We’ve found an old interview of Finn Wittrock for the LACHSA Alumni Network of the Los Angeles County High school. He talked about his career, his time at LACHSA and personal life. Enjoy!
What ignited your passion for acting and why did you decide to make it your career?
I was introduced to acting through my dad, who worked at Shakespeare and Company, a summer theatre company in Massachusetts. I played lots of messenger boys [and] pages as a kid and when I wasn’t on I would watch and listen to every show. Just listening to those words every night kind of educated me through osmosis, I think, so by the time I got to LACHSA I was pretty sure this was what I wanted to do. I still went to public school during the year and did normal kid stuff, but the summers were full of theatre for me and that’s where I caught the bug.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
It’s always nice to be congratulated, but every now and then you get someone who you can tell was genuinely moved by your performance, and/or inspired in some way. True inspiration, especially from a younger person, nothing really beats that.
What are some of the challenges that come along with your profession?
Everything’s a challenge. Getting a job in the first place is a challenge, and then once you start working you realize the challenge has just begun. There’s a lot of rejection in this job, which is something they don’t always tell you in school, and it takes some time before you can let the jobs you don’t get roll off and not take every “they went in a different direction” personally. Still, every now and then there is one that stings. I still audition for the vast majority of roles I get and I don’t get 90% of them, which is actually a good ratio.
What was your first reaction when you heard about your Emmy nomination?
I honestly felt like I won – I still do. I know people say “it’s an honor just to be nominated” but in this case I really mean that. It wasn’t something I was expecting or gunning for, so I’m just really humbled to be in that group of nominees. Hell, I’m up against bill Murray – I’m fine.
How has your life changed from the day before you were nominated for an Emmy to now?
Not that much, honestly. There’s a lot more fancy champagne in my fridge that people have sent me. But I’m still just trying to focus on the work – finding the best people to work with, and making sure in the job I do have I’m pushing myself to my limits, every day.
Describe your best or favorite moment in your professional career.
I’ve had a few memorable ones. Meeting Daniel Day Lewis backstage of Death of a Salesman was one of the highlights. That show in general was a once in a lifetime experience. I remember people joking, saying “it doesn’t get better than this, you might as well stop now.” Working with Phil Hoffman and Mike Nichols in some of their last endeavors was very inspiring, and extremely educational.
What would you say to current LACHSA students who dream of doing what you’re doing? How should they pursue their goals?
Patience, persistence, and a focus on the fundamentals. I know that sounds so boring but really the stuff you learn in first year acting is some of the most valuable stuff you will take with you throughout your life. Keep doing theatre. Go to plays, and listen to the ones you’re in when you’re not onstage. Also, be flexible. I know a lot of LACHSA alumni who are in the business but have found other creative outlets besides acting – writers, producers, editors, musicians. This is a multi-faceted industry and there are many roads to take.
How would you characterize your time at LACHSA?
I had an amazing time. I was always busy, always working on something or other. I had a car and a license before any of my friends so I was always driving people home all over the place. I learned so much at school that my first year of Juilliard was like, “this is redundant.”
Describe your journey after LACHSA. Was it what you expected? Were there any unexpected turns?
Because it was such a conservatory on its own, I took a year off after LACHSA before going to college. I got some guest roles on TV, but also experienced what it was like not to work. I worked in a frozen yogurt place in Pasadena and a few random coffee shops. Even after college I was surprised at how long and slow the road sometimes seemed. Waiting tables and living on 157th street, scraping the bottom of my checking account to pay rent. But those experiences are important – they toughen you and enhance your perspective out of the narrow world of acting. And you’re supposed to have life experiences as an actor – what else are you going to draw from? Living life to the fullest doesn’t mean that life is always pleasant!
What do you think is the best thing you learned from LACHSA?
I learned a lot, more than I realized at the time. I guess all-in-all the most important thing is the importance of community. I made some of the best friends of my life there, who I still am extremely close to. A play, or any work of art, needs collaboration, teamwork, trust; the ability to be messy and wrong in front of other people who won’t judge you, and are just as willing to be messy and wrong in front of you. You are creating a company in your class, or in your cast or band, which is a cohesive whole. Visual art is perhaps the most solitary but I think even there, the best work comes out of a give-and-take with the audience, or a teacher or mentor, a conversation that happens between the work itself, its audience, and its creator(s).
Do you work professionally with other LACHSA alumni?
Yes – I wrote a film with my friend Eric Bilitch, which he directed and I was in, called the Submarine Kid. Zakk Eginton, also an alum[nus], was our Director of Photography and Harlan Silverman was our composer. And Deborah Del Prete, our Executive Prodcucer, was the mom of an alum[nus]. A real LACHSA party! Also I’m still good friends with Alex Anfanger, who is killing it in the comedy world.
What is your favorite past time?
I like to hike. Anywhere really but been spending lots of time in Griffith Park.
Have you ever considered or done a profession outside of the arts?
I think I would be a journalist if I had the choice. I write also, which is akin to acting, and I’m trying to direct as well. Besides that honestly, I’m pretty useless outside of this profession.