In 2003 I had just transitioned from a reasonably normal job to being a professional actor. I was working every night in a comedy show on the Las Vegas Strip and auditioning for commercials and bit parts in LA. It was a huge, risky leap for me to make. I hated the question of "What do you do?" I never felt comfortable saying I was an actor until the day I met Philip Seymour Hoffman.
I was leaving the Palms Casino one day when I noticed a somewhat familiar looking guy standing alone in the food court. It took me a second to realize it was Hoffman. Especially at that time in my life, I never initiated conversations with celebrities. This time, I couldn't help myself.
He was looking around as if he had no idea where he was, so I figured I would only be interrupting his confusion. I approached him. He was bearded with a baseball cap, a flannel and jeans.
"Mr. Hoffman," I started. "I never come up to people, but I wanted to let you know that you're my favorite actor."
He looked a little bothered by me, sporting a bit of a smirk. "What are you?" he asked tersely. "Are you an actor or something?"
"Yeah," I replied apologetically.
The he genuinely smiled. Reaching over and patting my shoulder he said, "Figures. Only other actors ever say that to me." He walked away with one last pat on the back.
I smiled. I didn't know what was to come of my efforts to be an actor. (Turns out, I would fall into producing movies, which I actually enjoy more -- but I had no idea back then where it would go.) All I knew was that the greatest actor of my generation called me "another actor." He let me in the club.
If he could call me an actor, who was I not to call myself that?
We've lost one of the greats this week. I'm grateful I have one story about him to share with the world. If you have an actor or artist in your life, know that we are prone to depression and isolation. The thing that make us special can also be our downfall. It's no accident that performers are so prone to substance abuse. If you have a creative person in your life, check in on them today. It helps more than you think.