Tuesday, May 31, 2016

For NYC Actor - Late is Never Bad and Ignorance is a Strength

Photo Courtesy
Yaron Urbas 

Yaron Urbas’ more recent work includes a co-starring role with Jim Gaffigan as well numerous lead and supporting roles in indie feature films with well known talent, including, Paul Sorvino (Goodfellas), Navid Neghaban (Homeland), Michael Angarano (The Knick).  A down to earth guy with a strong background in almost everything, one of his first big breaks, "I just don't believe there's only one..." Yaron laughs, occurred when he landed a part in the History Channel Mini-Series, The Men who Built America. But the "big break" stood in jeopardy after an on set mix-up had occurred and Urbas wasn't sent a two page speech the night before and was required to take ten minutes to memorize it before shooting. With an entire production on hold, including over 50+ background in the wings, not only did the Israeli born actor refuse to fold when the unexpected moment came, but left him in feeling relatively secure with everything on the line.  

“I find that I actually perform better when I’m under stress,” said Urbas.

Given his varied personal and professional background, the steadiness that allowed him to “rock the speech” probably isn’t a surprise to people who know him. A computer geek before home PCs became commonplace, a professional rapper, dog walking company owner, a lowly paid Merrill Lynch employee, who for a time lived a more sobering Wolf of Wall Street experience, cold called $5 Million worth of business and than moved on to surf the wave of the Dot.com bubble, his restlessness flows from an unquenchable thirst to grow.  “Around 2007, my wife thought I was crazy when I was finally making a great living at a Dot.com company as an executive and I wanted to quit. But I told her my flesh was being fed but not my soul,” he remembers.

Acting was the elixir he sought.  Even so, before all the career moves that made pressure old hat, fitting in on the Lower East Side built his foundation. Only speaking Hebrew when I came over in 1976 at age four, he says, “It took me a while to latch onto American culture.”

His classroom – so to speak – bordered on special. “Frankly, I grew up poor and it was just my mother, grandmother and I, we where immigrants, we lived right in the middle of the better area and the worse area – across from Stuyvesant Town, but on the other side was the lower east side. It was pretty tough.”

He doesn’t dismiss the unsavory, but his adaptability let him find the light among the morass.  “There were a lot of beautiful people who embraced me in what was a very tough environment in the lower east side of NYC in the 70's and 80's... it was far from the gentrified mecca it is now it was a violent place to grow up in – in large part the minority community embraced me, but let's be real, honestly where I grew up, I felt like the minority, being this white Jewish kid fresh off the boat... he laughs... and it wasn't easy, but I was lucky...  a Puerto Rican family that practically adopted me took me under their wing. I grew up with them.”

He credits his comedic timing to the culture, but the experience had a deeper impact. “That played into who I became. I learned to be more social and how to get along, and to toughen up a bit and gain confidence. I eventually embraced training in various martial arts as well for a very long time and to this day” he says.

That’s not to dismiss the importance of his family – even if at times it was also an obstacle.  “I was such a mamma’s boy.  She made me wear a tie the first day of public school. I stood out like a sore thumb – pleading for punishment,” says Urbas.

Dress code aside, his mother’s influence created an unyielding push to persevere. “She demonstrated a great work ethic not by telling me to work hard but by showing me. That left an impression on everything I pursued,” he says.

But she was nothing compared to Yaron’s grandmother. Remembering when her street vendor business almost fell prey to a drug dealer who worked the same street corner, his grandmother didn’t hesitate to call the tough’s bluff. “’Alright do it, shoot me now.’ He recalls her words, “That’s the fighting entrepreneurial spirit I’ve never lost.”

First showing itself in bridging the gap across both sides of his brain as teenager, he began writing poetry and rapping and then became immersed in the prospects of owning a PC. “As I was saving every penny, I used to cut out pictures of pieces of computers and put them on the wall. That was my PC,” he jokes.

Eventually his Mom bought him one, and he began programming. But his early 20s brought marriage, and he opened a dog walking business because his retail job wasn’t providing opportunity for advancement. “The first few years where rough, I'd often make like $20 a week before it turned into a legitimate business,” says Urbas.

Of course, restlessness got the best of him and a pay cut came with college and working the ground floor at Merrill Lynch in 1998. But a lack of appreciation put Yaron on the move again – feeling Merrill used his lack of a degree to lowball him. “I got my BS at Baruch and left around 1998,” he says.

Reengaging as a techie, his dot.com career began.  “That’s where my career took off,” he says.

It also helped him identify “this wonderful level of ignorance” that has always propelled him. “I never knew what I WASN'T supposed to be able to do so it never kept me from doing it,” Urbas reflected. "I love ignorance... it's a gift"

Rising to the level of VP at a well known publicly held online marketing company, he certainly knew how good pay cushions the difficulty of providing for a family of five, but he chose uncertainty again. “I’ve always liked the human condition, why we do what we do, he says. “I realized acting was an amazing way to explore it.” 

In 2009, he got his start at the Park Performance Arts Center in Union, NJ, and while parts got bigger each year, the pace was too slow. “Starting as an actor later in life is a big gamble. This is not a hobby for me, it's a career and I pursue it as seriously as I have any other... I knew I had to fast track my career a bit, I was a newbie in the industry, but I didn't feel that way. I felt that my rich life of experiences and college work in psychology empowered me as an actor, I didn't feel like I was starting from scratch... I also felt I could leverage my highly successful business experience to grow as an artist as well as provide for my family. I took what could be perceived as disadvantages or a late start in the business and made them advantages and I think it has and continues to work” he says.

