My fear was I would get to my deathbed and I wish I would have tried things.
I met Kate Bergeron in Chicago. We both studied Meisner with veteran acting teacher Eileen Vorbach. I vaguely remember a set up where she was my neighbor and was responsible for taking care of my dog while I was off at an audition. When I returned, she informed me my dog escaped her grasp, made a run for Lake Shore Drive and was hit by a bus going 50 miles an hour. When I entered the room, she was washing the blood off the collar in a bowl of water. It was devastating.
Kate moved to LA because she wanted play in the biggest pond. While musical theater is her passion, she wanted to pursue more tv and film opportunities. She’s lived in LA for five years now. And is starting to feel like she’s in a rhythm.
Here’s the thing about LA (and moving to any new city, for that matter) – you spend the first two years trying to get acclimated and building your social circle. There’s so many options and the road is very different for every actor, so you spend a lot of time figuring out what works and discarding what doesn’t.
That requires a lot of energy and you can go down a bunch of different rabbit holes and burn yourself out (I know this feeling well). Kate said she’s had six different creative homes in five years, she spread herself pretty thin and subsequently wasn’t doing her best work (her current artistic home is Actor’s Comedy Studio). She’s since scaled back and put full force behind the projects she’s committed to – Katie-Do and Speed Therapy (she’s the co-creator and co-producer for Zing Factory).
Katie-Do is a weekly online variety show. There’s some sketch, some songs, some inspirational, some educational. She writes, edits and produces from her house featuring the things that are on her mind and occasional guests to share their thoughts/experiences. She says the show is incredibly freeing and she doesn’t have to please anyone but herself. As long as she’s happy and creatively fulfilled, it’s gold for her.
Speed Therapy is a webseries she produced with Todd Zing, Zing Factory. She plays Dr. Penny Brink, a misguided therapist trying to help her patients while her competitive father tries to sabotage her at every turn. Speed Therapy is releasing new episodes, so be sure to check it out.
How do you create your own show?
“I sit down, I grab a glass of wine and I write. It’s like throwing up on the page. I cull it later – revisit and trim – and decide what I want to do. I created a home studio in my living room – blue curtain, three lights and audio and photography. I shot a lot of Speed Therapy at my house. I’m usually working with little to no budget, so I look around for what I have and write around it.”
“I adjust the cropping in post. I literally have my husband focus me and I shoot it all by myself. And like a lot of people, I learn to do these things watching online tutorials. I write a lot and improvise a lot. Learning to edit is incredibly empowering. I worked at Buzzfeed (her clips here) and was thrown into the pool and told to make things. I learned to edit there.”
Kate said it’s a real commitment to produce three series’ at a time and keep content flowing and promoting it. But you almost have to develop your own content these days to showcase your skill set. She added, “I’m wasn’t promised work by moving out here. You got to make your own.”
Speaking of skill sets, Kate’s artistic home is comedy. She started pursuing it in Chicago at the famed Second City (I got my start there too) and later took a scripted sit-com class at the Actor’s Comedy Studio because she wanted to separate herself from the pack. She’s done some stand up, and because of her Meisner background, her emotions are always accessible and bubbling close to the surface so she can do quick emotional turns, which has served her well. She loves awkward turns. “I love awkward staring/awkward pauses,” she said.
She said Billy O’Leary’s class changed her approach to scripted comedy because she now looks at scripts from the producer’s and decision maker’s point of view and figures out how she can set up the other actors for laughs.
I asked Kate if she had any advice for relative newcomers. Here’s what she said:
- Find the people who love you and keep them close to you.
- Learn what works for you and discard the rest. Not wanting to be left out leaves you saying yes to every project and and then you’ve no time to take care of yourself. You can hang on to things because you’re scared to let go. You can hang on to things because you’re scared to replace it with something else. Find the things you don’t like and discard them.
- Don’t be afraid to make an ass of yourself, be fearless. Get uncomfortable. Push outside your comfort zone so you can find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
- Know what comforts you so when you need to go back to your safety zone you know where your own base is. It’s a constant battle to find healthy ways to step away. For me, it’s camping, baths, a hot tub and a fireplace. They comfort me. When I get my first big check, that’s the first thing I’m getting, I’m buying a hot tub. I’ll just live in a hot tub in the middle of the woods.
- Do your research. There is no direct route. There is no black or white answer. There is no ladder to climb.
- Constantly reinvent yourself (she went from blonde to red).
- Create your own stuff.
“And if you’re not sure if you can do something, try it. The worse than can happen is that it doesn’t work for me. My fear was I would get to my deathbed and I wish I would have tried things. The scariest thought to me is the regret I didn’t try something. That motivates a lot of my choices.”