Chris O'Brien - Web, Film, TV, and Stage Actor - AMA!

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #1


I’m Chris O’Brien! I’m an actor with almost 15 years experience, working in almost every possible medium. If you live in Southern California, you may have seen me in the “Random Acts of Helpfulness” Honda commercials. I’ve also done a national Dunkin’ Donuts commercial and I currently have a Sprint commercial airing nation-wide.

In Film, I’ve appeared as Mark in Found Footage 3D which is currently finishing up a tour of film festivals and will see distribution in the coming months. I played Ronald in the FOX Digital studio film Tenured, and I’ve also had a couple roles on TV, most notably on FOX’s Rosewood.

Though my roots are in theatre (I performed in over 30 productions in four year in college), I also have developed a ton of experience by working on web / new media projects, such as Classic Alice, Ride With Me, CSU: Crime Stoppers Unit, Barely Pet Parents (co-starring with Colleen Ballinger), Not a Plan, Rom(dot)Com (by Cracked), and the upcoming series Bunkheads!

I can give tips and insight about all these different mediums - and every part of the process from fund-raising to post-production, but most of my knowledge and experience is as a performer, so my most valuable thoughts will come from that point of view.

I’m really excited to be on Stareable today and happy to share my perspective as an actor when it comes to indie and low-budget filmmaking! Ask away!

We've got an AMA for that!
(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #2

(Bri Castellini) #3

HEY CHRIS! First question is a basic one- When did you know you wanted to be an actor?

(Sunny Larkson) #4

omg I loved Classic Alice!!! You were so mean on that show (spoilers, I guess??) but you seem really really cool and nice in real life!! How do you prepare for roles like that, that are so different from your normal self?

(Meg Carroway) #5

Wow, you’ve done so much! I saw you in the Bunkheads IndieGoGo video that was in one of the weekend pitch competitions a few weeks back- that looks really cool. On that subject, what is a crowdfunding campaign like from the perspective of an attached actor who isn’t necesarilly a producer/creator?

(Jules Pigott) #6

Hi Chris! I’ve made a lot of vlog-style series, and I was wondering, from the actor’s perspective, is it easier to do vlog-style or traditional?

(Kate Hackett) #7

Glad you loved it, Sunny!! <3 He’s also in Not a Plan, which is airing now on YT/Funny or Die/soon to be on Amazon!

(Kate Hackett) #8

ps hi chris. miss ur face.

(Sunny Larkson) #9

OH YEAH! I saw you tweet about that but haven’t watched it… I will right after this AMA! Anything with you guys in it will be watched by me eventually :slight_smile:

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #10

Hey! Thanks for the question - woo first!!

It’s tough to say, actually. My path as an actor has been an odd one where at multiple points, I really thought I was done and wouldn’t pursue it any further. This happened after my first play in high school, after I graduated, after my first play outside of school, after my first college production, and after college.

I think I knew I wanted to pursue it really early on, but didn’t really know how or what that would look like. Once I was out of school and (very unhappy) working a fairly conventional day job, I realize that acting was the only thing I ever really loved even when it was hard, even when I knew I was bad at it, even when it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress - I still wanted to keep working at it and keep going. I still loved doing it. I guess I realized it’s my one real passion, though writing is a close second.

So, a little over five years ago, I moved across the country and committed to making it my full time job and my career.

(Bri Castellini) #11

Awesome! I had a similar experience with writing. Follow up to this, then- How did you get involved in web series? And, I guess in more specific terms, how did you get involved with Classic Alice and, most recently, Bunkheads? (ps hi Kate)

(Ollie R) #12

Think I might be the only dude here so far lmao. What’s up, Chris?! Congrats on, like, your whole deal! Other than budget, what’s different about working on a web series versus a traditional commercial or television show?

(Bri Castellini) #13

Question for Chris: what is it REALLY like working for Kate? You can be honest with us :wink:

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #14

Hi! I’m so glad you liked Classic Alice and liked my work on the show!! It was really fun for me and I enjoyed playing the character.

