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Navigating TikTok as an Actor: An Interview with Influencer Miles Allen

Cat Elliott

TikTok has been in the news a lot since it was deemed a national security concern by the Trump administration, leaving its future in the U.S. ambiguous. But no matter what the fate of the social media platform turns out to be, the fact remains that the app has been a boon to many actors’ careers since its conception. A recent example is TikTok star Addison Rae Easterling, who was recently cast in He’s All That, the role-reversal remake of the 1999 Freddie Prinze Jr.-starring She’s All That. Miles Allen is another actor whose career has been positively influenced by a massive TikTok following, with his gained exclusively through quarantine. The thespian has always had a knack for impersonations and even toured internationally with his aptly-named one-man show, “One Man Breaking Bad,” which featured his impressions of the major characters from the popular Bryan Cranston-starring series. The talent has contributed to Allen’s popularity on TikTok as @smilesallen, an impressions creator with his own unique niche. Allen took the time to talk with Casting Networks about how he’s amassed 1.4 million followers on the platform and how it’s affected his acting career.
 
You went from zero to one million followers on TikTok in four months. Can you walk us through that process?
Basically, for the last couple of years in Los Angeles, I had just been feeling really burnt out, unmotivated, and kind of done with the industry. I was interviewing for a tech company right before the quarantine hit, which then left me unemployed and with a lot of free time. Back then, people thought it was just going to be a couple weeks of quarantine. So I thought it would be my “last hurrah” for being creative before everything went back to normal and I started a 9-to-5 job. I just started experimenting and did a mixture of impressions with the sound trends to see what stuck, which led to a video where I did 20 voice impressions in 60 seconds. That was the first one of my videos to hit over a million views and go viral. 
 
Wow. That must have helped speed things up with your popularity on TikTok.
Yeah, when one of your videos gets momentum, you gain a following pretty quickly because the TikTok algorithm favors organic virality. After that, I came up with the idea to take popular songs and do them with impressions. I did one with SpongeBob characters singing “Savage,” which ended up getting more than 12 million views. And then I did one with Disney characters singing the same song, which got over 17 million views. Once I kind of found that to be my niche, mash-ups of popular characters and songs, it separated me from other impression creators and shot me up really quickly to a million followers by July. With that milestone came my first brand deal, which was with a company called Groove Life.
 
Did you start seeing benefits in your acting career at that point, as well? 
It got me in the door for meetings with some really good agencies and eventually got me signed in the voiceover department with Abrams, which is now called A3 Artists Agency. It was such a blessing to get repped by them through my following. But having a following can also be a double-edged sword for actors. When I was meeting with agents, they wanted to make sure I wasn’t just a guy that did impressions. They wanted to know that I could do original voices, as well, and could hold a character. It was helpful that I had both commercial and animation voiceover reels to reinforce that.
 
Did your previous credits help with that, too? 
Definitely. I’ve recurred on Totally TV, a popular kids’ YouTube Channel. I was doing all different types of voices and impressions for it, some of them original. And for some roles, I’d take the voice of one character and modify it to become someone completely different.
The ability to develop and embody characters quickly, rather than just mimicking a voice, has definitely been an essential part of my toolbox wherever I go. Another example is getting to voice one of the main characters on a video game called Dynasty Warriors 9.
 
Any advice for actors who want to grow their own TikTok followings? 
I actually think the formula is pretty simple if you’re good at coming up with ideas. Just take something that’s popular and mash it up with something else that’s popular. Then, put your own unique spin on it. I’m sure other people could come up with a more comprehensive formula, but I think it’s important to just keep it simple. And the other thing I’d tell actors is to use it as an outlet for creating their own content. Traditionally, we kind of have to rely on the whims of the industry to determine if we’re working or not. For example, maybe your look isn’t in vogue at the moment. Or you might just not be what casting wants. At the end of the day, a pandemic can come along and shut down productions. But creating on TikTok allows you to showcase your talents for the world to see. If you’re good, your content is going to gain momentum and get seen. 
 
When asked if he had any concerns about the future of TikTok and how it would affect him, Allen wasn’t worried. “I don’t think it serves anyone to be anxious about something they can’t control,” he asserted. The actor referenced one of the most positive effects of reaching influencer status. “It’s proven to me that I’ve got gifts and abilities to share with the world, and people enjoy them,” he noted, leaving his fellow creatives with a word of encouragement. “Whether it’s on TikTok or Instagram or whatever the new app is going to be, just keep on creating in whatever avenue you can.”

This interview has been edited and condensed.
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