As an actor, it’s great when you made it to Hollywood‘s A-list. Once you get in, it’s easier to feature in great movies along other famous actors. But how do you get director’s attention? How do you even get started, with little to no experience in acting?
I sat down with actor, music producer and rapper from Belgium Eric Kabongo to discuss how he made his way in the film industry. Today, Eric is mostly known for his music and secondly as an actor who featured Willkommen bei den Hartmanns (2016). In Mannenharten, shot in 2013. BLACK shot in 2015, a film by the directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. And The Fifth Estate, 2013, where he featured as a train passenger.
We enjoyed a quiet cup of tee, cracked a few jokes, then I asked him a set of questions.
Fundamental Things To Know As An Actor
Being an actor doesn’t start when you shoot your first movie. It starts when you show interest in film in general, whether you study this in school or by yourself does not really matter. “What’s most important is that you feel an urge to entertain people”, according to Eric Kabongo.
So I went on and asked.. How do you know you should or can become an actor?
On which he replied:
“It’s quite simple. By following your heart and evaluating your skills. You should know if you’re called to become an actor. It’s a feeling. If you don’t feel it, then you probably shouldn’t be one, because you might not enjoy or give everything you’ve got.”
How To Reach Out To Get Your First Roles As An Actor
“Opportunities can come from anywhere. But you have to do something to make it come your way, tho. My story is that I started by joining an amateur theatre group and subscribed to a few casting agencies for figuration tasks. That would allow me to feature in series, movies and other productions, as a start. I wanted to challenge myself and grow my acting skills. Therefore I raised the bar for myself and reached out directly to agencies who would tell me the truth that I need to hear.” He said.
“Friends will always tell you sweet things. Professionals will be hard on you, but they actually give you the insights that you need. That allowed me also to meet great people, get new contacts and apply for roles.”
The Things You Need To Become An Actor
Is Acting School Necessary To Start Acting?
I mean, I don’t see myself doing what you did and just go out there and ask professionals for a role knowing that I have no experience at all. I mean, didn’t you get nervous?
Eric laughed and replied:
“Why not? I said it’s a feeling. I trusted my gut feeling and ended up learning everything on the set. Literally on the set! but I can imagine that it sounds crazy for someone who doesn’t enjoy acting and feels that way. Totally understandable. It took me a while, but after some years and successful realisations, today I’m recognised as a professional actor. But I had to make the first step in an uncomfortable way, right? But it paid off eventually. Going to an acting school is to me the same as studying in law school or any other kind of school. What you get at the end of your studies is a certificate that proves your abilities. You can then be recognised as a capable and suitable person for the job. But it’s not the only way. If you sit down in the court room long enough, you will start understanding how things work. Don’t get me wrong, l did theatre sessions, but at the same time I fully engaged myself in acting for film and commercials as well.” he said.
“Another way to build skills is by following acting trainings with a coach. You will get tips and tricks to become a better actor. But at the end of the day, everybody is free to choose the best way for themselves to gain skills and build a career. There are no rules.” he continues.
What’s Really Necessary To become An Actor?
Like, what Important factor should a starting actor consider for his career?
“I think good acting skills which you will learn over time, a load of positive energy and also to keep networking. It’s very necessary. If you want to be discovered you need to know people who know people. I guess, when you start, at that point you must understand that you’re not the greatest yet. And there’s already so many actors applying for certain roles, ok? Also, amongst the applicants you will find people with academic certificates. So what are you going to do about it? You have to force your way in.”
What Should An Actor Never Do or Say?
I understand that people like to give away their advice based on what made them successful or break through. But what about the things one should never do or say?
“Everybody is free. You always decide what to do or say. But since you asked me, in the beginning, make sure you
- Never miss an opportunity. You need those chances to build your skills and grow your name in the industry
- As an actor you should always give the best for the role
- Don’t play only one type of character, but try many different things
- And never hesitate to ask for feedback from directors, actors or any other person in the industry etc.
- Be punctual at the appointments
- Don’t go for the money but for the role. Money and notoriety will come along the way as you grow in your acting career”
What Prizes Did You Win?
You won some interesting prizes already. Can you tell me about it?
“My first cinéma realisation is the documentary “What About Eric?” which won two prizes: ‘Best Belgian Documentary‘ at International Documentary Film Festival Docville 2014 and Best Flemish Documentary at Film festival Ostend 2014.
Recently I starred in the movie “BLACK“, from the great directors Adil & Bilall, which already also won many prizes. The Dropbox Discovery Award 2015 at Toronto International Film Festival is just one of the multiple prizes the movie got awarded.”
Which Actors Do You Look Up To?
Those are really cool prizes you took home. But are you satisfied? Like, do you feel like this is it, since you won prizes for your acting skills? Or do feel like continuing and look up to certain actors and want to be as good or even surpass them?
“Now, as an actor, I want to play different characters, to gain different perspectives. In drama, comedy, action, science-fiction, western etc. Of course, it’s a good thing to win a prize. But I don’t want to stop here. Why not go to Cannes and other big international film festivals?
And no, to me there’s no such thing as ‘surpassing an actor’. They’re all too different from one and other and cannot be compared unless they’d all play each other’s roles for all the movies they’ve collectively made. But that will never happen…
So yeah, I do look up to great actors like Samuel El Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Eddy Murphy, Vincent Cassel, Leonardo Di Caprio, Liam Neeson, and many more!”