Television, Film and Theatre | Spotlight

The Office star, TV pros share industry insights with MFA students

Photo of Stephen Rothman and Angela Kinsey.
Professor Stephen Rothman engages celebrated actress Angela Kinsey in a discussion as part of the Project 2 class at CSULA.

Angela Kinsey, who stars in the Emmy award-winning NBC series, The Office, “loved” recently sharing her television industry insights with Master of Fine Arts (MFA) students at Cal State L.A. and hopes they found her advice as “invaluable” as she did when entertainment professionals visited her college classes.

Kinsey, best known for portraying uptight accountant Angela Martin on the long-running series, was one of a variety of entertainment industry professionals who sat down for several casual interviews over a six-week period with MFA Professor Stephen Rothman in CSULA’s Arena Theatre.

The interviews were designed to provide Rothman’s third-year MFA students in the Project 2 course (offered within CSULA’s College of Arts and Letters’ Television, Film and Theatre program) first-hand perspectives of the television industry.

“I think the biggest hurdle is staying focused on your goal. It is easy to take a non-acting job that pays your bills that you ultimately lose yourself in. I have friends who wanted to be actors but took full-time jobs in other capacities on a set and never had the time to pursue acting,” said Kinsey. “Finding the right kind of job that allows you to audition, etc., is very tricky. My one general piece of advice is be honest with yourself. If you are not an action star, don’t try to be. Understand how people see you because that is what will be believable on screen.”

Project 2 is designed to be a total immersion into the professional style and approach of doing sitcom work in Hollywood. Besides the guest speakers, the course culminates with students developing actual industry-standard live “Pilot Presentations.”

“The students got to hear the actual straight-forward truth about the industry,” said Rothman. “Our guests have been incredibly open and candid, and our students understand that these are folks who are very current, and that they were hearing the real ‘now’ reality of the television industry.”

Shirin Behrouzfard, an MFA student with an emphasis in acting who attended the speaker forums, found it “refreshing and enlightening” to interact closely with renowned television talents. She is aware that much of the entertainment industry is “fueled by money and notoriety,” but found Kinsey demonstrated that professional actors may possess both success and popularity without the sacrifice of their morals or principles.

“Angela Kinsey was one of the warmest, sweetest, most sincere and humblest people we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting,” she said. “It was important to her that we remember that with our careers comes an important amount of responsibility. She reminded us to always have confidence in ourselves and in our work, and to always protect ourselves and our image. That we’re not billboard space.”

Photo of Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally with CSULA MFA students.
Industry talents Tracy Poust (front row, fourth l-r) and Jon Kinnally (front, second l-r) pictured with CSULA’s MFA students and Professor Rothman in the Project 2 class.

Other industry professionals who sat down with Rothman and the students were:

  • Mark Roberts: creator and executive producer of the hit CBS sitcom, Mike and Molly;
  • Ali LeRoi: a television producer, director, writer, and actor who co-creates and executive produces (along with Chris Rock) the series, Everybody Hates Chris, and is director of the sitcom, Are We There Yet?;
  • Tracy Poust and Jon Kinnally: the producing and writing team for Will and Grace, for which they each were nominated for five Emmy Awards. They also served as producers and writers for the show, Ugly Betty;
  • Tom Moore: original director of the Broadway production of GREASE, and a three-time Emmy nominee and a two-time Tony nominee;
  • Danny Strong: who was nominated for an Emmy for his HBO film, Recount, for which he also won the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Original Screenplay. He was also a regular character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as well as The Gilmore Girls;
  • Sheldon Epps: television director and artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse.

“It was a great opportunity to be able to meet such relevant people in the industry in such an intimate setting. It was a chance to not only hear the advice they had to give, but also to be able to ask the questions that I wanted answered,” said Behrouzfard. “I didn’t have to worry about fighting for an opening to speak up, as would happen in a larger audience, and, in turn, the speakers were able to really delve into their answers and let the flow of conversation take us wherever it went next.”

Behrouzfard took much of Kinsey’s advice to heart.

“One of the final pieces of advice she [Kinsey] gave us was ‘don’t be afraid to say no,’” she said. “That it’s okay to not take every job and opportunity that comes your way. That everything happens for a reason, to stay true to yourself and perform for yourself, and don’t play to them, then you can never go wrong.”

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