in Lethal Weapon (TV Series)
An Actor’s Advice: “Love and Believe in Yourself”
Michael James Lazar known for his work on Grey’s Anatomy and more had many acting
“firsts” at SBCC
by Ben Crop
You may have seen Michael James Lazar on TV – Grey's Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, The Orville and Criminal Minds (just to name a few). But much of Lazar’s story begins right here at SBCC Theatre.
Lazar came to SBCC in 2005 to peruse his general education degree in Psychology with the idea to transfer to a 4-year college. After getting involved in the Theatre Arts program with director Katie Laris, he found the drive to go straight into the industry. After a littler over a year and a half at SBCC, Lazar moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting as a profession.
Today, SBCC offers an acting certificate program for just this career path – straight to the industry. But at the time, no such option existed. However, Lazar quickly found many learning opportunities at SBCC. “There are so many firsts I had at SBCC,” he said, “I quickly found out that performing can be physically and emotionally demanding during the production of Gunfighter: A Gulf War Chronicle,” directed by Laris. Lazar still uses some of the most important skills he learned at SBCC – time management and preparation. He added, “Both of which are vital in this industry.”
His favorite project at SBCC was playing the lead role of Johann Wilhelm Mobius in The Physicist directed by Katie Laris. He said, “This was my first lead in a production and Katie gave me that opportunity. We had a blast putting that production together!” Beyond opportunity however is the experience and trust he felt in that production with Laris. “What moves me most, is not the play itself but the risk that Katie took in allowing me to play the role that historically was not played by black men,” he said, “I was very grateful that Katie had enough faith in me to give me a shot.”
Sometimes all it takes is one chance and for someone to believe in you. When asked what advice Lazar had for current SBCC acting students, his words were simple but powerful, “Love and believe in yourself 100%; no matter what the situation might look like.” Lazar goes on to describe why this is so important,
“The first person that tried to talk me out of pursuing this as a career was director John Landis (Animal House, Blues Brothers, Coming to America). He literally put his arms around my neck (not really strangling me) jokingly, but in a serious tone, he told me to find something else because ‘this industry sucks.’ After we talked, I realized that his advice was from his own personal experience and that experience was not mine. That encounter further fueled my will to want to be an actor. The journey we take is never a smooth road. There are pile ups, detours or sometimes we just lose our way in the hustle of it all.”
Sometimes all it takes is finding that first place to take a risk and develop your self-confidence. Lazar’s advice is good for any actor wanting to go straight into the entertainment industry; it is not necessarily an easy road to travel. As he reiterated, “It's important to always take care of you first! If you take care of yourself and put yourself first, everything else becomes so clear.”