Entertainment Spotlight: Hratch Titizian’s Love of Acting

Asbarez has often given broad coverage to the arts and culture, keeping up with up-and-coming talent in our community. Our correspondent Georges Adourian caught up with some of the new rising stars in cinema, television and the arts for our 2010 Year-End Special.

We will be presenting Adourian’s interviews in a series of discussions with filmmaker Ara Soudjian, actor Hrach Titizian, and Canadian-Armenian actress-director Garine Torossian. In their own words, each discusses their individual struggles, the challenges facing young entertainers, and the unique projects that have propelled their success.

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A native of Glendale, California, Hrach Titizian has had roles in films such as “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” playing alongside George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges and has also played in the hit series “24.”

Titizian knew he wanted to be an actor at the age of 19 and pursued his dream relentlessly with dedication, determination and even secrecy from his parents. Though his beginnings were rough and at times led to little success, a philosophy of total commitment to his character, work and life choices eventually paid off and brought him to where he is today.

Titizian discusses his life and passion with Adourian below:

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GEORGES ADOURIAN: Do you remember the specific moment in your life when you realized that, “This is what I am going to do: I want to become an actor?”

HRACH TITIZIAN: I’ve always wanted to perform… Ever since I could remember. Whenever we had guests at the house, my parents would ask me to entertain them during coffee and dessert. I would do impersonations, tell jokes, sing songs, whatever they requested. After a while, they had their favorites and were not afraid to request them.

However, I never really thought of being an entertainer for a living until I was 19. The moment I actually realized I wanted to be an actor was when, at 19, I took a trip to Europe with my family. I was there for a whole month, a lot of which was spent on my own.

My interests were always different from anyone else in my family, so I found myself going places alone. When you’re alone, far from home, you really see things clearly. You can assess your life a lot easier. It’s almost like if you were swimming in a fishbowl, but then step outside the bowl and watch yourself swim. It’s a great thing. I realized that my future plans of taking over my father’s business would not make me happy, but doing what I knew I loved would. I never looked back.

G.A.: Where and how did you prepare yourself to be an actor and do you follow any acting method?

H.T.: The first thing I did was I dropped out of college and enrolled in acting classes.

Since I knew this would not sit well with my folks, I decided to keep it my little secret. I got a job delivering flowers to help pay for my training. For almost a year I pretended to go to college when I was actually going to acting classes. I got some head-shots taken and managed to get myself an agent. Eventually, my parents found out and my father confronted me. Needless to say, it was not pretty.

But I stuck to my guns and continued my training and the pursuit of an acting career. I don’t follow any specific method. Every actor is different and what works for some does not work for others. What I always try to do is to make the strongest choices and go as far as I can without being phony. You have to keep it real… No matter what. Even if it’s sketch comedy. And always commit 100 percent. Commit to your choices; commit to your character; commit to the work.

G.A.: In which arena do you feel more comfortable and creative–on stage, television or film?

H.T.: “Comfortable” is an interesting word in reference to art. I don’t believe an artist should ever be comfortable. Once that happens, the work suffers. Do you ever notice how so many artists, actors, directors, writers and musicians were actually better at their work when they were younger? You should get better with experience, but in so many cases, that’s not the case. The reason for that is comfort. They were hungrier when they were just starting out. They were more creative, more edgy. But with comfort comes laziness and playing things safe.

But as far as which of the three arenas I prefer, I would have to say film. Theater is incredible. I’ve done over a dozen plays, and there’s nothing like performing for an audience. You’re also given a lot of artistic freedom in your choices… assuming the director’s on board. But the repetition of doing theater is very difficult for me. I don’t enjoy doing the same show 8 times a week for months.

Also, you can only reach out to so many people. With television and film, you can reach out to millions of people in a very short work period. Television can be great in a lot of ways, but you’re very limited in what you can and can’t do. Even the director has multiple bosses. The studios run the show, and they want everything to be a certain way.

Also, you’re very rushed on television so the process is completely different from film. The reason I love working on film is that you’re usually given plenty of artistic freedom, but also the time to work things through, much like theater. And once it’s in the can, it’s done. You’re not delivering the same lines every night for weeks and weeks.

G.A.: Tell me about your first professional role; what was going on inside your head when you were performing in that role for the first time?

H.T.: The first paid acting job I ever got was two lines on a TV show. It was very simple, but of course being the novice I was, I was over thinking it. I was definitely excited. It got me in the union, which was a big deal for me at the time. But it was just two lines and I was treating it like I could get nominated for an Oscar! But I guess you have to treat all jobs like that, to avoid getting comfortable.

G.A.: You established a theater and an acting school in 2004. What was the core motivation for undertaking such an endeavor and is it still what inspires you?

H.T.: I’ve always loved theater. There is really nothing like it. Also, after attending several different acting schools, I wanted to start one of my own. I wanted a place that was run by actors, and not businessmen interested only in how much money they can make from starving actors. I wanted to have a place that offered very affordable, yet quality classes. A place where actors were not shot down when trying different things. A place where you can explore your talent, be great or be bad, but explore it all. A place where we could put up shows… Classics, contemporary, experimental stuff, all of it. So I did it.

I was 24 years old and I went into over $30K of credit card debt to lease a warehouse in Hollywood and build a theater out of it. It was beautiful. I also converted one of the rooms into a studio apartment and lived in it for 2 years. It had a skylight, a kitchen, a closet and a shower. It was one of the best times of my life. The business was a huge success. We had over sixty students in no time and the theater was constantly being used for shows, rehearsals, workshops, and of course our classes. I even rented out to a church group on Sunday mornings. I met a lot of wonderful people through the theater… even life long friends.

I eventually got myself out of debt and moved out of there. My career started taking off, so I hired someone to manage the place. I owned that business for 6 years until I sold it. It was something I had to do in order to focus my energy into my career. Running a business is a lot of work, and I was not happy doing it anymore. So at 30, I started a fresh chapter of my life with no business and 99% less stress… just an actor.

G.A.: In following your acting career, we can see that you started from the bottom and built quite a respectful resume with wide experience on stage, television and film. You’ve had roles in films such as “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” performing alongside such stars as George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges; you’ve also played in the hit series “24.” Considering that it’s extremely difficult to make things happen in Hollywood or elsewhere in the entertainment industry, please help us assess your path to success.

H.T.: My path is not very unique or interesting. I’ve just hustled to get as many auditions as possible and make sure I prepare for them and do the best work I can. I try not to turn down work, but unfortunately conflicts do occur. A lot of it is your state of mind. Especially in this business, you must remain positive and maintain a great attitude. If you get down about not working or get bitter, you’re doomed. People can smell that from a mile away and wouldn’t want to work with you.

There are a lot of reasons you won’t get a job, and only 10 percent of that is talent. As long as you’re putting in the work and never give up, you’ll get work. The important thing is not taking it personal when you don’t. It’s a numbers game… sometimes you’ll get the job and sometimes you won’t. And if you’re lucky, you will not only get the job, but it’ll be something great like “24” or “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

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