We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephen Gillikin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephen, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
On a daily scale, my relationship with risk is normally about mitigating it. The easiest way to mitigate risk is with routines. Even simple things like brushing teeth, locking doors, wearing a seat belt, can all be easily performed without much thought as to what they’re actually preventing. My general goal is to try to create a life that can handle risk and/or at least be a person who can.
My larger-scale relationship with risk is much different. I’ve made a lot of personal and professional choices that could certainly be assessed as high risk. However, whether it be something that results in failure or reward, those are both end products. My broad focus is on whatever the process. If you know what you’re doing, and you love it, then do it. It’s not about finding success or failure, it’s about having a purpose and a process in which you can believe.
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’m an improviser and I use my abilities as a Teaching Artist to help others experience and learn improvisation. I can talk about improv details forever and all the ways what I do is different/similar than others. But the key points of difference: I try to take advanced improv I know and make it accessible to new people — I try to create a recreational environment that still has professional quality content — and the focus is that improv is a learnable skill available to any who want to know.
As an actor, an improviser, and a Teaching Artist, I’ve faced a lot of rejection, frustration, self-doubt, all of it. Vital to overcoming challenges (as well as vital to successful improv scenes) is commitment. Whatever you’re doing, commit to it. It can be silly, serious, meaningful and/or arbitrary, but whatever you do, commit to it.
I want the world to know that they’re capable. If the world doesn’t give you what you want, give the world something. If you don’t like the dark, become a light.
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?
I love Griffith Park, and it’s not lost on me how lucky we are to have that kind of nature available in the middle of our metro. I’m not a particularly huge baseball fan, but I enjoy Dodgers night games, and Dodgers Stadium will now always remind me of the tests and vaccinations I received there when my city came together to battle the pandemic in 2020. Regardless of destination, I like taking myself and others on the public train. Public transportation is more available in LA than some realize, and I can think of no better way to experience the city and its people by being there on the ground level.
A lot of great museums to mention too, but I certainly have to mention the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I would suggest anyone go check that place out and enjoy a cookie on the top floor.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are legitimately too many people I need to mention. But I will give a special shoutout to Hillary Cohen. Outside of my creative work, I also do work with Hillary and her nonprofit, Every Day Action. Hillary was a colleague of mine years ago on the set of TV show where we worked. When this past year seemed its darkest, Hillary was the one shining light of positive action that came across my social media feed. In a pandemic, she started a company that picks up unused food from film sets and redistributes it to those who are hungry. She is responsible for 10s of thousands (if not 100s of thousands at this point) meals making it to those in need throughout LA.
I can’t depict enough how much of an inspiration she is to me and how jaw-droppingly great of a hero she is.