Diary of A Young Pro: Robert Watkins
2) How old are you?
3) What is your job title?
I’m an Actor. I have a few credits here and there, but I’ve probably been most recently spotted in an episode of Extant. My day jobs keeping the lights humming are a Fundraiser for Plan International and a server at Gulp Restaurant and Brew Co.
4) How has the transition been from backpack to briefcase (college to adulthood)?
It’s been an interesting, curvy road. I think it’s been atypical from the average Stanford grad, but the transition has been fun and pretty revelatory. Fresh out, I worked with Dan Klein (Improv professor) on a theater festival in Tallapoosa, Ga. That led me to meet a fellow Stanford grad and acting aspirant, whom I moved to LA with to begin chasing dreams. Mind you, this began with us couch-surfing (or worst when couches were unavailable) while working unpaid internships. So it was definitely a little jaunting from the secure, safety net college life gives you. From there, it’s just been a steady climb of getting more stabilized in LA while building relationships and momentum in this bizarre entertainment world.
5) When you were in school, did you imagine your life the way that it is?
Hell Na! Keeping it 100, I can’t say I had a definitive path in mind while in school (hence my…umm…let’s call them ‘Van Wilder’ years), but I figured I’d end up settling on a more stable career than this. At 22, I probably envisioned myself at 28 being comfortably settled into a career and focused on finding a wife and building a family. Despite having acted since I was a kid, it was always seen as a hobby up until my last couple years of school. I got an opportunity that received some international validation for my craft. That, in turn, opened my mind up to the possibility that I could defy the odds you’re warned about when stepping into the entertainment world and be successful. Up until then, I was dragging my feet toward a career I most likely would have regretted without at least giving all this an honest shot.
6) What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced during these transitional years?
My biggest challenges were probably finding comfort and balance in my version of adulthood. Social comparison is innate, so trading stories of my initial struggling artist lifestyle with the lavish consulting/investment lifestyle of my close friends wasn’t always fun. But people are more complex than their resumes. Some of those same friends were still struggling for an internal contentment in their careers, a contentment I already had just from knowing I was on the right path for me. I appreciated my struggle. Balance was also a bit challenging at first. Between creative endeavors vs. day-jobs, staying up with friends vs. networking, it took a while for me to find my rhythm. Campus life helps you learn how to keep your plates spinning, but those plates seemed a helluva lot closer on-campus.
7) What is the best advice you have received from a mentor about adulthood and/or careers?
We’ve all heard it, but do what you love and success will follow. I’ve gained a lot of insight on how to tackle adulthood through books and interviews with successful people. I was reading “The Alchemist” after a distinct transition in my career and everything just lined up with the messages there. The story is about a young shepherd boy learning about the self-actualizing power of one’s Personal Legend on his way to finding his treasure. I had been working hard for a while and was getting perturbed not seeing forward progress a couple years ago. But within a couple months I saw a crazy fast breakthrough of a lot of good things happening with union eligibility, management/agency representation, affordable studio classes, and a few bookings/credits. And then this story perfectly laid out this idea that when you’re on the path you’re meant to be on (your Personal Legend), working diligently at it, and attuned to opportunities, the seemingly improbable can happen. As the book states, “all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
8) What advice would you give a young professional?
Pursue what makes you happy over what makes you sound happy at a cocktail party. And that’s not to say that profitable careers can’t be one’s passion because I know many people who do have those passions. I also have multiple classmates who did a 180 on their careers a few years after graduating. And most of them had those same passions back in HumBio Core. So I say find a way to pursue (or infuse with your career) that dream, passion, or hobby you’ve had since you were 10. Safety, comfort and predictability can be overrated.
9) What is next for you and the next 12 months? Do you have any goals you would like to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish them?
I’m looking forward to continuing to build momentum and credits in my career. Knocking down auditions and starting to build some of my own content on the side. Tangible goals for the next 12 months would be completing a few drafts of a series I’ve been developing, and then producing it. In addition to that, I’m looking forward to booking more substantial roles and can hopefully make enough in acting alone to solely focus on my creative career within the next 12 months. A lot of elements are in place for these goals, it’s just a matter of focusing and creating the space for myself to excel.
10) What makes you special?
I adapt. It sounds cliche, but I’ve constantly surprised myself by persevering through life situations I would have never predicted! From my ‘Van Wilder’ years of college to the early LA struggle years, I’ve been able to keep things fairly level-headed and moving forward. I’d charge that to my perspective, temperament and the help of a great support system in friends and family. Life is too short to squabble over the setbacks and less-than-ideal situations we get put in. A lot of networking and creative work I did in my latter collegiate years actually set up some major keys to success in LA. The struggles have made the successes thus far that much more sweet.