1979 - Juilliard
After briefly attending Los Angeles Valley College, I left school at the advice of another famous Chatsworth classmate of mine, Val Kilmer. He had auditioned for, and been accepted at, the Drama Division at the Juilliard School in New York City and consequently become one of the youngest students to study there in the school’s history. Val convinced me to audition as well, and when I got accepted, his last two years at Juilliard overlapped with my first two years of training.
The Drama department at Juilliard is a remarkable program through which I was introduced to an entire set of technical skills that I had never had the opportunity to develop before. I particularly enjoyed the Mask Class under the brilliant tutelage of Pierre Lefeve, and learned a lot from the great vocal coaches Edith Skinner and Tim Monich.
Another great teacher I had at Juilliard was Elizabeth Smith. I always presumed she didn't like me because she was so tough on me. I will never forget my audition during which told me that my voice sounded like the ends of a frayed rope. Not exactly high praise, to say the least. Then one day, when we were having an argument in class, growing frustrated I said something along the lines of: "Well, it doesn't even matter because you don’t like me anyway." She immediately roared back: “You big idiot! You think I don't like you because I'm tough on you? Don't you realize that I'm hard on you because I happen to think you are one of the most talented students I've ever seen? But you’re also the laziest!” This was such a humbling revelation for me.
Various people in ones life will drop seeds, and sometimes it takes a while for those seeds to grow. It clearly took a while for me to realize this fact about my acting: “Oh, you mean I really have to work at this? I can't go through my life pretending to work?” I thought it was a pretty good lesson, so, well, I went to work!
During this time period, I continued to perform stand-up comedy in talent contests and at comedy clubs. I also held down three different jobs; in the administration office at Juilliard; at a restaurant; and in a casting agent’s office.