When you were 17, what did you want to be?
Growing up, it was always a lawyer, doctor, that type of thing. Prior to high school, I had no idea about theater, no one in my family is artistic. When I did the first show with Harmony Players, Grease, that was my first intro to theater and that's when the bug bit, I would say. But I didn't think I was going to do it as a career, even though I did it all through high school and my first job was performing for Nickelodeon at Great America (a local amusement park).
How did you decide to attend University of California, Irvine?
I'm very practical, and I believe myself to be a realist, even though I work in fantasy. With college being so expensive, I had to stay in state, and I was accepted to UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Barbara. I had actually taken college classes at Berkeley in high school, so I knew what Berkeley had to offer, and I really didn't want to go; it was just too close, too hippy-dippy for me. I just knew the fit wasn't there.
So my parents and I drove down to Santa Barbara and walked around the campus. And I hated it. We went into a meeting for the acting major, and the way their program worked, you have to take classes for a year and then you can audition to be a drama major. Well, in my mind, again being practical, I thought, “What if I don't get in?”
So we left there, and my parents were scared as hell, because both choices now I didn't like. Then we got to Irvine, and the campus alone sold me. It was just the perfect fit. I went to the orientation and everything just sounded incredible. And they let me sit in on a musical theater class, so I was watching all these kids get up and perform and then the professors talked to them. And the thing that completely sold me was the New York Satellite Program where you go live in New York for a month with the school.
Every day you’re attending ballet, tap, and jazz classes, you’re doing acting study, you’re doing workshops, you’re putting on readings and things like that, you’re going to see all these Broadway shows, you’re having talkbacks with all these Broadway actors. It was the most incredible experience, and knowing about that is what sold me. I just said, “I'm going here, I want to do that.”
How did you choose your major?
Another thing I love about UC Irvine’s program, which has evolved slightly since I graduated, is that you go in as a drama major; there is no BFA. Their philosophy was, we want you to know what the whole industry is like. Looking back now, I have so many friends who went in thinking, “I'm going to be a singer,” and now they’re working as a costume designer in LA theater, or winning innovation awards for lighting design. They look that lighting design class and a whole world opened up to them. And that really speaks to my belief that you have to look at the doors in front of you, and if one opens, it might not be what you thought, but don't be afraid to walk through it, because you don't know what's on the other side.
Once I was at Irvine, I could then audition for the honors programs, in which, if you’re accepted, you have a checklist of classes you have to take in order to graduate with the honor. So I ended up being accepted into honors in acting and musical theater, and I was only the third person ever to graduate with that.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
Coming from high school, I was an overachiever, always burning the candle at both ends. So when I went to college, I think normal people’s units were 15 units a semester, but I took 32. I was able to graduate early, and I still took everything I wanted to. So I graduated and that summer I went to work at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, and after that ended, I went to live in the San Fernando Valley in Tarzana.
I was just auditioning for a little bit, and I got a national tour for a stage show called A Kid’s Life. It was a very educational thing for tiny tots. The hope was that it would become a TV show down the line. I was cast as the swing, which is basically if there are four boys in the cast, I would know all four boys’ parts, and I would be able to slide in and do it if someone got sick. But then the actor who played Starsky, the dog, quit, and they asked me to step in, so I was the dog.
I think we toured for six months all over the country, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas. It was great, I got to see so many different states. And we were all young, driving around in two vans, and we had a great time. And while I was on the road, I won the Actors’ Equity Roger Sturtevant Musical Theatre Award, which they award to an equity membership candidate, someone who will be an equity actor someday. So that kind of boosted me to realize, “I'm doing what I think I should be doing.”
I had to leave the Kid’s Life tour early because Utah Shakes offered me a position again to be a part of a world premiere musical called Lend Me a Tenor. I was going to be a part of creating it and putting it up for the first time. After Utah, I came home to the Bay [Area]. While I was home, a friend from college, who is also from the Bay Area, was performing in Beach Blanket Babylon, and she said, “Scott, come audition.” And I thought, “Alright, why not?” So I went and auditioned, and their auditions are like nothing I have ever been to.
They have everyone in the house of the theater watching, and they call you up and you sing whatever you want, and then they ask you ask you to tweak it and do it again, but not like normal. I went up and I sang “Purpose” from Avenue Q, and they said, “Great! Can you do it again, but pretend like you're Richard Simmons on 40 cups of coffee?” So the music director started playing it, and I start running around the stage doing jazzercise, singing my song. And then I had a call back and a call back and a call back over three weeks, and I finally got the answer of yes.
So I ended up getting hired as an understudy for two roles, and I stayed there for almost four years. Beach Blanket is the longest running musical review – they started in 1974. I like to say it's SNL set to music, a lot of sparkles, a lot of fast moving things; it just puts you in a good mood.
So I was primarily doing that, however as an understudy, I didn't have to go into the theater every day. I was getting kind of bored, so I decided to start substitute teaching in the school district I had grown up in. It was great because I could still have the days off that I wanted to, but I could make a little extra money and also feel like I was helping someone out.
