumed that you’re the most open-minded or broad-minded, progressive person, but you’re as close-minded as someone that grew up in the Midwest their whole lives because you’ve only lived at one perspective, so it’s all relative. We can’t fault anyone because that’s our experience. It’s not right or wrong or better or worse. It’s interesting to see how it affects us. No aspirations to be an actor at all? Take us to that junior year in high school.
In junior year, I was on the cusp of being on varsity. I wanted to make varsity. We had a talented senior group. They had fifteen people on the varsity squad. The majority of them were seniors. We were very fortunate. People were talking about moving schools because there were many good players and you don’t want to cut seniors that have been there their entire time. That was the interesting thing to be in that situation. I was a junior and I was on JV. I’m like, “I’m going to prove myself,” and then I landed on someone’s foot and twisted it.
Was this in practice?
It was during a game. I landed on someone’s foot and twisted and torn ligament there. I was bummed. I wanted to come back earlier because I knew that it was my one chance to get on varsity. My parents were like, “This is your season. You should be done.” I took that as a challenge. I was very stubborn. I’m like, “I’m going to come back in a month.” I came back in six weeks or something. The doctor was mad. I was like, “I want to take the cast off.” He’s like, “This is too early. You need the cast on for another couple of weeks and then you needed to boot off for a couple more weeks.” I wanted to get to the boot so then I can start feeling my foot out. It was tough. I was very stubborn. I had to learn on my own.
You took it off early?
Yes. I tried to come back and it was not the same. I was not the same athlete. I was still not ready. Because I was hurt and I was still trying to recover, my coaches saw the boot off. I don’t think they appreciated how much effort I was putting into it, that I had to come back early. They were like, “We got to see you work harder or we got to see you do this.” I’m fighting through pain. I’m like, “Do they not understand that I just came back from a legit torn ligament? I was supposed to be out the entire season.” To contrast that, I was in a drama class and I had an amazing drama teacher. It was my first drama class because I didn’t want to do art because I couldn’t draw. I was like, “If it was the drama class, it’s an easy A.” I did it and he was encouraging and he was nice. He was like, “I think you’ve got a good shot at this, plus we need guys in our program.” He pushed hard. You have your basketball coach here saying, “You need to work harder,” and someone else being like, “I recognize what you’re worth. We’ll figure it out. Come join the theater.” The answer was very clear to me.
What started out as, “This is an easy A,” turn into one of your passions and love. What were the things that caused you to fall in love with it?
The uncertainty of success, not just as an actor as a career, but there was no right or wrong. I came from immigrants raising you like it’s awareness. “This is right, this is wrong. You’ve got to be good. You’ve got to get good grades.” You go into this acting world and then like, “However you interpret it.” Hearing that I was like, “What? I can do whatever?” It’s complemented with the fact that I had some friends that were on drama class and they actively were like, “Do something that you wouldn’t think would be on the page.” If a script was supposed to be straightforward, he’s like, “Why not do a goofy voice? Do this, try that.” I’m like, “Is this allowed?” They’re like, “Why not?” I was like, “Okay.” I started doing goofy voices and giving people weird postures and stuff and I was encouraged. It was such a cool environment that I was like, “I want to do this forever.”
That’s self-expression, the freedom to self-express. I can see that as being such a fuel, especially to maybe your young mind that was interested in the creativity of finding something on the computer, being mischievous. It’s like, “Now I get this whole world to create and explore.” I can see that being fuel to a growing fire in that sense. That was junior year. What did that career path look like for you? Going from interested to, “This is something that I want to do,” and now, “How do I do this?”
I went home after junior year and I told my parents that I was going to quit basketball. They both talked to me. We had a heart-to-heart. They’re like, “You said that you’re going to go play basketball and you would do computer engineering. Are you still doing computer engineering then?” I’m like, “Yeah, but I do want to pursue this as a career.” It was a hard talk. Immigrant parents are like, “You got to be a lawyer, doctor, engineer,” all that basic stuff. Not even with immigrants, but the majority of parents want you to have a stable career. For me to say that was heartbreaking. It was like, “We came to this country to give you a better life.” I’m sure it was tough to hear that.
When I went into senior year, I told my coaches I was quitting. I’m like, “How do I make this a career?” I was fortunate that one of the other guys in the drama class had an agent. He asked me, “Do you have an agent?” I was like, “No.” He’s like, “That’s how you make money. You got to do a commercial. You got to get a theatrical agent.” I started learning a little a bit about it and he guided me a little bit on how to make a resume and email agents and stuff. I got my first agent from there and I started going out on these random modeling and commercial auditions. I had no idea what to do, but that was the first step.