I definitely don’t have a ton of personality traits in common with a character like Ewan. But we do have a fair amount of interests in common and I think I brought more of myself to that role than a lot of CA fans realized! Some of the nerdier bits were things I improvised, or embellished on what was already written. For example, that little polyhedral dice chest I pull out and show off in Ewan’s first appearance is actually mine. I painted it when I was 14 or something.

Really, I prepare for most roles the same way. Each role will have different challenges I might need to focus on, but I always do the basics first - learn the lines, analyze the script, research the things I’m unfamiliar with, and then start breaking down my scenes and figuring out what my unique take on it is - where I relate and where I don’t. A lot of the character work I do happens while I’m memorizing and rehearsing my lines. While I do that, I try to play as much as possible and experiment with different ways to do a scene.

The challenges of playing Ewan were less about the fact that he was a jerk (and that’s a gross understatement) or that he wasn’t like me in a lot of ways and more about trying to think about how to make his transition as realistic as possible. I don’t know that I always succeeded there, at least in the middle, but I’m definitely really happy with where I started with Ewan and where I ended up once he’s in his final form as a character!

Personally, I find it much easier to play characters that are very unlike me. I think it’s more challenging to play a character that’s really similar to myself because it’s easy to get complacent and forget that there’s still lots of work to do.

When I’m playing a huge, unabashed asshole for example, it’s easier to stay on top of it and keep my performance responsibilities in the conscious part of my mind. Plus it’s just fun to play around, like being a kid and pretending to be a superhero or cartoon character.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #15


I’m glad you’re looking forward to Bunkheads - I am too!

Being an attached actor who is part of a crowdfunding campaign can be stressful. If I’m being very honest, I really don’t like doing crowdfunding and I don’t really have a lot of generally positive things to say about it, but I don’t know if I can break that down without looking like I’m criticizing producers / projects who’ve needed to run campaigns to get a project off the ground. I’m not and wouldn’t criticise any creator for doing that - it’s hard to get money together to make projects and sometimes crowdfunding is the only realistic option. I respect the difficult choice to do it through crowdfunding.

I’ve been really happy to be part of those projects and very happy to help those campaigns in any way I could. That said, they’re really exhausting for everyone on the production side I know most (if not all) of them wish they didn’t have to do it that way.

I will say this: if you plan on crowdfunding in the future, do not go into it relying on your actors to provide all of the promotion and generate all of the contributions through their networks. In all likelihood, their social circle and family has already been tapped more than once. Even if they have a large social media following, putting that kind of pressure on an actor is unfair and unrealistic.

Don't Do This Ever (Low/No Budget Producing)
(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #16


It depends on the actor. There are challenges and benefits to both. I think vlog style is harder for many actors - especially those who don’t have backgrounds in stage / theatre and live performance, because it tends to require the ability to perform long takes without cutting and perform them well. A not small portion of actors who do on-camera work are not used to that.

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #17


(Bri Castellini) #18

This answer actually brings up another question I wanted to ask you today! What’s your opinion about acting contracts with social media requirements? To ensure you post about the show when it airs/ post a certain amount of times. And do you suggest showrunners require this? We’ve had mixed feelings from showrunners AND actors in the past regarding this issue.

(Hailey Harper) #19

I thought I was gonna have to miss out on this today, but I got away just in time!! Heyyy Chris!
What does your ideal indie set look like, as an actor? Given that it’s low/no-budget, for sure. Not like a Duplass-brother set haha

(Chris O'Brien 🤖) #20

There’s really only three ways to get involved with any webseries - and it’s the same for acting in basically anything. You either make it yourself, you’re friends with someone who is making something and you make it with them or they offer you a role, or you audition.

After some mutuals on social media harassed Kate (not at my request at all), she agreed to meet up with me for the role of Ewan and then look at an audition from me. I actually sent her self-taped auditions from Texas because I was on set for Found Footage 3D at the time. So I auditioned and I got the part!

Same for Bunkheads. I just auditioned the way I would anything else!