A big believer in fostering community, growing together and giving back, he began the Dedicated Actors Group as well as The Ultimate Filmmaker (as a co-founder of a film race contest).  Setting up networking opportunities, meet and greets with casting directors and reading events,” he says, “I new I could accomplish more by helping and working with others, than I could by myself.”

The latter providing the chance to give back, the idea is to convert the actor sitting alone by the phone into a network of peers.

Continuing to find success on various TV and feature projects and slowly growing in popularity as a serious and capable actor. However, fame is secondary to satisfying the restless soul that has gotten him this far.  “My ambition is to continue to be a capable actor and I just want people to respect me as an artist, I really don't care about fame, I just want to be famous to my family, the folks that love me everyday, no matter what I do, but it seems you need to pursue some level of fame to succeed as an actor, and so I'm working on it and growing everyday and as far as growth, well I've started working as a producer on projects as well, the journey never ends and ignorance to me is truly bliss  and a strength  (he laughs)  ” he concludes.

A versatile and talented actor, Yaron Urbas has and continues to play everything from working class hero, relentless bad guy, soldier, mobster, to cultured entrepreneur in various principal roles for feature films on Netflix, Amazon, hit shows on TV Land, Discovery ID, History Channel, Travel Channel, Bio, National Geographic and PBS. He has appeared in prominent roles for many indie films and theater projects. He is known for bringing intensity, realness and truth to a character, he also has a great sense of comedic instinct which he often brings to even the most serious roles.

Give him a visit at: http://yaronu.wix.com/yaronurbas

IMDB:  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4849535/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Carleton King Opts to Tell the Truth at the Harlem Repertory Theatre

Photo Courtesy
Carleton King

Carleton King grew up in Brooklyn, had head shots as an infant and was pushed toward the profession by his parents. Even so, he always knew he had a knack and grew with the craft by studying acting and theater at St. Johns and LIU. After a number of acting credits over the last decade in theater, film and TV, King developed the web series Why not Just Tell the Truth.  With a few thousand subscribers across the globe, King has decided to go Off Broadway to gauge whether he should add to the 11 episodes already in the can. Either way, coming clean is at the heart of his inspiration.

Carlton King : Honesty is a very deep rooted idea. Most people hate to be lied to but sometimes we even lie to ourselves. This can leave you in a lot of trouble when you’re in denial or being dishonest in interpersonal relationships. So I wanted to explore some of those situations.

Rich Monetti: Taking a look at some of the episodes, I see characters with some heavy weaponry and situations that go on beyond just lying to your girlfriend.

CK: Yes, some of the characters allow certain situations to become bigger than normal life and stem mostly from Tracey (Ana Ara├║jo). Her father was a mafia boss, and her mother comes from a Cuban crime family. That causes her to have this weird dichotomy of a personality, but her friendship with Jason helps drive the plot. So anyone who disrespects him has to worry about her coming after them.

RM: Jason is your character. Tell me about him.

CK: He’s a good guy. He believes in love, marriage and making things work. That can work to his detriment because he’ll try to make a bad thing work when he probably just needs to let it go.

RM: I guess that includes his marriage.

CK: I’ll just say it. Kathy (Charese Annel) is a bitch. He got his heart broken in college by Janette (Margaret McDuffy and Inayah Burton). She was the one that got away, and this left a lingering hole in his heart. Unfortunately, he ends up filling it with the wrong person.

RM: Denial – if you will?

CK. Yes…She is evil but hopefully people get to understand what makes her the way she is.

RM: She sounds more suited to Tony, the player

CK: He’s in denial in the sense that he doesn’t want a real relationship or love.

RM: Why?

CK: All the characters have their face value and their underlying value. In other words, the things that make them what they are. Tony (Patrick Jackson) has all these women, and it’s so easy for him. But why does he chase love like that? We just hope people can come to understand what makes a player a player.

RM: How much does Jason relate to your life?

CK: If you know my life, you really wouldn’t get the correlation. But a lot of the situations were inspired by the feelings that these scenes are based on. So if you follow the emotions then you get the idea where the inspiration comes from.

RM: How much is New York City a character?

CK: This play could take place anywhere, but it does come into play in the background of the characters.

RM: How?

CK: Mariah (Janelle Stein) is a reformed hood girl from the projects. That’s a very specific thing, because projects in other cities are not the same. The ethnic mix in New York is also different. So the intermingling in our melting point is inherently different and represents itself in the characters.

RM: Are you using the same actors from the series?

CK: Except for me, it’s a whole new cast?

RM: What was it like converting from the web to a play?

CK: You don’t have the magic of editing and multiple takes. Then we had to break things down to their basic level and rearrange to fit a more natural order so they flow better.

RM: What will be the impact of doing this live?

CK: There’s so many things that I put into the show – it wouldn’t be the same if I tried to record it. The scenes had to be done right there in front of an audience, because it’s more of an interactive thing…I’ll just say I plan to raise a few eyes brows.

RM: What do you hope people take away?

CK: The truth can be a very powerful thing that shouldn’t be lost in translation, and hopefully people can have the courage to be honest in the first place.

RM: Good luck. Nice talking to you.

CK: Thank you.

The play ran on Feb 12 and 19 but the web series can be found on youtube