If you watch the new hit medical drama Chicago MED then you've seen Mr. Roland Buck III. He's young, handsome, with a rising star in Hollywood. Graduating from USC with a degree in acting I thought his perspective on how he got into the industry would prove very helpful to all of you aspiring actors, writers, and producers. I sat with Roland at the W Hotel right in Hollywood to get an exclusive interview. Along with this interview are his tips on obtaining representation and how his start with that was tumultuous. So check out Mr. Buck and leave your comments below. #IndustryTalk
R|A: What scene in that film (The Wood) made you decide this to go into acting?
R|B: Well it wasn't a particular scene but it was more like the opening scene the dude's name was Roland, so I was watching the scene with my mom, and I was like mom he's got my name so it made me pay attention a little more because I've never seen anyone with my name. So as I kept watching the movie I never saw people on TV or acting as a job. So I turned to my mom when the movie was over and was like ‘mom is that a job, can I do that?’ And she was like yeah, you can do anything you want to do. So I was like okay I want to be like Jim Brown- I want to be a football player, and I want to be an actor. You know, as a kid you want everything.
R|A: Before you went to USC to study theater you had attended North Carolina A&T university & then by your sophomore year had transferred to Texas Southern University. What were you studying at this time?
R|B: Yeah so I was recruited to play football at both universities, so I went on a football scholarship but I majored in radio-television and film. I figured that could be a good segue in so I was taking the timid route, and when I turned 18 I decided I really wanted to pursue acting professionally. But not as a major because most of my focus was on football. So I did radio-television and film, so that I could still be in front of the camera and still show my personality. But yeah I had to make a choice. So my love for football kind of shifted. There's a lot of politics in college football because there's a lot of money involved. So my love for the game shifted from that to acting and I knew I had to choose one thing. If I was going to make it as an actor I had to put my all into it. I couldn't do both. So I dropped out of school my senior year and moved here (Los Angeles). Yes in 2010.
R|A: You became one of seven finalist for the ABC discovers yearly competition. What type of monologue/scene did you perform and what was the feeling you had once you realized that you were one in over 7,000 who had auditioned?
R|B: Yes so they gave us a list of scenes (it wasn't a monologue) to put on tape. And the one I connected with was a dramatic one. It was kind of like an interrogation scene where I'm accused of killing my mom & dad, but the truth in the character that I found was that he didn't. So basically I'm fighting for my life. I was happy when I found out that I was one of seven. I had to do another tape. I chose to do a comedic one for the final round but um’ it's just as an actor you come close to a lot of stuff. So it didn't work out. I was happy but it was just another thing that I almost got. It becomes like a routine. (Looking back) if I would have gotten that, I would have been under contract with ABC and probably wouldn't have been able to do Chicago MED. So it works out.
R|A: What actors- past and present do you feel influence you most?
R|B: That's tough- Denzel (Washington) I met him twice, he's a humble dude. Very inspiring. He just gives that great energy off. He really took time to shake my hand, look me in the eyes, ask how I was doing. He gave me some advice. I saw him on broadway as well. One of my mentors Jason Dirden was in a play with him- A Raisin in The Sun. I was in New York for my showcase with USC my senior year and I got to see it (the play) and I got to meet him (Denzel Washington) again. Him, Leo (Leonardo Di Caprio). I really admire his body of work throughout his career. Joaquin Phoenix- I like him a lot, if I had to choose one more I’d say Don Cheadle. For sure his body of work. He studied at Cal Arts in Valencia. Those guys for sure I would love to have those hitters they have.
R|A: How'd you get cast for Chicago MED?
R|B: Regular audition process. My agent and manager gave me an audition that I had to self tape for. Because the casting director was in New York. The funny thing is I used to work at NBC as an intern in Talent & Casting. So that week that I got that audition I was actually helping my old casting director with the NBC Short Cuts Film Festival. I had never gotten an audition for them in the two years that I worked there or since I graduated. Not even with my very first Rep who was working there at the time. I told her about it and she was like okay send me your tape too- (the one you sent to your Reps and I'll make sure they look at it). I read the breakdown, self taped for it- and then a week later I booked it and I'm flying out to Chicago. That was a blessing.
R|A: Do you still get nervous auditioning or do you have a proven prep method to shake the jitters?
R|B: Well I think as long as you care about something, you're always going to have some kind of nerves, because that just shows you care about your work. I don't have nerves to where it's affecting my work negatively. I think just by doing you become more comfortable.
