DayTime TV 1975
Looking at life through “rose-colored glasses” is the easiest way to deal with the problems and turmoils most people have to face daily. Taking a good hard look at the reality of life is not always pleasant.
But Tom Berenger, who plays Timmy Siegel on One Life to Live, has a way of looking at things realistically, with a hint of optimism still present.
He knows the life of an actor isn’t always easy, and preparing for the unknown future is a must. Most actors find there are long periods of unemployment when they take odd jobs such as taxicab drivers, waiters, construction workers, etc., and Tom found it necessary to support himself this way also.
Fortunately, Tom hasn’t had to work outside the theatre for the past several years. He has spent most of the past five years as an actor in regional theatre plays, such as A Thurber Carnival, Electra, A Streetcar Named Desire, etc., and the only television experience he had was on a Missouri station, KOMU.
A little over a year ago, when he was visiting his family in his native Chicago, Tom ran into Barbara, whom he had met on the beach on Lake Michigan. They started dating and were happily married last year. They moved to New York together, to help Tom establish his career in the “big city”. Barbara got a job as a secretary in an advertising agency and Tom pounded the pavement looking for jobs.
When going on auditions, Tom doesn’t take the attitude of “I’m sure I got it.” Instead, he goes in, does his best, and continues on to whatever else he has planned for the day. He always seems surprised when he learns he has gotten a job.
“You never get cast exactly the way you think or want to be cast,” he says. “I really don’t know what kind of things I should be doing. You have to take everything in stride. I don’t get overjoyed or depressed about things. My wife gets more excited than I do. I react more indifferently.”
When Tom first went to New York, he expected and planned his acting life to follow a definite pattern.
“I expected to do more plays before TV or movies and didn’t expect something like this to happen so fast,” is the way he is reacting to his overnight job on O.L.T.L.
Tom’s wife and mother were terribly proud of his accomplishment, but Tom himself had a delayed reaction to the news. Now he is plugging away at Timmy Siegel role, learning the techniques of television acting, and trying to fit acting courses into his hectic schedule. He is also studying improvisation and fencing with the Herbert Burghof studio. If he can, he wants to take voice and, as with many actors, wants the opportunity to audition for Uta Hagen’s class at the H.B. studio.
Never one to waste time, if Tom has no steady job, he is right there to join some type of acting class to expand his skills, although he agrees there is nothing like practical experience.
Six feet tall, with a lean, muscular body, light brown hair and clear blue eyes, Tom did not intend to become an actor. “I originally wanted to go into journalism and be a writer.”
But while he was in college, he auditioned for several plays, and being on the stage was more enjoyable than sitting behind a typewriter. “I think my temperament is more an actor’s that a writer’s,” he explains. He has thought about taking up writing again, and has found his improvisation class to be inspiring.
“You have to write from your own life and friends. The improv classes give you a good ear for dialogue. A lot of plays tend to get too wordy. You have to let the actors carry the scenes.”
For now he is content reading the works of great American fiction writers, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, etc., and maybe, the name Tom Berenger will be added to that list some day.
Adjusting to life in New York City wasn’t too hard. Coming from Chicago, he knew what city life was like, but still he is amazed at the variety of lifestyles within a radius of a few blocks.
“I find New York a lot of fun. There are more opportunities here for people in the arts. But I think it is too expensive, overcrowded and a pressure cooker. That’s hard adjusting to; not the pace or pressure, but the overcrowdedness. It seems like people live from day to day, or they are filthy rich. Chicago is a lot different, but I like New York better as an actor.
Tom is preparing for his future. He knows he wants to be an actor, but insecurity, because of rejection, is something he really doesn’t live with. He is much too aware of the pitfalls some actors fall into. With a wife, and sometime in the future, possibly a family to support, Tom hopes to lay the foundations for security now.
“I don’t expect to be rich or famous and I don’t expect to make a living from acting. If I get a chance to work, that is fine and great, and if I don’t, the heck with it!
“If there are no jobs or roles, you go out and get any job.” he says with a determination that lets you know he will never be a starving actor. “If I make a large amount of money early in my career, I’ll find something else to do with it. I’ll invest it,” he continues.
He might like to write again, or even own a bar.
“I might buy some bars in college towns or something. College town bars can be lucrative. I know some people who did it and it was a fun job for them.”
But whatever Tom decides for his future, you know he
has a good head on his shoulders. Everything he does is well
planned. It is doubtful he will ever be flat broke, although being rich is
not one of his goals. And because he doesn’t expect it, he just may become
a big star.
thanks to Leigh and Jean