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  • Herb Jackson Jr

For Alex Skinner, Acting is a Journey that Never Ends

My guest this week is a talented commercial actor who inspires me with his drive to not only pursue his craft, but also to learn the ins-and-outs of all aspects of the art he loves—film and television.

Alex Skinner has performed in shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Silicon Valley, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! Also, he proudly hails from a place very near to our podcast studio: “I grew up in the West Valley, in the Avondale/Phoenix border,” Alex explains. “For me, Arizona has been a sticking point,” he says. “Whenever I hear anything about Arizona or Phoenix or even see cacti… I get a warm feeling in my stomach thinking about being at home.”

Alex’s urge to act was apparent as early as kindergarten when he picked his role for the class play and was drawn to the part with the most lines. “I think I had the acting bug very early,” he says, laughing. When he was ready for college, he decided to attend Pepperdine in L.A. where, in his words, he “tried to do everything.”

“I did some acting, some television production so I could figure out… what everyone behind the scenes was doing. I majored in creative writing so I could figure out how to get an idea from page to screen. I think that’s really helped me with jumping into the entertainment industry because I know what everyone does.”

Even with all his preparation, Alex still faced some familiar initial struggles when he started working as an actor. “As much as you train yourself to be a performer, to know how to act, I think you don’t always get all of the advice you need to actually pursue acting,” he says. Figuring how to market yourself, how to get an audition, how to get an agent or a manager—all these things can remain mysterious for those starting out in the business. “Without any guidance, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to do,” Alex admits. “I made a lot of mistakes. I went to auditions and didn’t cut my headshot to the size of my resume. I got chewed out by a commercial casting director for that.” Alex is able to laugh about this now.

One of the first roles that Alex booked was a role on the megahit show, Grey’s Anatomy, and shortly after receiving the part, he realized his scene was with Sandra Oh and Ellen Pompeo,

“They’re in this scene with me!” he remembers thinking. “It’s kind of overwhelming because you don’t want to mess up in front of these veterans.”

And yet, what Alex found once he was on set was another kind of learning environment, one where his newness in the industry made others want to help him. Everyone at the show was welcoming and inviting. Sandra Oh in particular had kind words for him about his performance and made clear that she wanted to help him make the most of his time on the show. “They definitely work really hard to make sure people are welcome and create an environment where you can be creative and give a good performance because everyone’s there to support you.”

Alex’s hard work and preparation were paying off. His story shows how even though you might feel lost in the business, or maybe you get chewed out at an audition, there are still lots of caring mentors throughout the acting community who will gladly show you the way, if you let them.