Blythe Howard is an American actress who has booked over 60 commercial campaigns as a principal performer. Her credits in TV and film include “Yellowstone,” “Mindhunter,” “Walker,” “Dynasty” and a recurring guest star role on a new STARZ show coming soon! Whether she’s practicing Muay Thai, coaching fellow actors or acting, Blythe believes there is “No cutting corners. No magic shortcuts. When you put in the work, the work will speak for itself.” Learn more at www.actorslifewithblythe.com/
1. How did you start working in the industry?
I recently realized I always knew I would be doing what I do now at a very young age. I didn’t know it back then because I was too busy playing sports, but my sister and I were constantly putting on our own shows and acting out movies for friends and family. When I was in 3rd grade, I fell in love with journalism and it was then that I set out to be a news anchor. I just didn’t know that down the road I would be playing one on TV! I was studying broadcast journalism at Washington State University when I won a contest to be VJ for a day on MTV’s Total Request Live (TRL) and it was pivotal. I just knew I wanted to do it and I went after it; I never thought about the odds. Looking back, that contest was no different than what it’s like in the audition world. Out of 25,000 people I got that job so I know every job I go after is possible for me. I know this to be true because it has happened for me and it is happening for others. After TRL I left WSU to attend acting school in San Francisco and that is where I felt it in my bones. I was on stage in the middle of a scene and this chill went through me and I thought “This is what I’m supposed to be doing.” I saved up money, moved to Los Angeles and booked my first commercial within the first week of being in LA! I booked another commercial project and another, then I got an agent and I’ve been working ever since. That’s always been the goal; to be consistently working and it just keeps happening.
2. What inspired you to work as an acting coach?
The coaching sort of just happened one day and it took off! I’ve always been transparent about my acting journey on social media, so when people started reaching out saying “I want to do what you do” I was like “Yeah let’s do this! I’ll tell you what I know.” After booking over 50 commercial campaigns as a principal performer, I started privately coaching and then launched my first Commercial Workshop in 2019, a one-day intensive that covers the ins and outs of the ad world. While I do share booking tips and tricks, I think what sets me apart from other classes is that I teach with a business approach. I’m not teaching you how to give a thumbs up and smile at the camera in the cutest way, I’m teaching you how to sustain a career. It’s a business and we are the ones in control of it. Always. I also think it’s important to lift others up in this industry and I just love helping others succeed. When I was starting out, no one shared this information with me so I am here to help others navigate this “actor’s life.” It turns out, their breakthroughs have been the most rewarding part of the journey. It’s been really fun watching my clients take off in their own careers.
3. What would you say to those aspiring to work in your field?
One, you are relevant. Whatever stage of the game you are in. Two, make the move. Whatever it is you want to do, just do it. Go for it. There are so many people who talk about wanting to be or do XYZ and then just stay exactly where they are watching others do what they want to do. No one is looking for you, you have to put yourself out there in order to be seen and that will always require moving forward in the direction of your goals. The path always clears. And let’s be real, 9 out of 10 times it’s ourselves standing in our own way. So get out of your way and go after what you want! Also, know your worth. I’m SAG/AFTRA strong because I believe in union wages. Billion-dollar companies can afford to pay the face of their company SAG money, so never settle for less and that starts with knowing your worth. #AdsGoUnion, baby!
4. What was a pivotal moment for you within your industry during the pandemic? How has your role and/or your day-to-day routine changed in the past year and a half?
I knew people were going to figure out safe ways to move forward in the industry and I wanted to be ready to work with the people paving the way when the time came. I booked a commercial in May 2020 and I’ll never forget it. We filmed in Utah and it was at the very, very beginning stages of COVID protocols being put into place. I did my own fitting virtually and my own makeup/touch-ups, and that experience only emphasized the meaning of teamwork and how important it is to have a full crew on set. Like, glam/groom squad, wardrobe – they are extremely essential. Obviously, we have evolved since the thick of it all but I took a lot away from being a part of it at the beginning, and I’ve been able to incorporate those lessons in my workshops. Shortly after that, I booked another commercial and a network show. I also participated in and was a finalist of a few of the casting director challenges. That’s actually how I got signed with my theatrical agent! I kept things moving where I saw opportunities.