Take me back to that time with your parents and the disappointment or not necessarily understanding. How did you face that then? Even to this day, my parents don’t agree or understand or disappointed with my decision. It still affects me and we’re affected by that. How did you work through that or get to a place where you could move forward or also get their support in that?
I don’t know if you ever go past that. Your parents are the first people you look up to and deep down inside, you’re always like, “I want to make you proud. Aren’t you proud of me?” You can accomplish a bunch of different things. My parents have told me that they’re proud of me and everything, but it took for them to see a little bit of success for them to get there and to understand. I realized that not everyone gets to the point where they’re able to show their parents the success that they are looking for. Parents have a different view of success. If you’re acting, you’re like, “If I can book one job or I can do this.” If you’re coaching, it’s getting a couple of clients.
There are different levels of success for us and our parents have a completely different view from a completely different era. We’re never going to get there. Dave Chappelle put it best whenever he talked about how his dad was a janitor and his dad was like, “Dave, you’re going to end up not making much money being the same comedian.” Dave was like, “How much do you make as a janitor?” He said, “$30,000-some a year.” He’s like, “If I can make that much money a year, just enough, I’d be okay and I can do what I love, I’m happy.” Letting your parent know what your success level is, because they want you to be happy. That’s what I realized.
One, they’re trying to live vicariously through you or two, they want you to be happy. Even the people that live vicariously through you, they’re like, “You got to do this. You got to do that.” Deep down inside, they’re saying that because they think that’s what it’s going to make you happy. If you’re very clear and you’re like, “This is what will make me happy,” which I did later on with my parents. I was like, “I’m happiest as long as I’m on set. I don’t care if I’m working three or four different jobs or living out of my car.” It scared them and they were like, “You want to do this and you don’t understand. If that’s your idea of success and that’s what you want to do, we’re worried about you, but we support that.”
Isn’t that fascinating on communication where we say something and what we mean in our definition and interpretation of what we say is different than someone else? I’ve been learning that times infinity with my fiancée. It’s been such a growing process of like my mind thinks about things that’s unique to me and someone else’s mind is unique to them. Many disagreements come from the reality that we don’t understand what we mean. That’s such a funny process. It’s the same about your parents. It’s such a profound thing that the most helpful thing is telling them your definition of success.
For me in golf, my parents’ definition of success was way more gracious than my own for myself. Mine was very beyond what probably should have been. In my mind, I was a complete failure and, in their mind, it was more of a success. That doesn’t match up. There’s tension in that, which is interesting. You get an agent and you’re learning by doing, especially in that realm. You learn by getting in, jumping into the ocean, trying to figure out how to swim. What were those early years like? Especially in the Midwest. It’s a very niche, small and non-typical route.
There was nothing. That’s the thing when you’re first starting out. You don’t know what nothing is. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I first started out, I got an audition and my parents wanted to get involved. They were like, “Did you get an audition again?” Whenever I started getting an audition, it will be once every 4 or 5 months. I’ll get a random commercial cattle call or a random print job audition or actual job. I realized I needed to educate myself more as to what is normal. If you’re going to be a successful actor and be working and book stuff, you need more of that. I was like, “I’m not getting any of that to be here.” I had a couple of close calls early on coming from the Midwest, but then there came a point where I had a couple of TV auditions, a couple of call backs. My agent was like, “There’s nothing left for you here.” I let him know that I wanted to go to LA. He’s like, “You’re not ready.” Half a year passed by and he’s like, “There’s nothing left for you. I think you’re ready for LA.” I was like, “Okay, cool.”
He made the connection for LA and it was a growing moment because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For him to say, “I’m telling you right now, you stay here. You’re going to get stunted and you need to go out there.” That was a scary moment for my parents. I was eighteen when I told them. I was nineteen when I finally moved out. They’re like, “You’re moving to Los Angeles and you’re going to be by yourself? Do you even know what you’re doing?” The only way I could do to calm them were three things happened. One was all the close calls where I got close to booking. They saw that I was close. I had booked a national commercial, which got me some money. I was able to have some money in my savings. Three was the connection that I had with a manager already out there. Because I already had things somewhat set up, it made it way easier but it was still super tough.
Did you start college before that or not?
I did. I had started college and then when I went out there for six months, I was doing on online college to stay on track.
