The Office Of Alumni Relations recently interviewed up and coming actor Bryan Mittelstadt '15 about his time at Texas Lutheran University and the path that followed after graduation.
How long have you been acting/performing? What were some of your favorite works growing up?
I didn’t have a linear path to acting but if you ask my family, they claim to have seen it in me since I was a kid. However, my first show was my senior year of high school when I found myself playing Danny Zuko in Grease. I loved it but it was too intense a change of direction and I stopped until college. Even at TLU, I changed majors a solid five times ending with a communications and dramatic media double major and a music minor. Since my time at TLU, some of my favorites have been a small Midwest tour I did out of New York City of a kid’s musical, my recent Volkswagen commercial, The Cherry Orchard, and several other shorts since moving to Los Angeles. As a kid, I was a crazy reader (my punishment growing up was having my books taken away). I did not realize I could be part of those stories until my experience of seeing The Alamo and The Diary of Anne Frank on field trips. I was intensely moved and realized I wanted to pursue acting as a profession.
How did TLU impact your life, and how has it helped shape who you are today? Did it prepare you for graduate school?
The arts and entertainment industry has quite a reputation in the world. Self-indulgence, ego, money, whether this path ‘matters’ in the grand picture are all questions I really had to reckon with (and will continue to do so). However, I owe so much to the grounded direction TLU and my professors in the music, dramatic media, and communications departments gave me. Not only did they work with my crazy schedule, but my time in college was one of self-discovery ranging from politics, sexuality, career, and so much more. It was not always pretty. At some moments, I fear what my life might have been if I had not been so supported by my professors and the TLU community. They cared about analyzing and telling stories that would impact the world. I learned so many skills which helped me so much in classes such as; Media and Pop Culture with Dr. Vrooman, Writing with Prof. Ivey, Film Editing with Prof Legore, Choir with Dr. Boyer… and other professors such as Dr. Bollinger and Dr Johnston, all of which inspired me to learn and succeed. When I went to NYC, their advice kept me grounded in who I was. Even through grad school and working in LA, I frequently reflected on how they ensured I learned to become the best possible version of myself- which was their goal. And when you have that, you are going to do well in any path you choose.
What was life like while you were pursuing acting work in New York City and Los Angeles?
Ha! It is awful. And wonderful. Truly, it is never boring. This is the part that every tv show about actors tries to express, but you really can’t capture the joys, horrors, and beautiful synchronicity that comes with finding acting work. I don’t want to say there’s an obsession but you truly have to find your own motivation and path wherever you go. Again, you can fall into the world in which acting is self-indulgent and egotistical. It is everywhere. Nepotism, selfishness, all of it does exist but you must stay your course. The thing that changed it for me is that I tend to focus on seeking stories that align with my advocacies and goals. That is when this path started feeling sustainable and rich. Oh! And it is always a surprise. I have been so grateful I said yes to a number of projects I just wasn’t sure about. Do it! Taking those chances has brought me the most growth.
Do you have a preferred type of performance that you wish to pursue?
Honestly, I am in the ‘take whatever comes my way’ mode. It is a trying time for everyone. The pandemic caused me to pivot hard after a year of shows and jobs suddenly were cancelled right as I left grad school. When it began, I asked a doctor friend of mine how I could help, could I go work in contact tracing, anything. And he was like, “No, we’ve got this, you go do what you’re good at and tell a story that impacts people.” With that, I wrote, directed, edited, and acted in a radio thriller called Rogue Waves produced with 70 actors around the world. That pivot and acceptance pushed me to pursue something I never even considered.
And when I came to LA, I was only going to stay for a month for a small pilot that was one of the first allowed to film during the COVID-19 era. I loved it. With that job, I decided it was a great time to stay in Los Angeles and focus on acting in film. This year I have worked six commercials and ten shorts. My goal is to work on a series because I love the breadth of character that I would get to explore over a long period of time. All of that to say, I am a firm believer in trusting the synchronicity of the universe or god and that, in accepting what’s given, you might find you’re more powerful than you ever thought.
What advice would you give back to current TLU students about their college experience? What advice about pursuing their dream job?
Do what you want to do. Seriously. Do not always listen to what people say you should do and simply do what you want to. You don’t have to figure it all out either. Experiment, focus, have a good time, and search for what gives you purpose beyond just the day to day. In the wise words of everyone under 30 in 2015, you only live once (cringe). As you pursue your career, make sure you are doing it because you love it and it gives you energy and joy. Sometimes that is by advocacy, sometimes sustainability, sometimes sports, and yes, even money is valid. However, dig deep and pursue your truth. Mine changed many times as I discovered who I was at TLU. Turns out, I have now played a character from every single one of the majors I attempted. I find that pretty cool.