INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR COLBY STRONG
Instagram : @colbyjamesstrong
Colby has been living in Auckland, New Zealand, working on two seasons of Power Rangers Beast Morphers for Nickelodeon. It was a nine month contract with filming scheduled until the middle of May 2019. After picture wrap, he’s planning on moving back to Los Angeles.
Before I booked Power Rangers I was living in Sherman Oaks, California. I like the laid-back vibe of The Valley as compared to DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) or WeHo (West Hollywood), so that’s probably where I will go back to. Before moving to LA in October of 2017, I was living and working in Salt Lake City, Utah, which is my home-town. I worked for about a year and a half around Salt Lake after I graduated college in April of 2016. One would think that there isn’t that much work in Utah, but there is actually a huge theatre scene as well as a lot of film opportunities. Apparently, Utah is a great place for productions to film because it’s inexpensive compared to other states, which is great because they usually cast the locals as their guest stars and supporting roles, so that’s kind of where I got my start and grew my resume. Utah is where I booked Disney Channel’s Andi Mack, Snatchers, Netflix’s Diedra and Laney Rob a Train and YouTube Red’s Youth and Consequences which just got nominated for an Emmy!!! I’m over the moon! I’m so grateful for my agent and film family in Utah and as of right now, I still plan on continuing to build my career out in Utah, as well as LA.
It’s hard to pinpoint where my career started because I could say it was the day I decided to audition for my first musical when I was thirteen, but then it wasn’t a career back then. I would say the day acting went from being a hobby to a career was maybe when I changed majors in college from Pre-Med to Acting. That was the turning point that made me say, “Okay, I can do this!” and from there, I was starting to view acting as something that needed to fully financially support me one day. Scary!
When I was growing up, acting was always a hobby, musical theatre specifically. I didn’t get straight into plays and film acting until I got into college, but even then, it was more of a hobby. This was only because I never really thought I would be able to pursue a successful career in acting, so I decided I wanted to be a doctor instead [Laughs]. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year in college when I realized my acting skill was actually good enough to become a professional actor, so that is when I officially changed majors. I still would have loved to do something in medicine, but I listened to that little voice in my head, and it just wasn’t where my heart was at. Luckily, I was minoring in acting so the major change didn’t derail me from graduating on time. I can definitely say that you do not need to get a degree in acting to be able to make a profession out of it, but for me, it was the best decision I could have ever made.
I was not very good at acting, so I seriously needed the four years of training in college, and since I took the time to meticulously study the craft, I created a legitimate foundation for my career that will always keep me rooted. This helped and truly let me blossom after I graduated college. I started working professionally, I haven’t stopped working since.
My family has been supportive from day one and I think they were just excited I found something I loved doing. They put me in every sport growing up and each lasted about a day. Nothing ever sticked, not even gymnastics or ice skating. I was born in a family of all women and all of them were cops. The only man in the family was my grandpa and he was a sheriff back in the 80’s, so I’m definitely the black sheep in the family. When I finally found my “thing”, they never batted an eye. You would think an entire family in the police force wouldn’t be so accepting when they hear that their only boy in the entire family wants to do musical theatre, but their reaction couldn’t be more welcoming. No one in my family are actors so I get a lot of the basic questions such as, “How do you memorize so many lines?”, “How’s filming in New Zealand” – and even though I can’t blame them for asking those questions, I do wish I got more of the gritty questions. Something that makes me really think. Nevertheless, I’m glad I found my “thing” and I know for certain that I wouldn’t be here without their support.
When I was seventeen, I got my very first agent and I was a theatre boy so I was NOT good at film acting yet. It took a while before I booked a film or a commercial that required a more nuanced performance. My first job ever in the business was a Power Company Commercial that was showcasing their new automatic timer system for homes. The premise is that I bring my girlfriend to the front door after a date and I plan the automatic timer on the lights to shut off at a specific time and when it does, I kiss her. It was actually a really cute commercial, but the best part about the job was I got to kiss this beautiful girl over and over and over! We did like thirty takes. I just remember leaving after we wrapped and being like, “Is that what all jobs are like?! I love film!”
As for my first professional acting role, it’s hard to say which one it was because what defines professional? I could say that it was H8RZ because it was the first character role I had in an independent film with lines, but then I could say it was Andi Mack because it was my first Co-Star in a network television show, but then I could also say it was Diedra and Laney Rob a Train as a supporting role because it was backed by Netflix and debuted at Sundance Film Festival. I think all were professional no matter the size and all lead me to achieve the next thing.
Now, almost four years later, my career is very solely based on film and building a career in film. This doesn’t mean that I don’t crave the stage and to be honest, I really want to work my way up to some gritty Broadway drama because that’s where I see myself having some fun! But I have a million things I want to do in this career, I would love to score a film one day, direct, and maybe dabble in cinematography. That is the beautiful thing about being an artist, your possibilities are endless and collaborations are always encouraged. Can’t wait to see what happens.
