There’s something that stirs in us when we watch a performance that has something authentic in it, and the best way I know to at least attempt to get to something authentic is showing up with what actually happened to me today. — Arye Gross
On the show today is Arye Gross, an actor with 40+ years in the business who always gives a memorable performance, wherever he pops up. Arye was absolutely one of the inspirations for this podcast and I knew he needed to be a guest—it was just a question of when, and I couldn’t be more thrilled we’re wrapping up Season 2 with him!
This is also a personal episode as Arye has been quite a part of my journey, especially during my 20s. I first met Arye in college at USC, when he co-taught an acting class with Tim Dekay (who many people would later know from the show White Collar)—Arye and Tim were both fantastic teachers. Definitely check out the film they did together, Big Eden—it’s really heart-warming and great performances all around! I continued to learn from Arye when I was taking classes and doing shows at The Antaeus Company in LA. I consider Arye a friend, teacher, and mentor.
Arye has had a pretty amazing career. He’s got over 120 credits on IMDb and that doesn’t even account for the MULTIPLE recurring guest roles he’s had on shows like Diagnosis Murder, The Practice, Wildfire, The Riches, and as Dr. Sidney Perlmutter on Castle. In fact, I once helped Arye run lines for a Perlmutter scene: “talk about the B team…” 🙂
Two of his celebrated co-starring roles include as the guy tasked to fetch Bette Midler’s character in For the Boys, and as the wronged husband in Minority Report with Tom Cruise—both are totally worth your time as a student of acting! He creates such great characters and does so much with very little screen time.
He’s also absolutely one of those “hey, it’s that guy” guys—he’s popped up in so many different things on screen over the years, from Just One of the Guys and Soul Man to Friends and Grey Gardens and a hundred other things—even if you didn’t know his name, you knew his face. I mean, he’s in the actual book called “Hey, It’s That Guy,” so , you know, it’s official. Though I have a feeling, after today’s episode, you’ll know who he is from now on!
Now here’s an actor marketing idea inspired by this episode—
When I first told Arye that I had interviewed Reed Birney (from episode 13), Arye remarked that he keeps tabs on Reed’s career, to see what roles he might want to check out! At least twice, they’ve played the same parts: in Circle Mirror Transformation, and as the lead in Uncle Vanya.
I also noticed it with Francis Guinan (from episode 14), that he and Reed had played the same part onstage in You Got Older. Now think of this: Reed is primarily in NY, Arye is in LA, and Francis is in Chicago. Of course they can and do work other places, but they are mainly in totally different markets, especially for theatre, so I’m sure there are actors YOU can look at in different markets to see what roles (especially in theatre) you could be right for and should be checking out.
Just a bit of what we cover in this episode with Arye:
- Building props that he’s used onstage
- Being re-cast as the narrator of The Wonder Years
- Upstaging Dan Aykroyd with strawberries
- Neuroscience, empathy, and authenticity
- Being embraced and rejected by the audience
- Getting fired multiple times from the same show
- What Arye still loves about acting
and so much more! Be sure to stick around for the very end, where we talk about three important quotes for actors, creativity, and yes’s (you’ll hear what we mean).
About the guest
Arye Gross was born in Los Angeles, attended the University of California at Irvine, and went on to study acting at the Conservatory at South Coast Repertory. He then became a member of the South Coast Repertory resident company for three years.
His South Coast Repertory credits include the world premieres of Richard Greenberg’s Our Mother’s Brief Affair and Donald Margulies’ Brooklyn Boy, which marked his Broadway debut when it moved to New York.
One of his first professional productions was the world premiere of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial at The Odyssey Theatre in LA. He also spent a year doing social-political theatre with El Teatro Campesino under the direction of Luis Valdez.
While Arye’s performed in a number of world premieres and workshop productions, he’s no stranger to classical theatre, appearing in numerous works by Chekhov, Shakespeare, and Shaw. Regional theatre credits include Center Stage Baltimore, Pasadena Playhouse, Geffen Playhouse, several shows at South Coast Rep, Center Theatre Group, East/West Players, and Stages Theatre Center, where he served as Managing Artistic Director from 2000-2003. He has performed in dozens of plays recorded for LA Theatre Works.
For his performance in Underneath the Lintel, Arye was nominated for an LA Ovation Award for Lead Actor and for the LA Drama Critics Circle for Solo Performance.
Onscreen, he was a series regular on Ellen, and has made numerous guest appearances on a wide variety of television series, such as Diff’rent Strokes, Knight Rider, The Outer Limits, Six Feet Under, and Law & Order: SVU.
He is a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company in LA, and Arye considers himself extremely fortunate to have studied acting with Lee Shallat Chemel, Roy London, Jose Quintero, and James Wilson.
Please enjoy my chat with Arye Gross!
Total Running Time: 1:41:12
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Want to hear from who Arye keeps tabs on, career-wise, in terms of roles he might want to consider? Check out my talk with Tony-winner Reed Birney!
What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let us know in the comments.
Scroll below for links mentioned in today’s episode and additional show notes…
Are you looking for more info from industry insiders and great teachers about being an actor?
And do you want this as something you can listen to on the go? Well you’re in luck.
