“If this is what you are called to do then you must do it.”
Victor Verhaeghe is a multifaceted, seasoned actor and writer, having been in NYC for upward of 30 years. His career has spanned over many different artistic disciplines, from self produced musicals to sketch comedy to recurring roles on Network Episodics like Law and Order and Boardwalk Empire. Recently, he appeared on the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nominated Bridge of Spies; at the same time, he was writing, self producing and starring in his own short video series. This wildly talented and extremely diverse actor opens up to NYCastings about his career, including the importance of creating your own work, how to nurture confidence, and getting into acting for- what else?- the girls.
WHEN DID YOU START ACTING?
I started acting in the second grade. I was the Prince in some play and the leading lady was Lee Ann Boyer and she was beautiful and I got so nervous that I got a bloody nose and the director had to make an announcement, “Is there a Doctor in the house?!” And there was and the Doctor came back stage and stuck some tissue up my nose and I went on and was treated like some kind of hero. I liked that.
WHEN DID YOU KNOW THIS MIGHT BE A POTENTIAL CAREER, MORE THAN JUST A HOBBY?
I don’t know if I knew it would be a career, but in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had to take a speech class because it was a requirement; they also offered another class called “Interpretation of Literature-” I took that cause it sounded easier. The class was made up of 11 girls and 3 guys, so that was already pretty good. We had an assignment to recite a poem in front of the class. I memorized a poem by Theodore Roethke called “I knew a woman.” I performed the poem in front of all these girls and they loved me. That’s when I knew I had found something I liked.
WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE ABOUT TRAINING AND WHY?
When I first came to New York, I had three years of theater training at Central Michigan University, so I pretty much knew everything. Little did I know that I actually knew nothing. I was horribly unprepared. I found the Acting Studio where James Price taught the Meisner Technique. That’s where I learned how to act. I also took improv classes and on-camera classes with various people whenever I had enough money to do so.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WORKING IN THEATRE AND FILM/TV?
For me, theater is so much more immediate. I love the audience. I love living in front of people and having a different experience every single performance. I’ve done a lot of live comedy and a lot of plays and nothing compares. Film is exciting in a different way. You’re trying to capture those moments of truth and life in a different space with different rules. I believe acting is acting no matter where you do it, but there are a different set of rules with the camera. You have to live, but you have to be aware of its presence. The theater experience is also very different in that you work with a cast from the beginning to the end of the run. You spend lots of time together, working and talking and getting to know each other. On a film, you sometimes come in for one day and do your scene and never talk to another person except a PA. If you’re fortunate enough to get a good role on a film or a recurring on a TV show, you do get the chance to work with people on another level. That’s a pretty great experience.
HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR CONFIDENCE IN THIS BUSINESS?
I don’t. I go through phases of having absolutely no confidence at all. But I keep going. I go to auditions and I suck, but I pick myself up and get ready for the next one. The best way out of that rut is to write or produce your own work, which I do often. That is the best confidence builder there is. Even if you don’t write, you can take control by finding a script you like or that a friend has written and get together with like minded actors and shoot your own movie or produce your own play. That has a tremendous impact on your confidence. I’ve found it comes and goes and sometimes there is no rational reason for it.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT BEING A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR?
I love getting to act wherever and whenever I can. I love meeting other actors. We are some of the craziest, most sensitive, illogical, fascinating people in the world. I get to play villains and fathers and super-heros and cops and lawyers and cop-doctors and cowboys and so many other beings! I am a child in the best sense of the word! I have been fortunate to work with some of the best actors and directors in the world! I have done awful things for a lot of money and amazing things that I had to pay to be in and I wouldn’t change any of it!
YOU MENTIONED YOU’RE ALSO A WRITER. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT?
I love writing. I love creating material. I started writing depressing, drug-fueled poetry in High School, then started slowly writing characters and stand up when I came to New York. I have written three musicals, two have been produced. I have written many, many, sketches and short plays, and have been a part of many, many sketch groups. I have recently written a series of anti-gun/pro-love videos that I am proud of. Writing my own material keeps me excited about the work and gives me something to do when no one else wants to give me a job.
ANY TIPS FOR MAINTAINING AND NURTURING POSITIVE INDUSTRY RELATIONSHIPS IN THIS BUSINESS?
Be kind to everyone. Ask people out for coffee. People like coffee. Even casting directors. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Things like that.
ANY TIPS FOR ANYONE JUST STARTING OUT IN THIS BUSINESS?
Just find work. Don’t worry about unions or agents or managers or any of that at the beginning, just find work. Do student films, do small plays. Get together with friends and read plays. Stay engaged. If this is what you are called to do then you must do it. Don’t wait for someone to “find” you. You have to be aggressive, but with a heart. Write your own material. If you don’t write, then find material that needs to be done and rent a space and do it. Buy a camera and shoot horrible little scenes. You will slowly get better. You will learn while you are doing. Take a class, find a good teacher and study with them. Learn about other things, like dry-wall or cars or fishing poles. Get involved in your community. Get involved with a cause. Meet people, go out and have fun and get your heart broken and then write about it and then do a one person show where only your mother comes but it doesn’t matter because you’re an artist and you have to do your art.
To catch up with what Victor is doing now, visit: