S m a l l t a l k
I first discovered TOM KIESCHE singing his backside off on YouTube for his web series Closet Singer. My first reaction was, "Damn, that is brilliant. I wish I had thought of that." I'm still waiting for him to ask me to duet in that tiny closet...
In the following months (and years now) I've come to know and become a big fan of Tom and his many talents.
If you think you've seen Tom before, you more than likely have. He has been a working actor for over two decades. You've seen him on A LOT of TV shows. Favorites include: ER, Drew Carey, JAG, 3rd Rock, NCIS, Ben & Kate, Weeds, and my favorite, Breaking Bad. Tom has also appeared in numerous commercials between shows.
He is a mulit-facited artist who has worked in film, stage, and television with dozens of credits in each medium. Tom is also a prolific, produced, and published writer (theater, film, ad copy, blogs, and the Internet). In 2012 two of his novels were published, Sympathy for the Devil and And I'd Like To Thank.
I had a chance to catch up with him when he had a break from everything else...
ROBYN: How long have you been in "The Biz"?
TOM KIESCHE: I fell in love with acting my senior year of college, during an acting for TV & Film class… Gung-ho on moving to New York to pursue “the life,” I was convinced to forget about my love of it, and I took a high-paying job in Connecticut.
Six months later I saw an improv comedy show in a little town outside of New Haven and I was blown away by the feelings inside of me… Afterwards, I chatted with the cast, and a few of them suggested I stop by the next week and workout with them. Two or three weeks later, I was on stage performing with them in front of an audience.
A few months later a local director asked me to audition for a play she was casting… My first play, playing the character Norman in The Boys Next Door.
I did more and more improv, more and more plays, I started writing, I started doing some stand up, and I started singing… On my 25th birthday, after having been “recruited” by an über-talented NYC Improv team, and performing in Manhattan, I gave notice to Corporate America and have been free falling in the biz since.
R: Who Were Your Greatest Inspirations?
TK: When it comes to my life, it’s the people that do little things with honor and dignity and do them silently, not for praise or the photo op, but because it’s the right thing to do… In the biz the greatest inspirations were mostly people you’ve never heard of, and many of whom I never learned their names… A street mime I saw perform when I was a kid, actors in haunted houses, one of the people I first saw do improv comedy brilliantly…
R: Worst Audition Experience?
TK: I’m now at a point where I do my best to forget auditions after they happen… I’ve had many an audition that could be labeled as nightmares, but honestly I booked a few of them.
R: What Song Is Your "Guilty Pleasure"?
TK: Not sure I know what you mean by “guilty pleasure,” but I suppose I’m most surprised by many of the mediocre songs from the 90's that have stuck with me… College was good to me. But the most publicly embarrassing of all of them has to be Mmmbop. Though Mah Nà Mah Nà just popped into my head.
R: What is Your Anthem Song?
TK: Not really sure exactly what that means either, but an important song before making that decision to quit a lucrative and stable career to become an actor (before my 25th birthday) was Hero In Me by Jeffrey Gaines… On tough days I often cue up Carmina Burana by Carl Orff or Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber… Funny how certain songs are like tools to help us celebrate, cry, or work through key moments of life…
R: "Must Haves" Backstage:
TK: Yeah right, “must haves.” Have we met?
R: Just checking Mr. Burning Man... What One Sentence of Advice Can You Give to Industry Beginners?
TK: When I’m down, I’m down, and no one can pick on me or kick my ass like I can… The spirals can be deep & powerful, sucking all light from everything within sight… And one thing my life has taught me is that I don’t get ‘em nearly as frequently, long, deep and as dark as many others in the world and the business do as I’ve already had seven friends take their own lives. Sorry to go there…
My personal truth is, within a highly unstable, completely unpredictable career, I’ve had a pretty successful run so far… Though most don’t know my name, and couldn’t tell you why I look familiar to them, I have been a working actor for decades… I’ve done dozens of Commercials, TV shows and movies, I’ve been on stages, I’ve sung in clubs, I’ve had series on the web… I have had SAG health insurance coverage and a pension building every day… As weird as it is to say, and for my own ears to hear, thus far I’ve been one of “the lucky ones” and for the most part I live a very positive life.
Grant it I’m no star or celebrity, I often work for scale union contracts, and I’m hoping that I’m still moving towards the brighter lights, to be at the level I aspired to be at when I first took the plunge, but now not only as an actor, but also a writer and a singer…
All that is to say to the industry beginner, tragically for most of us that don’t have connections, it can be a heartbreaking, financially unfruitful career… Most of the people I started in New York with, who were far more talented than I, have long ago left the biz to live lives doing other things they have learned to love doing… Oh right, one sentence… I can’t do that… It’s too important.
Unless you’re connected or incredibly wealthy, if you can, learn to love something that’s more predictable... But the truth is, nothing is predictable nowadays… A decade or so ago my father was let go from his job of 30 plus years, and that is not unusual these days…
If there’s nothing else you could ever imagine yourself doing… If you have a passion for it, a talent for it, a drive for it, a thirst for it… Do it. Succeed. And hire me to be a recurring Guest Star when you have your own show.
R: What Has Been Your Favorite Moment on Stage?
TK: If I didn’t have dozens upon dozens of FAVORITE moments I wouldn’t have stayed in the biz as long as I have… On stage one top moment would have to be while in Street Car Named Desire, while playing Mitch, one performance “my” Blanche called me Stanley by mistake… And the air that got let out of the audience was so amazing. On TV it would have to be working on any of the sets where the director or producers allowed me to really be creative (Breaking Bad, 3rd Rock, Alien Raiders, BONES…) Oh wait… One really great moment was while doing a reading of a new script by Blake Edwards (who was also directing), and during the rehearsals, sitting between John Ritter & Sally Kellerman, who were both busting my stones.
R: I wish I'd been a fly on the wall to see that. Thanks Tom. This was really fun.