Jamie McShane is an actor whose journey has not been one void of bumps and bruises. But, when you stick with it things almost always work out. Here, the star of Netflix series, Bloodline, shares his journey to become a working actor.
So, what made you want to get into a career in acting?
Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to be an actor. I’d watch shows like, “F Troop” and “I Dream of Jeannie”, and always wanted to be the sidekick guy; not really the lead actor. As I got older, life happened and I decided to go to college at the University of Richmond. After graduating, I saved up and went backpacking around the world. While I was traveling in Perth, Australia, I got into a conversation with this guy and he asked what I wanted to do with my life, and I said I wanted to act. So he said, “Well, why don’t you do it?”
So, when I got back to the U.S., I went to work for my father’s delivery company in Jersey and started going to New York looking for opportunities in acting. I didn’t know what a resume or a head shot was; I knew nothing about how to become an actor. But, I started auditioning for plays, took a class, and just kept going. I eventually got my SAG card after doing some extra and stand-in work, and 25 years later, here I am.
What led you to move to L.A., and how long did it take before you landed an agent?
As I mentioned, I worked for my dad, and sometimes I’d be in the car sitting in traffic while on a delivery or a pickup literally crying and slamming my head into the steering wheel saying, “I can’t take this!” When you really wanna make it, all the rejection from auditions is hard to deal with starting out. I’d take one day off each week and roller blade around NYC trying to get auditions. I did a lot of student films, extras work, and a lot of theater. I always got good feedback, but I just couldn’t get the breaks.
Eventually, I got a mentor who told me I was going to have to move to Los Angeles or else I’d be stuck in NYC for another 10 years, not making a living; it had already been 10 years by that point. He helped me get over to L.A., and it took me about two years of doing casting workshops before I really got going. So, after about a total of 13 years trying to break into the business, I finally landed an agent who really understood me and was passionate about me. I’ve been with her for the last 12 years.
You’ve done some stints on shows like, ‘Anarchy’. But, lets talk about the Netflix series, ‘Bloodline’. What’s your role on the show and what can people expect to see?
First of all, the cast is an amazing ensemble, and I’m very grateful that I made the team. Second, it’s created by the guys who did ‘Damages’, which is an incredible show. ‘Bloodline’ is a psychological, dark thriller that jumps around in time from the present to the past. It also takes place in the Florida Keys, which is an area that I don’t believe any TV show has explored. The show follows this family, the Rayburns, and the story surrounds events that take place when the oldest son, Danny, who has been away a while and is sort of the black sheep, tries to comeback and be part of the family again. I play Eric O’Bannon who is Danny’s buddy. So, you see this family who has this paradise sort of lifestyle going on in the Keys, but then my character comes in and brings the darker, seedier side. Danny and I hookup and we go from there.
What advice would you give to other actors who have been doing this for a decade or more, but they’re where you were before leaving NYC; still pounding their head on the steering wheel because they haven’t landed anything major yet?
If you’re really passionate about it, stay the course. If you have a dream inside of you, I think you need to stay with it and see where it leads you. Also, be open to where it might lead you because, it may not be exactly where you thought you’d end up; in a good way though. I also think you need to be realistic about the feedback you’re getting. Are you getting feedback from people in the business who say you’re talented at what you’re doing, or is it consistently the other way around? I might think I can play the piano, but if nobody else agrees that I’m good, then I need to explore something else.
But, if you’re getting positive feedback from casting directors and others in the movie business, from there just try not to give up. I know it gets difficult when you’ve been doing for a decade; I mean, look at me! It took me 13 years before I got an agent to represent my career on the theatrical side. In New York I had commercial representation, but I couldn’t get somebody who could get me out for film and TV. So, you just have to believe and stick it out until you make it.