What made the determination that was going to be six months on your first trip to LA?
It was me looking at the rent and being like, “I only have enough for six months’ rent.” I lived in a studio and it was tough. Six months pretty much auditioning. I wasn’t a part of the community. I had an acting class, but that’s not community. I wasn’t part of a church. I wasn’t doing anything. It was a very depressing time. I was getting a bunch of auditions. I had booked a thing in the soap opera. People were like, “What? You book something? You’ve only been on it for a couple of months. What are you doing? You’re leaving?” I didn’t care. I was like, “I’m not a complete human yet. I need to go back home. I need to go to college and become a complete human before I can play one on TV.”
That’s a mature thought process for a nineteen-year-old.
Looking back, I’m like, “Who’s this guy?”
If that could be replicated by more nineteen-year-olds, think about the difference of the humans that would be coming in the next generation. I always think about having a couple of years between high school and college could be the most transformative thing for our culture to implement in the next generation’s lives. We don’t know who we are when we go to college. If we go to college for the experience of college, then we’re wasting, we’re prolonging our maturity into adulthood and wasting even more time afterwards. That’s a sweet thing to hear that that was part of your process. It makes sense too because LA is a very exposing and challenging place. I can imagine that being a brutal six months.
If you don’t know who you are, people will shape you to be what they want you to be or you’ll get lost and you’ll be hanging around different groups and communities that you don’t want to be with and it’s all in a search of identity. That’s something that I wanted to stay away from. I was very fortunate that I had supportive parents that were like, “Sure, you can go for six months and sure, you can come back.” Whenever I went out again, it was like, “Sure, you can go out again.” Whenever I went out the second time, they were a lot more supportive because they saw that I understood more about the entertainment world.
How long did it take before you finally felt you had somewhat of a grasp of the entertainment world?
I feel like I’m still learning all the different sides of it. As far as the acting side, it probably took me being on set. Whenever I was a recur where I did multiple episodes on the MTV show, Faking It. That was the first time that I realized I understand what is required from an actor. Because I was with other actors that were working as well, I got a chance to talk to them more. I got a chance to talk to people behind the scenes and the directors and stuff. I understood what was required and what other people were doing that were successful in order to be successful and continue to be successful. I also knew what was required from me from behind the camera side. I got to know them intimately as friends. They were all very supportive and I got to learn so much from those times.Faith anchors you and keeps you sane throughout everything you're doing. Click To Tweet
It’s amazing how much that experience is. You cannot replace experience. When you think about your development as an actor, it’s such a craft, an art and a skill. For people that have no connection or correlation or experience in the industry or acting itself, it’s easy to miss how much skill or how much beauty and art is in gifted actors. For yourself, how have you developed as an actor? What would you say those phases of development have entailed?
The first phase was learning what you looked whenever you were acting, understanding what made people laugh whenever they were laughing. A lot of time spent in front of the mirror for research purposes. You have to do auditions in front of the mirror to understand, “My face does that.” It’s fascinating because you have your own taste. You watch films, you watch TV, and you know what a good actor looks like. You know what you would like to see in an actor. If you can match what you are doing to what you think you’re doing, then you’re going to be in a good place. Many times, I would get in front of the mirror and I would think that my face is doing this, then I don’t see it. I’m like, “My face is barely moving there. It’s maybe moving too much.” You start learning more about your actions and then sometimes if you even make yourself laugh, that would be so funny if you’re watching someone else. If I saw someone on TV do that, that would be funny.
You start learning what you enjoy and using your body as a tool. It was the very first phase as far as understanding acting and your process. Once you finally started auditioning, how do you execute at the audition level. Once you get past auditioning and booking, then how do you take whatever you learned and do that on set when there are many moving pieces? There’s a lot of waiting, there’s a lot of moving pieces. How do you not get distracted? There are many distractions on set whenever you’re not working. It’s so easy to go out and do whatever, but you have to wake up the next morning. There are always different phases to go through and there are still phases I haven’t gone through. I don’t know what it’s like to be on a $100 million set and have to nail something and because there’s so much money in line, people were moving. I don’t know what it’s to have one continuous take like in Birdman or something. There are many different things that you’re still learning as an actor, but those are the first phases that you go through.
There are many layers. The amount of complexities involved in everything is always staggering when you first discover and start becoming familiar with it. In the journey in your own career with acting, what have been some of the hardest moments or one of the hardest moments for you so far in the acting professional world, in that journey with that career?
