We had the good fortune of connecting with Sean Gunnell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sean, what do you attribute your success to?
The most important factor behind my success is gracefully staying in my authentic lane. Pursuing a professional acting career in Los Angeles has been the Mount Everest of my life thus far, and the fact that it has been both exhilarating peaks and exhausting valleys is just how I would want it to be. Since arriving in town back in July 2014, I have practiced daily and wholeheartedly embraced the lifestyle of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable: patiently building my career without needless stress or rushing myself, working side hustles I thoroughly enjoy as I enhance my craft, and trusting the natural process as I forge my dreams into reality. In LA, we have all heard countless tales about the correct paths and specific ingredients to achieve success, questioned our dreams amidst a tough professional landscape that’s ever changing and shifting, and witnessed the rises and falls of the talented peers in our lives, therefore all I can say is this: simply be and do you. There are no clear cut absolutes or certainties, but rather possibilities and opportunities, the people who are meant to be in our corners and vice versa, and the adventures that manifest out of talent, hard work, and integrity. As long as we continue to be true to ourselves and our artistic passions, I believe we will always succeed, thrive, and soar.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I feel that pursuing anything meaningful and special will never be easy, and becoming a consistently working actor in the entertainment industry is no different. I believe that, if you want your dreams to come true, you have to earn your stripes through struggle, discipline, madness, and joy, otherwise the rewards will feel more hollow than cathartic. In my own pursuits, I have done fairly well for myself in eight years, and have gotten to where I am today thanks to submission platforms, industry connections made, and through word of mouth, all done without an agent or manager. To anyone who has had trouble securing representation, I know this game pretty well. My first time around, I was very green, shot too close to the sun seeking a top tier agent, and heard nothing back, which brings me to a lesson I wish to share after my latest batch of submissions: do your research on the companies and talent reps you’re interested in, shoot for a tier realistic to your current standing, and let your cover letter be simple in both its professionalism and unique reflection of you. Even without representation, I have found and gained great value and insight being my own team: I know where my value lies as an artist, I work hard and represent myself clearly and with great distinction, and if auditions/callbacks bear no fruit, I waste no time and immediately move forward with renewed motivation and vitality. Sure, this path has been difficult, but it has gifted me principal roles in two mainstream TV movies, a few indie feature films, two dozen shorts, five theatre productions, one music video, a handful of industrials, a multitude of various media projects, and a USC educational program. These endeavors are all reminders that what is meant for us will always reveal itself, and living our passions honestly is worth anything and everything.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Good question! The last time my best friend, Sam, visited me in Southern California, we spent a few days of quality time hiking, bouldering, and camping in Joshua Tree National Park. Him being big on the outdoors, if he were to visit me again for one week’s time, I would take us sunrise hiking in the mountains closest to Hollywood, as well as doing a road trip to the Dana Point/San Clemente area for some surfing and boogie boarding. When it comes to getting up to some fun in and around where I live, I’d have us frequenting some local coffee and chocolate establishments (since those are two of Sam’s favorites), backyard BBQing with my cousins and some mutual friends from the San Francisco Bay Area, tavern drinking as he tells me about European living with his wife, Colleen, and grubbing on Thai food while nostalgically watching “Anchorman,” “The Matrix,” “The Dark Knight,” “Casino Royale,” and “Surf Ninjas,” ALL at once haha. Sam can also be business oriented while on vacation, so if he needed to do graphic design work from my residence, desired to check out some local screen-printing shops (he used to own and operate two menswear businesses), and wanted to browse bookstores for architecture, all of that would be A-okay by me. Whatever we do together, whether it’s outdoor fun or low-key downtime, I always enjoy myself. Since day one, Sam has been one of my greatest teachers when it comes to harmonizing life, maintaining a calm and peaceful mindset at all times, being comfortable and confident in my skin, and not sweating the little things, and I love him to death for all of the laughs, adventures, wisdom shared, and exemplifying what it truly means to be a best friend.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give shoutouts to Diane Baker and Troy Gabaldon. Diane is my mentor, the former head/founder of the Academy of Art University’s acting department (where I trained and received my BFA), a legendary actor and producer in Hollywood, and a dear friend. She took me under her wing since day one of my undergrad training, please correct it to this: She took me under her wing since the beginning of my undergrad training, pushed and encouraged me to unleash all of my spirit into every single one of my performances, please correct it to this: push and encouraged me to unleash all of my spirit into every single performance of mine, and has been one of my main rocks of support as I traverse the plains of LA. She sees everyone for who they are, consistently guides others towards fearlessness and discovery, and holds everyone to their highest standards in seeing their goals come to fruition; you are a treasure, Diane, and my life is richer because of your sheer will and sterling presence! Troy is an independent filmmaker I have been working with since 2015, and he is a brother to me in art and life. We have worked together on nearly a dozen productions, the most prominent and successful being the crime/thriller short film “Collar,” which has been selected by over 150 film festivals worldwide, and has netted us a large handful of awards each. Troy puts great care into every aspect of his storytelling, his dark humor pretty much aligns with my own (especially when talking about movies and shows), and, professionally speaking, we have a few feature films and shorts coming down the pike that are in need of shooting, so do what you gotta do to launch us into principal photography, good sir, and thank you so much for all of the cinematic gifts so far!
Other: IMDb: www.imdb.com/name/nm4576084/
Main Personal Photo: Theatrical Headshot. Image Credit @Spencer Selover Image 1: Headshot Collage (4 Looks). Image Credit @Spencer Selover Image 2: “Dangerous Medicine” (TV Movie), Cinematography Credit @Joseph M. Setele. “Black Harvest” (Short Film), Cinematography Credit @Kip Knight Image 3: 6 Film Posters. No Image Credits Available Image 4: “Collar” (Short Film), Poster with Laurels, and an Action Still. Cinematography Credit @Ray Karwel Image 5: Ellis and Indigo (5 Photos). Image Credits: Left Photo @Elizabeth Verschueren, Top, Right, and Bottom Photos @Kara Michelle, and Center Photo @Lauren Heath Image 6: Behind the Scenes (4 Photos). Image Credits: #1. Top Left – “Dangerous Medicine” (TV Movie), @Doug Campbell (Director). #2. Top Right – “Collar” (Short Film), @Janeen Berryman (Still Photographer). #3. Bottom Right – “Laugh Now, Cry Later” (Feature Film), No Image Credit Available. And #4. Bottom Left – “A Conversation” (Short Film), @Kelsey Dougherty (Writer/Producer/Actor/Editor) Image 7: LA Socials (Blue Suit, Sunglasses, and Cocktail). Image Credit @Sky and Reef Photography