Before I became a writer, I wanted to be many things; A filmmaker, a comedian, an actor. But being an actor always seemed the most appealing. In the end, I figured I had to pick one and not have an ever-growing list of dream occupations I wanted to fill. I thought that you had to pick just one.
However, I was happily proven wrong by one man.
His name is TW Ashworth.
Today we’re sitting down with him because I sought him out to narrate one of my works. Thief of The Gods is a Novella about a Scientist working in Area 51. It took a bit of time to write the book but, as any author will tell you, that’s only half the work. What a story needs is to be told and by the right person.
TW Ashworth is a multi-talented man of many hats. He has acted in such hit shows as HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, SUPERSTORE, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS and CRIMINAL MINDS. He also starred in Justin Timberlake’s explosive music video “Can’t Stop The Feeling.” He paints, directs and is also a musician.(Banjo/Accordion)
And now he’s launched himself into audiobooks.
Hi Tom, thanks for joining us.
So what drew you to acting in the beginning?
I was 17, in high school in Scottsdale, Arizona, and there was an audition for the play RHINOCEROS by Eugene Ionesco at my school. A friend dared me to audition. At the time I was a student body officer, a three-year letterman in track, a math wiz kid, etc. The audition was mostly improv and I got cast in a nice role. BAM, changed my life. We had a very strong arts, music, and theatre department at Coronado High School, and it just was home from the first day.
What did it feel like to get your first callback?
I really can't recall. I've always gotten a lot of callbacks. Obviously, it doesn't mean as much in school because it is not your source of income. I've always pursued commercials and with that part of the market, you audition a lot more because there is more work...so more callbacks.
What made you pursue audiobooks?
My wife, Christine Ashworth, is a writer. My recently passed father-in-law Chester Cunningham was a noted pulp fiction writer with over 300 published novels, many of his Westerns still available on Amazon. He wrote until a week before he died at the age of 88. So, lots of writers around. Christine's roommate bailed on an Independent Publishers conference in Southern California and asked me if I wanted to come. I went to the workshops she couldn't make and one of them was on finding the right audio book narrator. Suddenly I realized I had hundreds of contacts to pursue work, so off I went to learn how. This was last October mind you. I've been doing stage acting for over 40 years so I have a lot of vocal training, dialects, different voices, etc...so it was taking a well-trained instrument (I still take workshops & classes) and learning to play it a different way. I view it as a well trained classical violinist learning to be a Blue Grass fiddle player. You can't do it instantly but you can do it. I've done a lot of Shakespeare, and his writing really teaches you to suit the voice to the words.
Also, I get be the character of Bottom from Shakespeare's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. He wants to play all the parts, and as a narrator, guess what? I get to play all the parts. Some are easier than others, but it is always the harder ones that make it fun.
As far as the story goes, this was pretty heavy. It’s a first person POV throughout the entire book told in diary form. Was it difficult to get into that character?
No, it wasn't hard. As an actor first person POV is easier for me. The train of thoughts you don't say out loud on stage or in front of the camera you get to actually say. At this stage in my development, it's the novels with a lot of third person narrative that I find hard. Who is talking? The narration is a character with a point of view.
The lead character is also a scientist. Math and science have always been things I've enjoyed and I still read about. Science and math matter to humankind, for good and for evil. Your book is very forward about that. The lead character is very ambivalent about those issues, making him very human and easier to play.
Do you do any warm ups before a performance?
I vocalize every day for at least a half hour, so yes. I just do it before I record. I also sing about a half dozen songs on the ukulele, guitar, banjo, etc., that are in the emotional feel of the novel. THIEF OF THE GODS got a lot of early Paul Simon, THE BOXER, SOUNDS OF SILENCE, I AM A ROCK, etc. Gets my articulation warmed up, and the emotional connection between voice, body, soul, and what you're reading going almost effortlessly.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received from a director or an actor?
Since I've directed over 40 plays, I'll share something that I always do with my actors...the audience dreams of you being wonderful, so just enjoy yourself and be wonderful.
Even though I wrote the story, I really felt like this was a collaboration. You gave me two good notes that really made the story stronger. One of them was the fact that in the original story, the scientist is in a hotel room with a Television set. But, as you pointed out, there would be no television sets in hotel rooms in the 1940’s. Have you ever pointed out ways to make the character or story stronger when being cast in a show?
No, actors do not give other actors notes, period. There are exceptions to this of course if you have a different relationship with a fellow actor, but usually, it is a huge NO.
In the development of a play or a screenplay, however, when the writer is there and you are reworking scenes, lines, etc., there is a lot of back and forth. I've belonged to several play development groups in Los Angeles and sometimes a writer will tailor the role to your talents. It varies on the situation.
A director may call you aside and ask for feedback, but again that is not me volunteering it.
You brought many different emotions to this story. Do you ever find yourself getting sucked into a role that it begins to get harder to step away from that particular character?
Not overly...but again I'm very well trained. One of the techniques I'm trained in is called Alba, and it is a very physical approach to acting, also very effective for me as an ex-dancer. (Yes, I had a 20-year career as a professional ballet & musical theatre dancer.) After every workout in the Alba technique, you do a stepping out process which is basically telling your body to get back to neutral. Yes, some roles are harder to shake, but the step out helps. If you are doing it right, your body assumes the role, breathing patterns, posture, and returning to neutral by stepping out gets you back to the here and now. You are basically training yourself to let yourself go as deep as you can because you know you can come back in a matter of minutes. Plus, in narration, you are frequently multiple people on the same page so it's hard to get stuck on any one.
Since this book deals mainly with a conspiracy theory, what was the first conspiracy theory you had ever heard of UFO’s and Aliens and did you get drawn into the mystery of it?
The first conspiracy theory I read was a short story from an anthology I read in the early 60's, about earthlings meeting aliens on a distant planet and discovering we were the bad aliens that conquered and destroyed a major portion of the galaxy and they were terrified we'd show up again. We did. I love surprise endings, and this short story had it. Can't recall the name sadly.
In our conversations, when trading notes back and forth over ACX, you said that you briefly hated me because you were reading my story and had missed your stop on the train. Ha ha. Believe it or not, that’s the second time someone has told me that. What authors do you read frequently? Has that happened before with another book?
I read Haruki Murakami, Herman Hesse, Christine Ashworth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Barbara Tuchman, Kurt Vonnegut.
And usually on subways and buses in L.A. I read books that "I should read," such as William Makepeace Thackeray's VANITY FAIR or Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. These usually aren't page turners that take you away completely. Though Brady Udall's THE LONELY POLYGAMIST - which I found laying on a bench at a bus stop and didn't have anything to read, almost did. Very funny book. Yes, I take public transportation when I can in L.A., traffic is astoundingly bad then you have to find parking.
So what’s next for you?
Looking for work, that is what an actor does. Narration wise I'm doing a book on programming in LINUX, a really fun book called DEATH FALCON ZERO vs. THE ZOMBIE SLUG LORDS, and an audition for a Western trilogy.
Where else can people find you online?
Thanks for doing this Thomas.
You’re welcome to come back on the blog anytime.
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