R|A: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
R|B: 5 Years would be my 11th year here in LA, definitely an established working actor, with a good resume and a good name still.
R|A: You studied theater in college- which do you prefer theater, or TV and film?
R|B: They're all different. I don't prefer one over the other. Theater is alive performance verses TV which is rapidly produced and film you spend a few months on it, but then you have to let it go. At least on stage you have that immediate response from the crowd. And you have complete control of the product on stage. It gives you a different rush- on stage, than television and film. I like them all. One day I hope to be known as someone who can win an Oscar, and Emmy, and a Tony award.
R|A: What would you say is the most difficult part about being in the industry?
R|B: Well from my experience, and because everyone is different. Just genuine people I would say. When you're first starting out everybody out here is saturated with people just wanting the glitz or the glam. Everybody wants to be a celebrity and not everyone is going to have your best interest in mind. But once you start to rise and the cream of the crop starts to separate itself, the people that really want to be in this industry for the craft and the work that they're doing you have more genuine people. It takes a while to get to that level. So you have to have a little bit more discernment and positive energy. It's going to be a lot of no’s. A lot of people are negative. Hollywood is very saturated with image, the status, money, you know smoke and mirrors. Like in keeping up with this person and that person. The competition is between you and yourself. That's all it is. That's the toughest part.
R|A: I see you're with Rebel Entertainment Partners. Explain your steps to obtaining representation? Were you signed before or after college?
R|B: Yeah well it actually took me 4.5 years to get representation since I moved here. I couldn't even get an email when I first got here. After everything- being at USC and my showcase I had over 20 people come out to represent me. 20 meetings- you know I just always hustle. I didn't depend on USC’s name go get me anything. I really hustled, I would invite people out to my shows. Every play I had at USC. I went to IMDB Pro and researched people that I look up to like Michael B. Jordan & Shia Labeouf, young actors, young Hollywood. I look up their managers. I was given the advice that it’s better to get a manager first then an agent. Because they can help you get the agent. So they help mold your career, and are more personal with you. I got a list, I wrote emails, I made a flyer with head shots on it to promote myself for the show that I was in.
I would use that to promote myself. I'd tag my website at the bottom as well. I also printed out hard copies and mailed it to them. And then called. Not like all at once though. I would then write notes, on my feedback on the vibe I got back from them. Like if they were some assholes I would write that on their profile notes, and then I wouldn't call them anymore. But I'd make note of that. You know it's how you treat people, because one day you're going to see me again. I'm going to know. Some that were really nice to me would be like “I'm not looking for anyone right now, but let me know when you're a senior, or let me know when you have another showcase.” I just kept a log of that. One of my final shows before the showcase was ‘In The Blood’ it was a Susan Laurie Parks play, I had 5 managers come. Matthew Lesher- who I'm with right now came and I signed with him. He gave me options. He was like just come on let's go through this process together, if you don't feel like it's working out you're not under contract, and if I don't feel like it works out for me I don't have to keep you. And I was like that's perfect because I wanted to weigh my options at the showcase as well. So we did pilot season together in 2014 and I liked him a lot. He got me into some really good rooms, and he got people to come to my showcase.
Aside from what USC got me, he scheduled my meetings after. So I'm like yeah, I'm going to stick with this dude. He really believes in me. I stuck with him, and then I got a meeting with Rebel (entertainment partners). The interesting thing is- and you can have the exclusive on this… Is that… I didn't sign with rebel at first. For some reason the email didn't go through to set up a meeting. It went to the junk box. So I ended up signing with another agency (not gonna say they're name). But 3 months after that he got fired, and not telling me that he was fired from the agency. So you know sometime went by and I didn't get any auditions my manager was right on it. I never even knew that he was fired. He just told me when the situation was resolved. He was like you know what- this happened, this happened, this happened. But we got you a meeting with Rebel Entertainment Partners- they want to meet with you, and they're interested in signing you. So I went and met with them and I would have signed with them from the get go. But God works in great ways. That was my warm up that summer. Because right when I went to a meeting with the agency and they didn't want to keep me. I got with Rebel and they said that my old agency didn't know my worth. A few months later I tested for a CBS pilot. So that was a good thing.
R|A: What can we expect from your Character Noah Sexton who correct me if I'm wrong is siblings opposite YaYa Decosta?
