“If being a working actor in Hollywood were easy, everyone would do it.” A sentence every pursuing actor in Hollywood has either heard before or will hear soon. In fact, the acting career comes with “…significantly higher odds of depression, anxiety and stress than the general population”, University of Sydney research shows. For most, valid research and warnings from loved ones are not enough to deter one from pursuing acting, nor should they be in most cases. However, one should find a way to cope and improve their quality of life while in pursuit, diminishing these effects. For working actor, Blake Webb, one of the keys to combating depression is consistent therapy.
At first, reading a television guest star resume, that includes: Criminal Minds, 13 Reasons Why, NCIS, American Horror Story, The Rookie, SWAT, may seem amazing to you, while the names Alison Brie, Frankie Muniz, Lizzy Kaplan, Carl Weathers, Wes Bentley, and Josh Holloway may ring a bell to you. Webb worked on those shows and with those actors, despite moving to Los Angeles at the age of 30, which is considered by most “too old for a beginning actor.” One thing Blake will tell you is that this didn’t come easily or without a constant battle of self-doubt, comparing oneself with others, victimizing, self-pity and heaps of anxiety. That is, until he found the remedy that worked for him to greatly diminish these negative emotions.
Webb was raised to be conservative in a household of loving parents and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) religion. He tried several sports, got straight A’s, received a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, was awarded the Eagle Scout, and even fulfilled a 2-year service mission in Mexico through his church, from age 19 to 21. On paper, he did everything right and always tried to do what was expected of him. He wanted to be a good man, like his father, but a guilty conscience and perfectionist mentality made it feel overwhelming at times.
In the LDS (Mormon) religion, young men are encouraged to marry young and have children, which required, as Webb perceived, a solid career, such as a lawyer, doctor, dentist, business owner, etc. Webb decided to study business marketing and thought he’d end up being a business-owner, like his dad. After graduating from a church college (BYU), Blake worked in marketing in a few different industries; however, each job ended the same way, with Webb quitting after just over a year and wanting to try a new company. The monotony ate away at him; he felt that even though the money was good, he was wasting his time and talents. He was unmarried, felt frustrated behind a screen, and unable to shake the idea of wanting to be an actor.
One day, Webb had an epiphany, he explains, “I daydreamed that I was at my own funeral, watching my loved ones talk about the life I’d lived. I imagined them mentioning my religious accolades and obedience, my hard work, etc., but at that point in my life, I didn’t feel I’d fulfilled much for myself. I’d made so many decisions for my religion or to make my dad proud and felt that very few of my career choices were my own. I imagined no one at my funeral saying, “ Webb took risks and lived the life he wanted”, which is what I imagined truly wanting to hear. This image stuck in my head, like a scene from a great movie, and I couldn’t shake it. I had to do something about it, so I could be my own man.”
Shortly after, Webb began acting classes in Utah, a small film market. He began booking immediately, and after a couple years decided it was now or never… he had to move Los Angeles or he’d never know if he could truly make this hobby into a career. He quit his comfortable, well-paying 9-5, packed his bags, and as many an actor’s story goes, took his few thousand dollars and went to Hollywood, fully knowing that at age 30, he was against all odds. He also felt the burden on his shoulders of having let down his church and his dad, leaving behind the idea of marrying young and having a more traditional career.
Webb joined every acting class, workshop and networking event he found worthwhile, all while working a new 9-5 for a makeup company. He found an agent and manager, began getting auditions, and thus began his new life. The first year went well, and he booked a few television roles, however, this created the illusion that the booking would continue at this pace, and that it would lead up to the sought after “series regular role. “After several years had passed, and the success wasn’t what Webb wanted, he began to micro-analyze everything. He viewed his headshots, auditions, and even his own face (while looking in the mirror) through a microscopic lens. He battled daily with trying to control the nonsensical aspects of the industry, trying to figure out why he wasn’t chosen. He conjured up his own stories as to why this was happening, and the overanalyzing took its toll; just 4 years after moving to Los Angeles, in 2018, Webb began to experience a deep depression without even fully being aware of it.
His sleep hours began to wane. His gym habits disappeared. He practically stopped eating, having just one meal a day. In fact, the only good habits Blake retained, while depressed, were attending class and going to auditions. Obviously, with low energy and high anxiety, the quality of any performance will suffer. The depression became like a constant loop. The story Blake told himself in his thoughts kept playing on loop, like a broken record, unable to jump from one song to the next. The days became longer and meaningless, and in Webb’s own words “I lost the joy of life. I no longer had a fire, a drive. I felt as if life had become black and white, without purpose. I would wake up, call my dad seeking relief, and while he tried his best to counsel me, it didn’t work; I’d have panic attacks and cry for hours. I didn’t know where to turn and felt helpless. I withdrew almost all contact from friends and socializing, in general.
Fortunately, some friends took notice.” One of those friends was a classmate Webb often helped with auditions. She happened to have a therapist, and one day Blake mustered the courage to ask for a referral. “Asking for a referral was difficult because I’d never done therapy before. I felt so broken that I would have tried anything, outside of drugs. I just wanted relief. I wanted to know that I was wrong about life… that it did have meaning. Asking her for the therapist’s phone number is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”
According to Webb, “my first several sessions, I cried a lot. I talked about my upbringing, how much I loved my family, and how I just wanted to feel a purpose… to feel whole again. My therapist slowly guided me, week after week, into gaining a better understanding of my own mind, how it functions, and why I was causing myself the pain I had. I was victimizing myself. It wasn’t so much my situation, as it was my thinking of my situation, my lack of balance and my expectations that were causing me pain. I’ve now learned that for me, regular therapy, exercise and good habits are everything. If those are in order, I feel peace and can experience joy, regardless of my booking frequency.” Webb found a method that worked for him, and he found it through therapy. Like all good things, they come with time and sacrifice. Webb began therapy once a week in March of 2018, and now, over 4 years later, he continues speaking with his therapist twice a month.
Today, Webb is currently residing in Mexico City, working as an actor in both Mexico City and Los Angeles. Webb said with a smile, “I’m living my best life. Mexico is a country near and dear to me because of my mission here many years ago. I love the culture, food and people. To be working here as a working actor, while still getting acting gigs in Los Angeles, is a dream come true.” He’s already booked four national U.S. commercials while living there, along with having already worked with Mexican stars from the series Narcos, Michael Peña and Tenoch Huerta.
According to Webb, the key to his success is therapy, because without it, he might not be here today. He hopes that anyone who is having thoughts of hopelessness or depression will have the courage to reach out to a friend for a referral, like he was able to, or to go online and look up local therapists. “There’s a lot to live for on the other side of depression, and keeping it at bay is like brushing your teeth… daily effort and therapy will give you the tools for the maintenance.”
Written in partnership with Amir Bakian