As a listener of The Working Actor’s Journey podcast, Audible is offering you a free audiobook and a free 30-day trial. Whether it’s one hour or 15 hours, it doesn’t matter—whatever you want, that first book is totally free. To download your audiobook today go to workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Here are a few recommendations:
- The Actors Life by Jenna Fischer (from The Office), read by the author and others, including our guest Reed Birney
- Secrets of Screen Acting by Patrick Tucker (a TV and film director), read by David Lawrence XVII
- Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen, read by Angele Masters
Get one of these or anything else at workingactorsjourney.com/audible.
Arye Gross around the web
- Building props that he’s used in shows, making his acting job easier
- Working in the shop and backstage for South Coast Repertory
- How he resented non-acting work, though it paid off years later
- Growing up with an engineer father
- The influence of his older brother and sister in the 60s
- Learning how he had been re-cast as the narrator of The Wonder Years
- What he did to make his no-line appearance as “Another Cop” mean something to him
- Being in a scene with Dan Aykroyd and eventually getting yelled at
- Feeling like a fool on his first ever day of filming on the set of Different Strokes
- What he learned from the great acting teacher Roy London
- Studying neuroscience, empathy, and authenticity
- Doing social and political theatre in LA and with Teatro Campesino (Farmworker’s Theatre)
- The joys and challenges of doing a solo show, Underneath the Lintel
- Whether he had a plan of the types of roles and films he pursued
- What he learned when standing around in wet clothes on an independent film set
- Getting advice from agents to not do television (at that time)
- Developing a show with writers but then not being cast
- The advice he took to work on Ellen and the challenges he faced there
- Abruptly finishing Ellen and immediately working on Friends and how different it was
- Why it was uncomfortable to work on the Ellen sitcom
- The great experience he had as a recurring actor on the show Castle
- What does Arye still want to do as an actor?
- The poet laureate Donald Hall and what he wrote that resonated with Arye about words
- Where Arye finds his deepest engagement with the work – it’s not necessarily in performance
- What he wishes he spent more time on and where he could have paid more attention
- The letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille that all actors need to read
- Beethoven’s advice for living and being creative
- Ai’s poem about being a “leaf about to fall” and the meaning it holds for him now
Selected People and Items Mentioned
- Circle Mirror Transformation play
- Linda Gehringer, actress
- South Coast Repertory
- Paul Verdier and Stages Theatre Center
- Carol Black and Neal Marlens, creators of The Wonder Years and Ellen
- Daniel Stern, actor who worked with Arye in Coupe de Ville
- UC Irvine Department of Drama
- Robert Cohen’s book, Acting Power
- Pirandello’s play Enrico IV
- Lee Shallat Chemel, film/tv director/producer and former head of the Conservatory at SCR
- SCR Summer Conservatory
- Kurt Fuller, actor and Arye’s friend
- Robert Goldsby, UC Berkeley professor and guest on the show!
- The Time of Your Life play
- The Couch Trip with Richard Romanus, Walter Matthau, Charles Grodin, and Dan Aykroyd
- Michael Ritchie, film director
- Roy London, acting teacher
- Stella Adler, actress and acting teacher
- The Antaeus Company
- Midnight Run with Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro
- El Teatro Campesino
- Frank Condon, director/playwright/teacher
- The Chicago Conspiracy Trial at the Odyssey Theatre
- Luis Valdez, playwright/actor/director
- The Mirror Box and Phantom Pain
- Arye in Mrs. Warren’s Profession at Antaeus
- Arye in Underneath the Lintel at the Geffen
- Robert Carradine in Revenge of the Nerds
- A Matter of Degrees film with Arye
- John Doe, actor and musician with the band X
- Polonius: “to thine own self be true”
- Ellen/These Friends of Mine sitcom
- Soul Man with C. Thomas Howell—Arye’s big break
- Arye on Friends
- Castle series with actors Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion
- Donald Hall, writer, poet laureate of New Hampshire and also for the country
- Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer
- Ai Ogawa, poet
Martha Graham’s Letter to Agnes DeMille
There is a vitality,
a life force,
that is translated through you into action,
and because there is only one of you in all time,
this expression is unique.
And If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.
The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine
how good it is
nor how valuable it is
nor how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly
to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work.
You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate YOU.
Keep the channel open…
No artist is pleased…
There is no satisfaction whatever at anytime
There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction
a blessed unrest that keeps us marching
and makes “us” MORE alive than the others.
What will be the judgment a century hence concerning the lorded works of our favorite composers today? Inasmuch as nearly everything is subject to the changes of time, and – more’s the pity- the fashions of time, only that which is good and true will endure like a rock and no wanton hand will ever venture to defile it. Then, let every man do that which is right, strive with all his might towards the goal which can never be obtained, develop to the last breath the gifts with which the gracious Creator has endowed him, and never cease to learn. For life is short, art eternal.
Possibly by Ai
Think of yourself as a leaf about to fall—now decide what to do with your time.
Arye on Screen
Discussing Circle Mirror Transformation
First look at Underneath the Lintel, where he made another prop!
Arye and the director Steven Robman on Underneath the Lintel
Arye and Tim Dekay in Big Eden
Arye in Minority Report
Production Photos of Arye
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photos: from Uncle Vanya and Mrs. Warren’s Profession: Karianne Flaathen; from Underneath the Lintel: Chris Whitaker; Parfumerie: Jim Cox