Castings can be an opportunity to receive both constructive and unnecessary criticism and learning to deal with criticism when auditioning is just part of the job. Having to discern which criticism to fold in and which to throw out is something that we deal with in every aspect of this career, not just when auditioning. Should I listen to YouTube troll comments? Should I listen to what my great aunt thought of that one shirtless scene? Should I listen to what that casting director said about my body? This is just something we have to deal with in this job. It’s obviously not fun being under a microscope and being picked apart about every single thing we do, but this entire experience is making me a stronger person and a better businessman. I am learning to discern what is just background noise, what is well thought out notes that will further my career, and knowing how to do so will only help my personal life as well. Certain things get to me sometimes but I’m only human. It does make me laugh that this very critical business is entirely full of artists who mostly, if not all, have a very prominent sensitive side… those two things don’t mix very well but somehow, we all make it work.
” I’ve been performing in front of my friends and family for over 13 years now so having them watch Blaze is no different. It’s the new viewers that make me nervous. Ultimately, I know I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks but when you go from a couple hundred audience members to millions of viewers every week, it gets a little daunting.”
I play ‘Blaze’ in Hasbro’s Power Rangers Beast Morphers on Nickelodeon. I would like to think I am nothing like Blaze, but the one attribute I would say I carry is his ambition. The only thing he has in his life is his career and he won’t let anyone step in front of him and replace him. I am for sure as competitive as Blaze but I don’t think I carry any other of his characteristics. Maybe I’m a little calculative as well but we are trying to tame that.
I used to tell myself that there wasn’t much of a difference between theatre and film… I don’t know who that kid was but I can confidently say that they are very different. I am a very enthusiastic human so theatre was so natural for me, but it wasn’t until I got into film that I really had to sit back and make some serious changes. I am in a great place with film and have really learned to be more nuanced, both in acting and in life. After doing a good amount of film now, I think going back to theatre might be a little bit of a challenge because I think I will always be worried that I will be overacting. I love both for so many different reasons. I love that in film you can whisper and make almost inaudible reactions and it will get picked up by viewers. Blaze has a very hushed voice for the most part so it’s been fun to be subtle. But in theatre, you are so free. You don’t have marks to hit. [Laughs] I think it’s definitely a skill if you can nail both.
The most challenging role I’ve played so far is Blaze, without a doubt. This is my first series regular role so making sure I nail this role was more than just picking up a play script in Salt Lake City and performing in front of a couple hundred people. Now, I am not saying that doing a play for an intimate audience doesn’t hold the same importance, but Blaze will last forever and that’s unnerving. Aside from being exposed to millions of viewers, even just playing this kind of character was very overwhelming… I never hung around the jocks in high school, I was usually the one picked on by the jocks (no sympathy) so now having to empathize with an alpha male jock was definitely a challenge, I didn’t want to justify that kind of behavior. All in all, I’m happy with what I have done with the character. Blaze has been well received and I feel so grateful that people are taking to him. That’s all I could want. Let’s not forget the stunt training… I give all my credit to Alpha Stunt Team and XMA Action Stunts for getting me to this place and preparing me for the role because a year ago, I had never thrown a punch before. I’m a bad ass now, all thanks to them!
Put acting aside, the worst part about this dang job is watching yourself, but you HAVE TO DO IT. Especially in the beginning years of this career because you learn so much by watching yourself. Watching myself on screen has been a rough journey but right now, we are in a good place. [Laughs] As for working with my cast-mates on Power Rangers… I could not ask for a better team to be stuck in some country across the world with for nine months. We are thick as thieves and truly have become a family. We hear from a lot of viewers that you can feel our chemistry on screen and I think that is what is excelling our show from good to great.
Fortunately and unfortunately, I am a workaholic. So, when people ask me what my hobbies are I don’t ever really know what to say because my career is my job and hobby. I will say though, that I am heavily involved in physical fitness so if it’s not the gym every day, it’s a hike up Fryman Canyon or a stunt training class. I love staying fit and there are so many ways to do so. It doesn’t hurt that my body is literally a tool for my job so it needs to stay in the best shape that it can. Another favorite pastime is long boarding, photography and eating Thai food. If I ever found some time, you would probably find me out in Malibu riding my longboard and taking pictures of my Pad See Ew or something. All at the same time of course. [Smiles]
“It’s obviously not fun being under a microscope and being picked apart about every single thing we do, but this entire experience is making me a stronger person and a better businessman.”
I think the definition of success is so subjective but I do catch myself saying, “All I want is to make enough money in my career to be able to be well off and be able to raise kids” and even though I know I am not at that point yet, I wouldn’t say I’m not successful. I don’t think ‘success’ is one defining moment, I think it’s just a plethora of tiny victories. The experience that Power Rangers has given me is for sure one of those victories.
The future is very unclear but I know it’s going to be amazing. Hasbro announced that a live tour is happening, but we don’t know if the Beast Morphers cast will be involved. If that doesn’t happen, I will be right back in LA auditioning for the next project. I am excited to utilize the tools I’ve attained over the last nine months and use and develop them more on the next thing. Praying for something in the drama category… [Coughs] HBO. Netflix. [Coughs]
My advice to those hoping to achieve success; all I can say is be the hardest working person you know. It needs to be efficient work but you have to put in the work to achieve rooted success. You might see people achieve quick success but you can’t compare yourself to them because if it’s not rooted in anything, it will leave as easily as it came. Learn to love the grind and work, work, work… success will come. Also, I would advise aspiring actors to take a business 101 class or something of the sort because the ratio of business meetings, phone calls, contracts, self-marketing compared to acting is 10:1. There’s a reason they call it “the business”.