On the coaching side, I was able to transition the workshops to online and then I rolled out Self Tape Tutorials as well. I’ve been self taping and working out of the southeast since 2015, so I knew I could help others to up their self tape game. It’s all about that pivot! In this industry, our job is never guaranteed. We never know when our next job is coming in, even before the pandemic, so I think knowing that about the industry is what kept me motivated. Never fold and never rule yourself out.
5. If you could cast yourself in any role of all time what would it be?
I’m definitely attracted to any type of power role but specifically, I’ve always wanted to play an assassin or a queen. With very few women of color who portray either role, I began creating and producing my own web series called “Project Payne,” where we follow Monet as she tries to navigate through life and relationships as a secret assassin. Create your own content, they said. It’s hard work and it’s been a lot of fun coming back to in post-production and building it up. We have an amazing trailer and it’s definitely a project that I’ll be proud to present in the near future. The Queen role is out there and I hope she’s a villain!
6. What are your favorite activities or hobbies to do outside of work?
What’s that? [Laughs] No, I love what I do but something I’ve come to cherish the most is the downtime! Spending time with friends and family, whether we’re venturing out and about or staying in and binge-watching our favorite shows. This industry is full of ups and downs but we are always in control. I think that’s something I’ve come to learn over time. Find people, places and activities that ground you. Balance is crucial. Self-care is crucial and sometimes that means having the courage to say no to a job that doesn’t feel in alignment with what you stand for. Find out what that is at the core.
7. What is one of your favorite acting performances to date (TV, film, stage, etc.)?
Working with David Fincher on “Mindhunter” season 2 has been a major highlight. It was one of the most challenging and eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. First of all, having the show be set in the late ’70s was a dream! I was told I was the only actor they hired out of the group of real news anchors they had covering the storylines throughout the season and long story short, I’ve needed glasses for a long time and I couldn’t see the teleprompter! It was so embarrassing, but at that moment, I realized a couple of years ago I probably would have had a meltdown, and the thought of how far I had come is what got me through. It was a huge learning experience and the first thing I said when I got home that night was “I have a lot of work to do.” There’s been so much growth since then. Sometimes when you feel like you might be falling flat on your face, you’re not! It’s moments like these that make you stronger if you choose to embrace them. I also found my voice after that. At the time I didn’t have the guts to keep asking them to blow up the font, which probably would have helped tremendously. Now I’m not afraid to ask for what I need in order to give the best performance. I’ll be forever grateful for that entire experience and yes, I went to the eye doctor! [Laughs]
8. Who is an industry professional you admire and why?
So many! But hands down, Christinna Chauncey. She’s my acting coach, a working actor and just an all-around beast. The first year I started working with her I booked five network credits. She’s a game-changer. She started out acting and then got deep into casting, so everything she teaches comes from that perspective. I love her studio. She never has to promote it and everyone who studies under her actually works! The community she’s built up is really supportive of one another and they’re genuinely good people. I’ve had many breakthroughs in that studio and that’s because of Christinna.
9. Do you have a quote or mantra that you live by?
To the dreamers especially; “Momentum demands movement.” Get very clear on what you want to achieve and keep making moves towards that goal. The path always clears. Whether we’re able to see it at the moment or not, it’s all falling beautifully into place amongst the chaos. Just trust the work.
10. What are you looking forward to in the industry in the coming year and beyond?
Can we please make COVID stop? If we all just do our part that would be great! As for me, I’m completely open to what’s next. I am definitely looking forward to a new show that’s coming soon to STARZ. I feel so lucky that I got to film in my second favorite city, Chicago, all summer, with one of the best cast and crews I’ve ever met. I’m excited to see it all come to life. But for now, I’m just grateful for where I’m at, grateful for my team, my family, my health and I’m ready for whatever comes next!
Check out Blythe’s upcoming Commercial Workshop on January 29th and 30th! The workshop is a two-day intensive with a Q&A with various industry guest speakers. The sign-up link will go live on December 30th at www.actorslifewithblythe.com!