After four years, I went back to LA to try to do the whole film and TV thing, but I left Beach Blanket on good terms. I just saw my friends in LA and in New York doing amazing things and I wanted to branch out, do something else. But I told them if they needed anything, just let me know and I would make it work. So I would go back up to San Francisco for six months if someone was injured or someone left. I actually really liked that, and I would probably do that to this day so I could be in both places.
While I was in LA, I taught drama to young kids at a Jewish temple that had a kid's day program. I worked at a children's boutique with clothes and games and things like that for a little while. I started a dog walking company called Scotty's Dogs. I love dogs, and I never had them growing up. I worked primarily for people in the Hollywood industry, actors, agents, producers, things like that, and one client, I ended up basically becoming their personal assistant. I was paid well for it and I liked it. And I was still doing theater and auditioning for other things.
The hard part is that I did a lot of theater in LA, and I knew almost everyone that I needed to know in the theater realm. I did Once Upon A Mattress and Kiss Me Kate. I assistant directed a production of South Pacific. But that translated not one bit to commercials, film, and TV. My theater agent was great, but I would say, “Can I go in for that commercial?” and they would tell me that the commercial agent didn't want to sign me because I didn't have any experience. But I couldn’t get
any experience without going to the audition. So it's that vicious circle and you have to find a way to jump in there and it's hard.
One of the experiences that made me realize I was done with LA was an audition for a K-Swiss national commercial. There were about 200 guys there, and 25 of them looked exactly like me. The audition consisted of me holding a clipboard, looking away from the camera at a whiteboard and pretending to write. So all you could see was the back of my shoulder. I got put on "check avail," which means you’re basically down to the last one or two people, and I didn't get it. So I guess they didn't like my shoulder acting. But it just made me think, “They seriously could have hired their cousin to do this.”
I had auditioned a couple times for Disney Cruise Line while I was in LA. I'm a Disney nerd; I’ve loved Disney ever since I was little, and I always wanted to work for them. I was always infatuated with Peter Pan, and I wanted to fly. I was 27 or 28 at this point, and I just thought it was never going to happen. So I went in one more time and they asked me to come back for callbacks. They wanted me to read for Iago, for the Aladdin show on the ship. So I sing what they want me to sing, and I go through a puppet workshop. And on Halloween (when my family was visiting and we were actually going to Disneyland), I got the call that they wanted to hire me as Iago in the Aladdin show, and Sebastian [the lobster] in this show called Wishes, and then in another show called Believe, they wanted me to be Peter Pan. I was going to get to fly.
In January, they flew us up to Toronto where Disney has a facility where we would rehearse. I arrived during a tundra; we were put up in apartments just across the street from the studio, but you had to bundle up just to cross the street. And then you would rehearse all day, sweating up a storm, and then bundle up in your wet clothes to get back across the street to your apartment. But I actually really loved it.
So we were there for two and a half months, then we flew to Orlando, hopped on the ship, and I was on the ship for six months. We basically did figure eights through Saint Thomas, Saint Martin, the private island owned by Disney, then back to Florida, drop those people off, pick up new people and go to Cozumel, Jamaica, Costa Maya, and back. It was great. That being said, I never have to go to those ports ever again because I did everything I possibly could.
I feel like growing up, cruise ships seemed kind of chintzy. But now, it's really developed, and Broadway shows are being put onto cruise ships. So by the time I was on the ship, we were doing state-of-the-art shows and we had fireworks on stage, great sets and traps, everything. It's Broadway caliber with amazing technical aspects on these floating cities. So I really liked it. But that being said, spend six months in a tin can, and no matter how nice it is, you go a little crazy and you want land.
I came back to the Bay Area, and reached out to Beach Blanket. And they said, “Yes, we need guys.” So I went right back to Beach Blanket and substitute teaching again. There have been some gaps and breaks in there, but I’ve been at Beach Blanket for 10 years now.
In the time that I’ve been in San Francisco, I’ve had my agency in San Francisco send me out to auditions, and I've done commercials for different tech companies in Silicon Valley. I feel like a lot of people don't know that that's available to them up here. Silicon Valley is huge and there are a lot of products that need to be marketed, and companies will hire actors to create these videos to send even just within the company. Another thing that I didn’t know about, but I have done a couple of times up here, is interactive online education videos; so many colleges are offering online courses now, so they’re contracting companies to create interactive videos. Again, it's stuff that you would never know is available in the field of acting, but it’s fun and they pay you well for it.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
There is no right or wrong way to be a performer, and there is nothing to be looked down upon in regards to doing community theater or something like that. You might be extremely talented and you are doing it as your creative outlet, you are doing it because you love it, and it's just a different way to approach it. It's all being reinvented and we don't know what it’s going to look like tomorrow. So do what you want today and love it today, because it might grow into something different tomorrow.
And don't say no to things. I mentioned it before, but doors open and it might not be the one you want, but give it a chance, go through it. You are young, you are supposed to explore and experience it all. No matter what you are doing, in high school you have been in a sheltered environment and you have an ideal in your head. Now you get to experience life in a whole new way, and you get to figure it out. Let yourself figure it out.