-by Joshua Scantland
I am where I am today because of two things: I insisted on taking the road less traveled and I am consistently surrounded by exceptionally supportive people. I came from a place where we didn’t have much and the plan for my life was to be a laborer like my father and his father before him.
By the encouragement of very supportive friends and teachers, I decided that I wanted to do something different; it wasn’t an easy path or decision to make, but I took it. I took the more challenging road. I became one of the first in my family to go to college and eventually became the first doctor in my family. Each step of the way, I had people that believed in me and gave me a chance.
How did I become an actor? Oh, right. Well, when you forge uncharted roads, you tend to take detours. I spent much of my life trying to figure out what I wanted to do, so I spent a lot of time trying everything. I’m not even going to try to list them all here, but I had a great time with it all. Now, I constantly find ways to do as much as I can, because this is now who I am. After much searching, I finally found medicine and absolutely fell in love with it. I’m drawn to hybrids, and medicine is a hybrid of many things, much like acting.
As the scientist in me grew, so did the artist. Long before I loved science, I loved the arts—literature, music, film, and performing arts. If medicine is my passion, acting was my first love. I was a shy child who somehow found comfort in being the class clown—always getting myself into trouble.
In high school, teachers encouraged me to take theatre classes to channel my young energy. So I did, thinking it was going to be an easy pass. Little did I know how much I would love it—it had become a catharsis for someone like me.
The theatre director at my school recognized my passion and encouraged me to try out for school plays. I’m so glad that he did, because it set so many things into motion for me. I was shocked with how comfortable I felt on stage, being a shy kid and all.
Since that time, I’ve continued acting minimally during college and medical school. However, I stepped away from it to focus on school, research, and work. Eventually, I’d begin to feel like an unfinished novel; I was proud of what I had, but there was more to be done. I had to return to my essence.
I decided, despite my own personal hesitations, to silently pick up acting again. I never truly stopped acting, but a part of me had let it go long ago when the tunnel-vision of academia superseded everything. I was worried that colleagues and family would disapprove, so I kept it a secret; none-the-less, I had come back onto the scene with more determination than ever before. I was going to give it everything I had!
I was scared. There were so many thoughts that were a barrier for me. What if I had to choose between the two lives? What if I took a bigger bite than I could handle? What if I fail? But, I decided to proceed despite those thoughts.
With determination, I took acting classes, recorded myself acting, and then put myself out there—hustling to find work despite working 60-80 hours a week. I was told the process would be hard, there’s no lie in that, but I was never told how amazingly supportive people would be. I didn’t have to look very far before I found a gold mine in the Midwest, with exceptional talented people who are consistently willing to help one another. It’s been such a blast.
Since taking that first step, I’ve accomplished much to be proud of. I landed talent agents with offices in Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Louisville—and they believed in me!
This past year, I got to act for up-and-coming directors from Los Angeles, be on set with Jesse Plemmons, auditioned for roles in big films such as “Cherry” (almost got to work with Tom Holland!), co-star in an independent feature film, and lots of opportunities to support local artists with my talents. I couldn’t ask for more.
Some of these opportunities were obtained by my agent, but much of it I sought out on my own. Someone may say, “Audition? That’s not an accomplishment.” It certainly can be, simply because that means you made the cut somewhere so that the director is willing to look at you while you talk, and as an actor, you have to learn to relish in that moment.
One of the first questions I get is, “How do you make time for it all?” It’s always the same answer…exceptional time management and self-discipline. I would give my evenings, nights, weekends, and vacation time just to have the opportunity to act.
Some of those projects were low budget productions, so it would virtually be volunteer work, all in the hope of creating something impactful. There were times where I would be “on set” for many hours in between work shifts—I would work 12 nighttime hours before going on set for 12 hours just to get back to being on call for another 12 hours. This is the level of dedication it takes to make it work.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always like this, but I’ve had to get creative with how I manage my schedule. And when I get on set, I try to be the hardest working and most punctual person there, I come well prepared and I am always kind and courteous to the other cast and crew, because I know how hard they are working on their grind. I respect their dedication and I want to honor that.
Not everyone has this level of discipline, and that’s okay, but I think it’s important to have if you want to master any craft. I think I developed this sort of discipline from my military experiences and being the first in my family to go to college—this forced important habits at a young age. Not everyone needs these types of experiences to find discipline, but I was a reckless kid, so I needed the structure.
It didn’t take long before my efforts were being rewarded—with more work. For a working actor, “more work” is worth more than gold. I kept finding work because someone else remembered me from a different job. Whether it was me being easy to work with on set, the level of dedication I had in the craft, or because I went the extra mile for people—associates kept recommending me.
So, how do I make it possible? Well, I truly don’t, but the teamwork aspect does. Cheesy, I know, but there’s truth in it. Every aspiring actor or medical student who asks for advice, I always tell them that you can never go wrong by putting people first.
When you go around seeking to be generous, people see that and give it back threefold. But you can’t anticipate getting something in return, because not everyone will and people know when you’re doing it for repayment. You have to do it because you want good things to happen to good people.
The New Year has just begun, and I already have seven projects lined up. This speaks for the potential that other people see in me and I am motivated by it. I work because they believe in me, and in turn, I believe in others.
Whether it was a poor kid trying to break the mold by getting into medical school or getting to audition for big names, someone gave me a chance! I wouldn’t be where I am today if someone didn’t give me a chance to show myself. I carry that with me every day, and I use that when we are selecting physician residents entering our program or when someone wants me to work with them on set.
Because I’m in medicine, the next question I usually get is, “Where do you go from here? Do you plan on leaving medicine, do you want to be in Hollywood?” Well, the honest answer is, I hope to foster a growth within both and find a way for my lives as a clinician and actor to co-exist.
It sounds silly, but I was partly inspired by Nike’s campaign “Are your dreams crazy enough?” Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy, ask if they’re crazy enough. I legitimately started to ask myself, “Are my dreams crazy enough?” When I realized the answer was “no,” I decided to take up acting again with more sincerity than ever before, despite being very busy already! It brings balance to my life.
I wanted be sure I was fulfilling my craziest and wildest dreams. I want to be in Hollywood, but still have a place in medicine. Is that possible? I don’t know, but I won’t know until I found out.
But I believe that I can because I have seen how generous people can be.
For more information on Joshua Scantland, click here.