I would say crying on set was pretty tough. It’s one thing to get there and it’s another thing to cry and then you thought you got it and everyone’s happy. You’re then doing other setups or takes. It covers on other people. All of a sudden, they’re like, “We’re going to come back to you during this scene.” I’m like, “I have to cry again?” They’re like, “Yes.” You gave it your all. You’re spent. That was probably the toughest time because you do whatever you need to do. We use the little menthol thing in the eyes and it ended up working out fine. That was a big learning experience because you think that giving your emotion like, “I gave them all. I got the take, it’s good.” It’s like, “You got to do it.” Not again right away, but you’ve got to do it a couple of takes later again from a different angle because they’re trying to get everything set up from that. That was a very interesting experience.
In your career, what are you most proud of as an actor? What work or what performance or what even scene or whatever it may be, what stands out in your own mind that you’re most proud of doing?
Everything that I’ve done held a special place in my heart because it’s either from the character that I was representing and the people were saying like, “This character.” Even with Faking It, being a lovable jock. People were telling that story. We were trying to show that there are different people out there in high school that don’t get the same shine as the jocks. It’s cool to be part on that story of like, “Why don’t we tell the perspective from someone that’s coming out of the closet and they don’t know how to do that.” With Crazy Ex, I’m doing the whole mental health thing. It was cool to be a part of different things. Selfishly, I’d probably say working with Robert Rodriguez. That was the thing. I look back on that. I always wanted to work with him. He was cool and he directed an episode of a TV show I did like El Rey on his network and it was a cool experience working on that.
As you look at it now, what are your aspirations as an actor? What still is something that excites you about that line of work?
Being able to do anything. That’s what got me into it. Once again, being Latino, coming out, a lot of times it’s not something that you see a lot on TV or film. Someone’s the president or someone’s an engineer or someone’s a teacher and stuff. It’s cool to be able to go into a room and there are no preconceptions. You’re becoming someone else and you’re telling their story. That’s the thing that still excites me. What story am I telling next? What random person in America, or not even in America, in the world is going to be looking at my character and being like, “That’s me?” That’s cool too. That excites me.
That is exciting and it’s such a powerful thing to be able to tell a story and do it well. A lot of feedback from people that I’ve talked to that know you well. This is less of a scary story, but a lot of them commented that a lot of people don’t know how much success you have had as actor. Most people in the industry often are quick to praise themselves and usually they’re the last to know about your success, which speaks a lot to your humility. One of the aspects that came out was this idea that one of the hardest things to do in acting is play a dumb role. What is it about playing dumb or being the dumb guy character, whatever it is, what about that is uniquely challenging?
It’s so much fun because I don’t see them as dumb. I see them like they’re focused the thing that not everyone else is focused on. You stand out, which if everyone’s talking about their favorite band like, “This band is awesome,” they’re focused on maybe something else. Maybe they are not focused on the band. Maybe they thought that the name of the band was something else. They’re like, “I love that cereal.” Everyone’s like, “What? Are you dumb?” It’s fun to not play by or everyone else’s rules. Whenever I get that role and it’s like, “This person’s supposed to be dumb,” I’m like, “Fun, I don’t have to play by the rules. I am in my own world.”
The social norms, what’s culturally acceptable or whatever? That is a sweet way of looking at it. Even when you look at humans or kids or adults who have special needs, they see the world in such a beautiful way that we all miss. They do live some of the most blessed lives in that sense.
It’s all a different focus. You can have it a whole conversation with them and they’re probably focused on your shirts. They’d be like, “That’s a cool shirt.” You’re trying to have a big conversation about life or something. It’s cool to figure out what that focus is for those characters.
One last piece on the acting side. On the audition side, what have you found from your experience with auditions that are the ones that went well and the ones that didn’t go well? What have you learned along the way in those two realms?
Knowing what your measure of success is. When I first started out, because I didn’t know what success was or wasn’t, I would do an audition and then I felt it went well, but then the casting director was like, “Thank you,” and I’d be gone. I’m like, “What happened?” It’s dangerous because if you don’t have a concrete idea of what your success is, then you’re searching for that either praise or for that validation from someone else. A lot of times it’s from either the casting director or from the production, they didn’t book you or whatever. It’s also tough because sometimes you feel you didn’t do the best job, but then someone’s like, “You booked it,” and you’re like, “I felt I didn’t do what I wanted to do, but I’m glad that it worked out.” It was a nice little blessing to have and it’s like, “I wasn’t expecting this.” Something that I’ve learned was to make sure that you know what your success is. For me, personally, it was making sure I come in prepared, know the lines and also that I hit the marks that I want to hit as far as emotionally for the character. I make sure I walk out of that room and all the choices you make, I feel comfortable that you know what character was in my head.
