Gains, who has been a working actor in Los Angeles for 25 years, began his career at the age of 13 with acting coach, Virgil Fraye, who many know due to the success of his daughter, Soleil Moon Frye, who played Punky Brewster in the '80s. Gains landed a role at the age of 18 in Stephen King’s Children of the Corn.
“I got in partly due to child labor laws,” said Gains. “I was in the right place at the right time; and at 18, I was well trained and looked younger.”
Gains also answered student questions about portfolios, agents, acting classes, and much more. He passed around headshot examples and photos of him playing several different roles. Gains explained that there is really no one right answer to questions about the acting business and that different things work for different people in the world of acting. He told students that they needed a portfolio with a headshot and a résumé and to take acting classes when they could.
“You are going to learn who you are in this business,” said Gains. “Work on cold reading, make good choices, and do something different. Feel really good about your work before you pick a teacher to work with and then go in and impress.”
Gains told students to be careful if they go to a big city to pursue acting because there are lots of crooks and scam artists in the acting business. He also explained that it’s sometimes a slow process, and actors often start out getting a part with five lines or less in a sitcom or movie. If they impress at that level, they may move up to co-star, guest star, or series regular roles. He also went over the importance of getting into the actors guild and what steps you have to take to get there.
Gains told students to take advantage of as much as they can while they’re in college.
“Dive in, soak everything up, get well-rounded and read books,” said Gains. “There are lots of books out there. Read, learn, find out what methods work for you, and define your characters. It’s an opportunity to focus on your work before life becomes too financially burdensome.”
In addition to the business question-and-answer session, Gains also held a cold reading workshop. It was designed to stimulate an actual casting call, and Gains called students in one by one for a chance to work with him individually. He let each student read through the part once and then gave the student some advice on what to change before a second read-through. He also told students who he thought might get a call back for the part and why.
Gains gave the students several pointers during the session such as where to hold their script and the importance of making eye contact with the character opposite of you.
“Don’t be afraid to look down, grab a few lines, look up and deliver those lines, and then go back down and grab a few more,” explained Gains. “And when the character opposite of you is speaking, look at them, make eye contact.”
“Remember sometimes it takes years to get that one guest role, but you have to keep showing up and keep trying,” said Gains.
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