R|B: They extended Season 1, 5 more episodes, so we have 18 episodes. I go back in two weeks to film episode 15. I'm a 3rd year med school Doctor. I like him a lot. YaYa is amazing to work opposite with. It's definitely some conflict in our family. I'm kind of the golden kid of the family. Only one child was allowed to go to MED school. We’re from Brazil, we moved here. Our last name was changed to Sexton to get us acclimated and Americanized. In episode 11 we get to speak Portuguese. Just a little bit. I hope we get to do more. I would love that. Basically one person could go to MED school. I was the boy so I was chosen to go. She's actually smarter than me. And she wants to be the doctor, but she took a back seat for me, sacrificed for me. She's always been there helping me out. Like I (Noah Sexton) was always leaning on her shoulders since I was a baby. And now I'm messing up. Which you guys will see. And basically it's like sink or swim for me. It's time for you to be a man, and if you want to be a good doctor then you need to man up and start taking responsibility.
R|A: When you get the script do you have to look up everything?
R|B: Yes I look up everything. The series regulars were actually able to spend two weeks in a hospital to shadow doctors. We have a doctor on set too to make sure that everything. We’re doing is right. At least as best as it can be, and then our pronunciations are right. Like Jeff he writes a lot of the episodes, he was a doctor before he stopped practicing medicine and he decided he wanted to be a screenwriter. So he's on set too and he's like “Roland- that's not how you say it…” Some of them like Collin have a lot harder dialogue. They ask questions, they do their research before, and they get it down. They're professionals for sure.
R|A: How many table reads does Chicago MED hold per episode before shooting?
R|B: Zero. We don't do table reads no. At least I've never done any table reads. Yeah it's quick, TV is quick. I mean a lot of shows do table reads. But they don't. We rehearse obviously- on set. But you know they know what you can do. They booked you for the job, they want you to reproduce that audition but make it even better.
R|A: What have you learned from working on a big budget show compared to indie films/projects?
R|B: It's the same really, it's just more money. Like they have more money to produce it. (I was hoping you would say the dressing room is better.) Yeah the trailer, and they fly you out first class, car service, more pay, a lot of stuff. (I feel like that gives you more time to study. On the flight go over your scenes, since you're not driving you can go over your scenes.) Yeah
R|A: Do you still take classes?
R|B: I haven't since graduating, but you know once I have the time and the finances I want to take some improv classes. But yeah you always should continue to study. I think the amount of auditions I get is already studying enough for me. I'm going in and out of character, reading scripts, and really exercising that muscle. Yeah so if you’re not doing anything then you should definitely be in classes. But I'm here to work and I'm working right now.
R|A: What advice would you give someone if they told you they wanted to be an actor?
R|B: I would say do you love it? Really check your intentions on why you want to be an actor. And if you do love it I would say have a strong faith, believe in yourself, and work. That's it. Build that solid foundation. I feel like every actor I look up to has a solid foundation that promotes longevity. Have range. Definitely study theater, take classes, watch movies, read books, read plays.
R|A: Top 3 music artist you're listening to?
R|B: Kendrick Lamar, Logic, and then… Drake. I like Drake’s music. (You kinda look like Drake) LOL yeah that's what people say. They used to call me little Drizzy back in the day.
R|A: Favorite food?
R|B: Steak… A nice steak. (Do you know how to cook?) Ah a little bit. I'm getting better.
R|A: Worst thing about living in LA?
R|B: Price- I would say. I mean you get used to that though.
R|A: What is your take on the #OscarSoWhite controversy?
R|B: I think there's a good point on both sides of it. I agree with Whoopi Goldberg's interview she did on The Talk. She had great points. We need people with big budget projects to make more content with minority's in mind.
R|A: Lastly what advice do you wish someone would have given you before entering the business?
R|B: I got a lot of really great advice. My mentor Jason Dirden has been great my whole career. His mom was my teacher at TSU (Texas Southern University). Something I wish I would have know- ah I guess the fickle people. I pretty much knew what to expect. It wasn't anything that was too much of a surprise to me. But many people talk but won't be about it. It can be friends like they want to make web-series together. They talk talk talk but don't do it. Or it can be people you've got a gig from and it doesn't work out. Like you can book a job but it might not never see the light of day. I have a feature film that still isn't out and it's been two years. So as an actor your power is in the 3 minutes in that audition or on each take. After that you have no control. That's something I'm learning now. Once you get executive producer credit, or you're producing your own films- if you have that desire; you have a bit more power. But really all you have as an actor is between action and cut. So you better make it good. Because you never know which take they're going to take, or if it'll ever see the light of day.