One of the things also that some people in your community were interested to know and that I thought would be sweet too is your own faith journey, especially through your relationship with Sarah and now your marriage and being involved in the industry and all the different aspects of your life. How would you describe your faith journey with God and where He’s brought you to now?
It’s been a journey. I remember growing up and not caring too much about church or anything like that. When I first came out to LA, I lived within a block away from a church. It was meant to be because if it was any further, especially driving in LA, I wouldn’t have made it. It was cool because I remember feeling so down and depressed. I remember I wanted a little piece of home and I wanted to feel something like, “This is my normal routine.” It became Sundays and I knew that Sunday was going to church. I was like, “I’m going to go to church.” I started going there and then it’s been a wild ride ever since then. I’ve always made it a point to always bring God into whatever has been going on in my life. It wasn’t until years later that I started diving more into the Bible. The Bible is such a scary thing and I remember being like, “That’s a big book.” It’s the same thing as googling sometimes. You’ve got to know what you’re asking. You’ve got to know what you’re looking for.
If you’re very specific and you have intentions of like, “I am looking for this,” that’s a great way to start because I didn’t know where to start. There were stories and I was like, “What is it about?” When you start googling or searching, “What does the Bible say about this? What does the Bible say about that?” you slowly start putting everything together and then it takes so much time because there are many times that people would be like, “This is contradictory and this is this, and this is that.” Once you get to a bigger level of understanding of the Bible, you realize that we’re not meant to know anything. We’re not meant to know it all. That’s when you understand the Bible. It’s like, “These stories are supposed to soothe us during these times, give us guidance.” At the same time, they’re not all the answers, which exactly gives you the answers that you’re trying to search. It’s crazy. It’s a fun place to be in.
The most magical or supernatural thing about the Bible is that it works at the heart level, not the head level. We go approach it in the head level like, “This is how it’s supposed to work.” It hits us in the heart and that’s like, “I got it wrong.”
I’ve talked to a lot of super smart people. They know the Bible so well. Some people that know the Bible the best are the atheists. It’s such a cool thing because you talk to them and you’re like, “You know the Bible.” It’s such a cool place to be in because sometimes even without them knowing, they’re living Christ-like. They are not okay with the structure of it or something, which is fine. It’s not for everybody. When you feel you’re a part of something bigger and part of that community, it’s transcendent. You’re not just pure flesh anymore.
It reaches us on a spiritual level that we all possess. We all possess a spirit and soul. That’s something we all long for something more too if we’re honest with ourselves. In your line of work or in your career path or even in life in general, when is your faith challenged the most?
I’ve been fortunate where everyone that I’ve worked with and every set that I have been on, people have been super respectful about it. I was asked this a while back. They’re like, “How hard is it to be a Christian in the entertainment world? Especially being on set and you’re working with all these bigger celebrities and stuff.” I’m like, “Honestly, at the end of the day, if you’re a nice person and you’re not being a dick or something.” You’ll find some people that are Christians there. They can be mean and in your face about stuff and it can hold up production and cause rifts and relationship issues. That’s where you start getting into an issue. Whenever I’ve seen Christians that have been exiled or something like that, it’s because of that. It’s not necessarily because of their faith. Maybe I’ve been fortunate enough where I’ve worked with cool people that everyone’s like, “You know your lines. You’re cool with me. You’re cool to everyone else. You’re nice. You do work. You’re funny or whatever. It’s cool whatever you believe.”
One of the things that a lot of people want to know, because you are talented, you do have a lot of passions and interests, you have a lot of things you’re involved with. What do the next few years look like? What is on your bucket list?
I’d love to be more involved with the people that I look up to. There are many people in the industry that I look up to them, their work ethic, what they’re doing, the stories they’re telling, having that consistency of work, all that stuff. That’s what I look up to like having finances right. It’s being able to make an impact, whether it be Bizzy, whether it be connecting people to technology to help them schedule or whether it be through leading a community group or something. I want to be in a place where that’s a lot more locked in and I’m helping others get to that point too. Because I know how hard it is, especially this transition period, I’m like, “I’ve done a lot but how do I lead? How do I help? How do I connect more to the people around me and the people that I want to get closer to?” That’s the next few years.
