August 16, 2013
LUKE BAYBAK is an L.A. based actor/producer who has appeared on television shows such as "HOUSE," "WITHOUT A TRACE" and "MAD MEN." He co-starred in a short film called "HEAD, HEART and BALLS... or Why I Gave Up Smoking Pot" starring Adam Carolla that was direct by your truly. I recently caught up with Luke at a coffee bar on La Brea to talk about his career and his current projects.
Peter Foldy: Hey, Luke.
Luke Baybak: Hello.
PF: So things seem to be going really well for you at the moment. I'm just curious. When did you first realize you wanted to be an actor."
LB: I think it was actually at two different points in my life. One when I was about six or seven and I fell in love with the idea of becoming something or someone else. It was really fascinating to me at the time.
PF: Play acting?
LB: Not really play acting but being something or someone else for real, to the point where people would think that you were not you. My brother and I would play a game at the airport where we would separate and then run toward each other and embrace as if we were two old friends reuniting again. I would pretend to be, say a Japanese kid, which of course is ridiculous since I am not asian, but I loved imagining other airport goers seeing this epic hundred foot colliding embrace and thinking it was real.
PF: So basically fooling people?
LB: Yeah, kind of.
PF: So when was the second time?
LB: The second time that I thought seriously about acting was when I was a bit older, early teens I guess, and I went out for the school play. They were doing a musical and I hated it. It was like the worst experience ever 'cause I had to act all cheery. Not that I'm not a cheery guy but I was just not into it, so after getting a role I was swiftly fired. But then I auditioned for another play, and I studied the character and put a lot of effort into it, and I remember people looking at me at the audition like, who is this? Who is this person? And I thought that was cool.
PF: So you were once again attracted to the mystery, to the notion of fooling people.
PF: So who were some of your early influences?
LB: It was always changing but I love watching actors like Gary Oldman. It was really cool the way he transformed into characters. I also checked out some of the old time actors like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Brando of course, who I thought were all amazing in there own ways.
PF: What was your first professional job?
LB: It was an AOL commercial with Sting when I was about sixteen.
PF: Sweet! Did you work with him?
LB: No, I didn't get to meet him but he was in the spot so that was kind of exciting.
PF: What else did you worked on when you were first starting out?
LB: I did a hand full of TV spots, some plays, commercials and short films. It was going relatively well but then things started to slow a down a little. I was waiting for shit to happen but it just became increasingly more difficult. The longer I waited around for an audition the harder it became to get them. At that point I took an interest in getting behind the camera, producing, writing and creating my own content, to essentially keep myself going as an actor. Its a that point that I kind of switched gears and widened my career path from actor to actor/film maker. I kind of put myself through film school in a way.
PF: You got spit out?
LB: Partly by choice.
PF: So how do you deal with the disappointments? Like trying to land auditions and the rejection and all that, because knowing you a little bit and having worked with you in the past, I always got the impression that you were pretty low key.
LB: I'd say while maybe I came off as low key I always had an idea of what I wanted to be, of what I wanted to become. But to the outside world that would not have been necessarily obvious, and it still probably isn't.
PF: Yet meeting you now, you tell me you recently did an episode of "Mad Men," you acted in a couple of short films, you co-wrote, directed and acted in your own successful web series and you're about to start producing your first feature. How did you get back into whirlwind again?
LB: I think once I realized that this is what I wanted to do, the notion of failing at it sucked, so I just decided I was going to begin making projects with my friends.
PF: Who's been your biggest motivator so far?
LB: I have a pretty good circle of people who are all working in the business. I have a writer's meeting of five to seven friends every week where we throw out ideas and try and develop them. One of my best buds, MORGAN KRANTZ, and I made a short and are working on his feature. I also work with a group of friends who have a top 100 Youtube Sketch comedy group called "Reckless Tortuga," but just to answer your earlier question, it can be a frustrating game for sure, really disconcerting, and I think in my case I realized that the onus to succeed is on me. That I can't really rely on anyone else. You can build a team but you're the one who has got to push them forward. It also comes down to the fact that we're living in an age where you can create your own movies and try to make things happen on your own, at least to a certain point.
PF: So technology has come along and bit you on the ass and said now you can actually do it yourself.
LB: Yeah. Now it's almost expected that you make your own shit where as before that was never even a concept. Of course the other side of the coin is that everyone in this town is an actor, writer, producer, director...
PF: Is that good or bad?
LB: It's both. On the one hand you learn all facets of the business, behind the camera and in front of it, on the other hand, there's so many people doing it. For me personally, I'm trying to balance where I put my energies, so right now as I am about to start producing a feature, I have to think, do I also want to act in it, or do I just wear a producer's hat and make that work the best it can be.
PF: This weekend you have two short films in the "HOLLY SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL at the Chinese Theater. Tell us about "The Cyclist" a film I had a chance to take a peek at this past week that I thought you were really good in.
LB: Thanks. I read this short story called "The Cyclist". It had a cool and eerie Alfred Hitchcock feel to it, written by a friend of mine named JESSICA LEE GARRISON. I read it, went to Morgan and we decided to adapt it and raised the funding for it through friends and family. Jessica also directed her own short, which I am in as well, playing at Holly Shorts this weekend called "MoonTown."
PF: Nice. You also starred in a play recently called, "Father's at a Game." How was that?
LB: It's a great exercise doing a play. You have no safety net. You go out there and go, okay. Lets see how much of this I can remember and hope there isn't too much I'll forget. Live theater is a real rush.
PF: How would you describe your perfect L.A. weekend?
LB: Starting on Thursday or Friday?
PF: Weekend starts on Saturday morning.
LB: Okay, well on Saturday I would definitely start by getting a coffee. Maybe at Inteligencia or Cafecito in Silver Lake. Love me an iced Americano. Then I would do a little reading or play a round of golf followed by a visit to Wi Spa.
PF: What's that?
LB: It's a Korean spa. Dude you gotta go. Use the steam room and all that. Then I'd maybe hit a happy hour up. Go to a Mexican joint and have a margarita on the rocks with salt. Then at night I might go to dinner, Black Hogg, Esperanza, one of the twenty new restaurant that opens every week in DTLA. On Sunday it could be a friend's pool, a bike ride, or a hike in Griffith Park with my girlfriend and my dog. And then hit up the club and rage all night. Just kidding. I know its hard to tell, but i'm not really the club type. Can we get started on this weekend right now?
PF: So what do you have coming up in the future?
LB: As I mentioned, I'm producing this feature. I think it's going to be awesome and I am really happy to be a part of it. It'll be directed by Morgan. I've also got two more short films coming up of and I will be acting in one of those.
PF: So it seems like more producing that acting for the time being.
LB: Well producing provides a vessel to keep working and collaborating. I'm constantly auditioning and I think my goal is to just try and do it all and see what happens. I wanna be a story teller and not every story will have a role for me.
PF: What advice do you have for somebody just starting out in this business?
LB: I would say decide you wanna be in it for the long haul, work hard, keep going and learn. I am constantly feeling that I need to learn more. That feeling never seems to goes away.
PF: Thanks for chatting, Luke. Good luck at HOLLY SHORTS and with all your projects.
LB: Thank you.