In this interview, Ben explains how living in the political Washington DC area actually inspired his acting career, why Netflix is so the place to be, and his advice for creating your own path in Hollywood.
Quick heads up: this interview includes profanity.
How did you start acting?
I was 13 years old, my parents got divorced and the only answer to understanding life was by doing plays at my community theater in Winchester, Virginia. There I got to meet some terrific actors that mostly worked in Washington DC for the Government. Political scene by day, community theater at night. Watching these 50 and 60 year old men and listening to their stories of how they loved acting and having cigarettes on the balcony before showtime made me say, “I want to do this all the time, not just as a hobby.”
What brought you to Los Angeles?
Ever since I did community theater and was failing out of high school because I just wanted to act, I knew I would move here. Three days after graduating high school, I drove across the country...
The life of an actor can be tough. Have you ever felt like giving up acting?
If anyone ever says no to this question they are a damn liar! Almost every other month for the last 12 years I thought I should give up. It took me almost 8 years before I started making a "living" off this. You live very minimal. But you realize when you're tested at the core, you really want to do this, if in fact, you REALLY WANT TO DO THIS! When I think about giving up, I think about the alternatives and I immediately think, “NOPE this is all I want to do!” The hurt is much better than settling for less.
What keeps you motivated to stay the course in a very challenging/competitive industry?
The ONLY two things that keeps me on course is making and creating ALL my own content! Whether it be a feature film, short, web series, sketch, or what have you! Budget, no budget, it's literally the only thing I can control where I get cast, so %#&! the rest!
Tell me about what you’re working on now.
I'm always working on writing a project for myself. I write for me and the people I know and have met along the way. I currently have a feature I co-wrote with actor Daniel Stern that is being pushed towards development. Nothing or everything could happen. But the fact that this is even in the realm of possible existence is because I committed to three years on and off of writing a feature film I thought was original and marketable.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend your time off?
I honestly just enjoy being alone. I love the time in my apartment catching up on cleaning, planning, cooking for the week. I don't like travel, time with outside influence. Because that requires time and money that I don't want to spend. I like just being in my own existence of the reality I've created.
Who/What inspires you?
The future of streaming content that I believe NETFLIX is responsible [for] makes me very excited for a future that is within reach. The fact a schmuck like me can make a movie that streams across the world without being attached to a major studio or production company means the world to me. Also the opportunity of living in LA and getting to put out offers to AMAZING character actors I love and admire to work alongside them in one of my own projects.
What is your dream role?
This may sound crazy and not possible. But to play, The Phantom in Phantom of the Opera. I saw it on the Kennedy Center in DC with a girl I was so in love with for many years. I bawled like a baby. Then I saw the Gerard Butler film interpretation of the character and I wanted nothing else. I can't sing, but %#&! if I'll let that stop me!
Are there other things you enjoy pursuing?
Writing, producing. Only because it allows me to do what I really love, acting. Anything else is a bullshit waste of time excuse to me standing in the way of why I left my family, friends, life I knew, almost 13 years ago.
Do you have any advice to young creative artists beginning their career?
Absolutely. Don't worry about any advice or bullshit someone like me or someone who has it all offers. Create your own path and do what you want! %#&! the assholes who say, "If there's anything else you could do, do that. Because acting is hard." No %#&!! Pursue it anyway and become a great actor and create your own shit and %#&! anyone who tells you otherwise!
Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about?
NEVER NEVER NEVER FORGET, YOU WILL DIE! So give all you got to the thing or things that matter most! Don't live for legacy, or fame! That shit leaves! Ask someone who Janet Leigh or what film won the best Oscar of 1929 (The Grand Hotel) and you'll realize that doesn't last! In 40 years from now, people will ask, "Brad Pitt?" Then a Grandmother ... will explain [the movie] "Seven" and all [Pitt’s other success and that kid won't give a [%#&!] because there [will be] new up and comers or [probably] some type of virtual reality created entity that make these "celebrities" of 2017 as important as Joe Schmo down the street. LIVE FOR YOU!
Ben Solenberger was born in Winchester, VA and moved to Los Angeles in 2005. He has made four indie features, most recently "Guys and Girls Can't Be Friends" which was distributed in all digital media formats in 2015. He is currently producing a web-series "See Ya" that stars Richard Riehle (Office Space, Grounded for Life) William Katt (The Greatest American Hero) and other recognizable faces. You can follow Ben and get updates on his upcoming projects on Facebook at facebook.com/ben.solenberger.