One of the questions I usually ask people in gaining some background info is asking about the guest’s superpower. One of the ones that was repeated for you was your ability to dream and breathe life into other people’s ideas and take maybe their work or their idea or their passion and build out an actionable plan for them. It’s interesting because the feedback that people gave about you is that you already have the skillset to do that. It’s about having more spaces and opportunities where that’s taking place as actively maybe. It’s cool seeing those line up, the heart’s desire and also the gifting that God’s given you in that. It’s sweet. A few one-offs here that I always am curious of knowing. What are your cornerstone habits, the things that are your foundation?
What anchors me and keeps me sane, I would say, is my faith. It’s having that consistent, not just time with God, but time with community, with other people that pour into you. I feel that’s something that I cannot live without. Whenever you have a community, a group of people, you can give all you want, pour unto the people and be the best speaker or be the best actor or be the best artist or be the best coach. If you don’t have your people that pour back into you, then it’s so hard, especially through the tough times. Having that faith and having that community and then doing something active. I can always look back. It’s like, “I had a rough week. I did not do enough of.” It always goes back to like, “I didn’t get out enough.” That’s being active, working out and learning something new. It’s always cool whether it be from someone else like, “I learned this from this person,” or “I learned how to do this,” or “I learned this about me.” It’s always fun to do that.
What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?
Whenever I started getting into learning about Bizzy and the app world, there was a book called Hooked that goes into the psychology of what makes products that people want to come back to or software they want to come back to all the time. At first, I was like, “This is amazing,” then I got disgusted. I was like, “I can’t believe people know this information.” Even the guy that wrote the book was like, “People can use this information for not good things.” I was like, “This is so eye-opening.” It needs to be required reading for any high school student or college students or honestly anyone. You’ll be more aware of why you’re addicted to certain things like social websites and even products and stuff or doing certain things. You’re like, “This is what hooks us to things.”
The Robert Cialdini wrote one called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine is also similar. It’s crazy how we’re wired with the psychology of human beings and how you can manipulate that.
Thane has an entire bookshelf full of psychology type books and business books.
If you could speak at TED Conference, what would it be on and why?
Either community or education. Education, because I’m so passionate about it. When you’re going through it, you don’t realize it. Once you get older, I’m like, “Teachers had such a profound impact on my life.” The way the education system is set up is such a cornerstone of the future of our country. When that is set up properly and it’s accessible to everyone like public school systems and stuff, it doesn’t take much. It’s a huge thing to try to change things now, but it wouldn’t be that many differences to get the most out of kids to make sure that everyone has a set of future and they know themselves enough and everything. I’m super passionate about that. In another life, I’d be a teacher. That and community is super important to make sure you’re around other people and pouring into one another and talking about what you’re struggling with. Everyone’s going through something and it’s a lot easier to go through life and you realize that you’re not the only one.
What new habit or belief has most positively impacted you or your life?
It’s something that I had heard before. It’s surrounding yourself with the people that you respect so much. It’s like, “Who do you spend the majority of your time with?” It’s always interesting because I feel one of the toughest parts as humans is whenever we’re going through different life cycles, we have our friends that we grew up with. We have our friends if you move, friends that went to college with and all that stuff. Every single step of the way, there’s always a new set of people. It’s the same thing with life. You get married and now all of a sudden, your perspective changes. I still want to keep up with my old friends, but now I want to be closer to people that are married and going through this. If I’m about to start a business, I want to be closer with people that have already started businesses and doing this. It’s always something that I heard and then now I’m like, “I need to be hardcore about this.”
If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why? A text they’d get on their phone every morning as a reminder.
You’re seen, which might scare people. Mostly where it comes from is a lot of times you feel you’re doing things alone. You’re doing a lot of work and you’re like, “Is this worth it?” That’s also coming back to faith. Knowing that God sees everything, you’re like, “Okay, cool.” There’s a comfort in there. It’s the same thing. Sometimes people need to know like, “I see what you’re doing.”
Recognition and acknowledgment is powerful. Erick, this has been awesome. Thanks for coming on. Tell people more about the best places to find you, Bizzy, etc.
The Gram’s always good, @Mr.ErickLopez. You can also email me at Erick@ErickLopezExplains.com. I created a website to help other actors and other people going through that stuff and hopefully get some blog stuff out there and everything.
Until next time, this has been sweet. Thanks again for making time.
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