The hard-working Troy Vincent has been acting his whole life and this dedication, passion, and love of craft is evident in his seamless portrayals of a multitude of diverse characters. It’s likely you’ve seen Troy in film and television over the past 20 years as he has been on everything from House M.D, Scandal, Days of Our Lives, Modern Family, Brooklyn 99, True Detective, and most recently, American Sniper. The talented and versatile actor shared his experiences with the art and craft in this month’s Actors’ Spotlight.
Life before starting a career in Entertainment.
I grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My mom and step-dad raised horses so we lived out in the country and I wasn’t that interested in any of it, I was more into movies and comics.
It wasn’t until later in life that I truly appreciated growing up in that environment.
I would spend summers with my dad in North Carolina, where I was born. So I got to experience these two very different worlds — the South, going to the beach, living in a “neighborhood;” and then coming back to the country, horses, and snow.
I got bit by the acting bug in kindergarten after doing a school play and always enjoyed performing for people, whether it was performing for my parents’ friends or whatever.
There was a brief time in junior high where I thought about becoming a special effects make-up artist since I was a horror buff but it slowly dawned on me that I was having more fun wearing the make-up than creating it.
What motivated you to come to Los Angeles and pursue a career in Entertainment?
Los Angeles was always the goal, but I think I was too cautious or scared to just pack my car and move out here. I decided to get used to a bigger city first and moved to Denver since it was nearby.
I got comfortable in there and kept saying, “Some day I’m going to move to L.A.”
I was working on HBO’s The Laramie Project as a casting assistant and a stand-in. Unlike some productions where you just stand there while they light, this director would have me do the scene so he could see it.
Rather than just read the lines, I decided to memorize and act them, more as just an exercise for myself.
After awhile several of the crew members started asking me, “Why aren’t you in New York or L.A.?!”
Those comments were the final push to quit messing around and make the move.
How much different was the reality of working as an actor in Los Angeles compared with your impression of what it would be like?
I saw Jared Leto speak at a Q&A after Dallas Buyers Club, and he said that as an actor you do very little acting each day on set, most of the time is spent setting up the shot or whatever.
That’s one thing I didn’t realize at first — the amount of time just spent waiting around to act!
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career and how did you overcome them?
I think the biggest challenge has been to not dwell on the past, like running through the audition in my head and second guessing what I did.
I’ve gotten to the point where after an audition I’ll think about what worked, what didn’t, and move on.
What’s done is done, they either liked it or they didn’t.
If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice what would it be?
Move out here sooner! It takes a while to network and learn the basics of the business.
What are your favorite experiences in Entertainment thus far?
The Laramie Project would be one since it motivated me to finally move, and so far it’s the only production that I worked on almost every day of the shoot.
It was a great experience.
While in Colorado I worked a couple of days on ABC’s mini series of The Shining, doubling for Steven Weber with second unit.
I’m a big Stephen King fan so it was cool to be able to walk around The Overlooksets. One day King sat down next to me at lunch, which was a thrill.
American Sniperbecause it’s my first studio film and what a first to be in!
My role on Lost is a highlight too since I was a fan of the show to begin with.
I knew they cast most of the smaller roles out there so it was a total surprise when I got the call for it, and next thing I know I’m in Hawaii shooting a scene that takes place at LAX with Matthew Fox who is also from Wyoming!
They flew me out early so it was great to get a trip to Hawaii and an acting job all in one.
Another experience that sort of relates to entertainment was when I worked part time for Arnold Schwarzenegger while he was in office, just doing various odd jobs around their house or running errands.
In high school my room was adorned with Predator and Terminator posters so it was surreal to suddenly be working for him!
When you look at all he’s accomplished he’s an inspiration at achieving your goals.
How did you prepare for a career as an actor?
Troy on Days of Our Lives
I studied acting through junior high and high school, got an A.A. in drama and then just dove into the scene in Denver, getting an agent, doing plays, commercials, and industrial films.
In college, my mentor was a guy named Chuck Thompson who ran the theater department, and he was a big motivator for me.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I took the Improv for Actors course at Second City and then did their conservatory program. That was a fun time and I met a lot of my L.A. friends through that.
How do you get into character?
I don’t have a certain routine per se. Depending on the role I may do a little research, think about who the person is, or base them on someone I know or an aspect of my personality.
Even as a kid, playing with my friends I’d come up with a back-story, which was usually, “I’m married to Farrah Fawcett and I’m a bartender.”
I think I still approach it in a similar way now, just get out there and play.
The ones who stand out are the ones who first started shaping me — in high school it was my drama teacher Don Bondurant, and Bruce Robbins who ran an amazing television production class. Chuck Thompson in college.
Even though he’s not in the business, I usually go to my dad for whatever advice since he’s always had a good head on his shoulders.
Roles you’ve had that are points of pride?
Well, right now it would definitely be the movie American Sniper. I was honored to be a small part of it in the beginning when I got cast and even more so now after seeing the film and the phenomenon that it’s become.
I grew up watching Eastwood on the screen and then to be standing there with him five feet away behind the camera was awesome.
In what ways do you use social media in your career?
I don’t use it a whole lot. I’ll tweet if I’ve got something coming out. All the casting calls come from my agent and manager, but I’ll use Casting About and IMDB to research a casting director.
Any advice for those looking to have a career as an actor?
Try and find something else to do!
BUT, if you have no backup plan and are in it no matter what, then trust yourself and know that no one will care about your career as much as you do.
You have to realize that there are so many factors out of your control so just keep learning and moving forward.
What are your current career aspirations?
Bigger roles. To be able to do this (acting), full time and make a comfortable living.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now I’m waiting for the phone to ring with the next audition!
I play the Pastor in the church scene when Chris Kyle is a kid. We shot in an actual church, and as I was standing there I had a little déjà vu.
The background were all dressed in 80’s style clothes and hair, and I felt like I was back in Wyoming looking at people I went to church with when I was that age.
It’s well known that Mr. Eastwood moves quickly, doesn’t say cut or action, and he’ll shoot rehearsals, so I was prepared for that going in. I only had a few lines but I had thought out the rest of my sermon.
For my closeup, I did my lines, and then he said, “Keep going” in that iconic voice. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to do the lines again or improvise, so I did a little of both.
Once I finally saw the film, it was cool to see that he included some of my improvised dialogue.
In a career spanning over 20 years, you’ve worked on many types of productions — do you have a preference in roles/projects or do you enjoy the diversity?
I do enjoy the diversity. I would say TV and film are my preference just because from a young age I wanted to be in movies.
Acting on stage was the next best/accessible thing so that’s what I started doing, but they all have their plus and minuses. Improv can be fun and freeing. With plays you get to play the whole scene or arc, and you get that audience feedback which you can’t get on a set.
I originally was all about comedy, but I find myself gravitating more towards dramatic stuff now.
I hear you do an excellent Christopher Walken impression — what’s the key to doing a good impression?
I think the main thing is to try to inhabit the person, not just do the voice.
Everyone does Walken now so I think the impressions that really stand out are the more unique ones, like I recently heard Bill Hader do an impression of Werner Herzog and it was spot on and one I’ve never heard done before.
Where can people go to find out more about you and your projects?