My Casting Story: Zach Meiser on ‘Power Book III: Raising Kanan’
Looking for an inspiring story about an actor who went from booking a day player role to recurring on the third season of a hit Starz series? If so, your search is over. Zach Meiser’s résumé includes big-name credits like CBS’ FBI, FX’s American Horror Story, and the upcoming Robert De Niro-led film Wise Guys. When he sat down with Casting Networks via Zoom, however, it was a breakthrough role on the upcoming third season of Starz’ Power Book III: Raising Kanan that was on the table. Keep reading for all the twists and turns that led to Meiser’s recurring role on the series, complete with more iterations of the term “douchebag” than any other Casting Networks article to date.
It’s great to virtually meet you, Zach. Before we dive into your casting story, I’d love to hear how you’d sum up your character on the upcoming third season of Power Book III: Raising Kanan.
He’s 100 percent book-smart and zero percent street-smart. The character is the epitome of a privileged, successful white male in the early ‘90s. You know, he wears three-piece suits and owns the newest Mercedes at that time, one that comes with a car phone. And he stereotypes anybody that has a different skin color than him. The character has this skewed view of anyone who’s not Caucasian, and he treats them accordingly.
He definitely sounds like a villain-type character. What can you tell us about the process of booking the role?
It was originally supposed to be a day player role — just a one and done. The audition scene had three characters in it: Douchebag #1, Douchebag #2 and the main character of Marvin [played by London Brown]. I was supposed to read for Douchebag #1, which I was happy about since he had somewhere between seven and 10 lines in the scene. For context, the second douchebag character only had two lines. So, I read for the role, felt very strong about my choices and submitted my self tape audition. I found out from my manager that I had booked the show and received the initial paperwork, including my invite to the Zoom table read for that episode. But, when I looked at my sides for the read, they said, “Zach Meiser for Douchebag #2.”
I reached out to the first AD [assistant director] about it, who confirmed they’d slated me to play the second character. My manager said he didn’t know where the hiccup came from but to just go do the role and kill it. I’d already met with my acting coach a couple of times, though, to prep for playing Douchebag #1 and go over all his lines. I was very confident in my take on that role and had a bunch of different choices ready to go for him. Then, I got the news that I’d be playing the second character, who had significantly fewer lines.
I’m sure that was disappointing.
Rather than going into it kicking and screaming, though, I humbled myself and went back to my acting coach. We reworked the scene and looked for places where I could make strong non-verbal choices so that I could show as much on-screen presence as possible with the character’s two lines. By the end of it, I felt really good about my take on the role and was ready to go kill it as Douchebag #2. Two days later, though, I heard from production again. My manager forwarded an email that said they’d made a mistake and I would in fact be playing Douchebag #1.
I was ecstatic to get the bigger role back. So, I went on set as a day player, and I knew it was a big deal to get to work on a series that comes from Lionsgate and Starz. But as soon as I started working, that was it. I was just having fun and playing and being in the moment. London Brown was phenomenal to work with, and there was very much this ebb and flow between us. If we wanted to try something different, we did. I’ve worked with other actors who are very fundamentally grounded in how they’ve prepared to do the scene and aren’t open to adjusting it. Every actor’s different, but it was great to have that sort of give and take with London. Brendan Walsh directed that episode, and we were all just vibing, having fun on and off camera. It felt like I was able to establish some sort of friendly connection with everybody I crossed paths with that day. I think that boiled down to a focus on how I could contribute and what I could bring to the table, even when I wasn’t on camera.
That’s a lovely perspective to have on set.
Thanks. And less than a week after I got home from set, my manager forwarded me an email that came from the top. It basically stated that they’d loved my energy and included all these different affirmations about how they saw me as a person, as well as an actor. They wanted to bring me back on the show as a recurring character. I believe that’s directly related to how I carried myself on set. My general rule of thumb is to keep your focus on your own conduct. It doesn’t matter if someone is a jerk to you on set — you never know what someone else is going through — but you can control how you behave back to them. Overall, it’s a question of how conducive you are to a positive on-set environment.
Thanks for sharing such a thoughtful insight into your approach to work, along with how it benefitted you in regard to Power III. And how has landing a recurring role on the popular Starz series impacted your career so far?
On paper, it’s great to have that credit on my résumé. On screen, I don’t know how the performance will affect my career since I have yet to see it when the series releases. But as far as how the role has personally affected me, I would just say that it’s given me an awareness of how ever production is unique in terms of the crew and how the main cast interacts with day players and even extras. The energy on set of Power III was very positive, and I’m glad I got to experience it. I did extra work in the past and aimed to treat background actors on this set the same way I wanted to be treated when I was an extra. There were some bigger players back then who were very kind to me, as well as those who were not. So, in the entirety of this experience, I wanted to make sure there was no big “I” or little “u.” If I get cut, I bleed just like you do. You know? We’re all humans who have feelings, and I think everybody deserves to be treated with respect. Everyone on set of Power III got that, and it was just so beautiful.
Between upgrading from Douchebag #1 to the value he places on treating everyone on set with kindness, this has been both a window into how Meiser booked a recurring role on the upcoming third season of Starz’ Power III and how the actor could not be further from the original role’s description. Those interested in keeping up with Meiser’s career journey can find him on Instagram, where he frequently posts about work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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