Tamas Menyhart is a good friend of mine since we both used to live back in Cleveland, Ohio. He and I have even had the pleasure to work together on several projects, including “The Emblem.” He’s been living in Los Angeles for quite some time, and has gained considerable experience for us to ask him about life out there. While he’s walking on the beach, we had the chance to ask him some questions, and here they are.
Q: Hi Tamas, where do you come from? Tell us a bit about yourself.
A: I was born in Budapest, Hungary. My father was a professional soccer player, goal keeper. He traveled a lot, and that’s how I ended up in Belgium. I was 5 when we arrived in Belgium. My parents spoke to me in Hungarian, so I speak French, Hungarian and of course, English. I used to live close to the French border. Belgium is split up in two. Half French, half Dutch. In Brussels they speak Dutch, and by Luxemburg, they speak mostly German. Later we moved to Brussels.
Q: How did the acting bug catch you? Why did you want to become and actor?
When I was 9 years old, I thought about doing tennis, and I was talented enough to end up going to the Bollettieri Academy in Belgium in Charleoi. They wrote an article on me. The Bollettieri had another Academy in Florida. They’re the ones who created Pete Sampras, Andre Agasi, and all these other big tennis stars. They invited me. The second time I went back there with my dad, they wanted us to sing a contract with them to make me a tennis star. I was 10 at the time. I was scared, and my dad still had his professional contract and obligations in Europe, so I quit the tennis career. Too much pressure for me.
A few months later, we were invited to my parent’s friends house who rented lots of movies. One of them as Bloodsport with Jean Clause Van Damme. I never heard of him until then. I was impressed. Watching him do all those things motivated me to do the same. The very next day I was looking for martial arts schools. I was 11 years old. I did some kick boxing and mui thai. I taught myself how to kick and do the splits by watching movies. Of course, I was also attending martial arts schools. I ended up competing with the pros at those schools. I would spend hours on end in my attic training. I made my own training area. My parents never knew what I was doing.
Then, I found out that Van Damme was from Belgium, so it even motivated me even more. When the teachers would ask me what I’d want to do when I grow up, I never said I would like to become something. I simply told them that I will become an international movie star. This was my answer for over 6 years.
At the age of 18, I moved to the States. I wanted to be something spcial, like Van Damme was in his days. I wanted to become an icon. Something someone can look up to. Back in the days we had Arnold, Segal, Van Damme, all these inspiring people. I want to bring that back. I want to motivate and inspire.
Q: Do you like it?
A: I love it! I love the experience. I love the “Lights, camera, action!” Speaking of which, I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it. That’s how much I love it. I get to travel a lot because of it too. I get to meet people, cultures. It’s very inspiring. I would still like to become a world champion in martial arts if I can one day, but until then, I’just like to showcase real martial arts in movies.
I started in the acting career in Cleveland. I took a whole bunch of acting classes. I also did some modeling classes. I was just auditioning for this modeling agency, and ended up booking a job. In L.A. they wanted me to lose my muscles and become a toothpic in order to model. I went to IMTA in L.A. a while back, and got good feedback. Unfortunately, I was involved with a film back in Cleveland, “Greater Threat.” After I finished the film I got myself a new car, and moved out.
Q: Was the move to Los Angeles a difficult one? How long have you been in L.A. so far? Do you like it out there?
A: I was promised a place to stay when I moved out to L.A. When I got there, there was no place and I was almost homeless. I stayed with friends. One night here, one night there, a couple of days in my car, and I did this for about half a year. I was able to save some money and get myself an apartment. If I had the choice, I would do it all over again. Even if it meant living on fast food for half of a year. One gallon of milk a day is plenty of protein. Plus, the empty jug comes in handy when you have to “go.” I was constantly awakened by traffic cops, so that was my 6 in the morning alarm.
I showered at a the gym where I would train 6 days a week. I had three jobs. I would make enough money to support my lifestyle at the moment, and save enough for an apartment. That’s the way I started acting in L.A. It was a challenge. A real test of survival.
I’ve been in L.A. for four years, one year of bootcamp included. At the moment, I like it a lot! I travel all the time doing catering gigs. Going to celebrities’ houses. I’ve met Ricky Martin, Demi Moore, it’s really a matter of who you don’t meet out here. Arnold Scwartzenneger, Client Eastwood, and the list goes on. Now I feel really good. I’ve been cast in this film, “A fighting Chance”, and during pre-production, I’ve also become part producer.
I’ve become good friends with the director, and he claims that the only reason the project is still going to happen 4 years after casting, is because of my faith. I never gave up on him, he never gave up on me. We help each other out like that.
Q: What shows or films have you been in? Can you give us a few details?
A: I was already in a few films back in Cleveland. Independent movies mostly. In L.A. I switched agencies several times, so I had the oportunity to be on several shows. Little by little, I started doing more serious, profesional things. Also, on IMDb.com, you can see my entire career. Recently,
I’ve been in “The Mentallist”. It was a very nice part. I was also on the set of “8 Million Dollars.”
Experiences are plenty. I did a part for Discovery Channel. Very first thing I did out in L.A.
Q: What are some differences between between amateur independent productions from Cleveland, and pro independent productions in L.A.?
A: Here, you go on set, and eveything is about the business. They don’t lose time, or money, and they calculate everything by the second. Tight schedules. On set, every day, they had a guy for me to help me read my lines, they email you any possible changes that may happen the next day, they bring it to your trailer, they really pamper you. The other difference is that you’re around famous people. The quality is very different. No HD here. Real film is used. They have 5 or 6 cameras running at once sometimes. They have a huge crew. A hundred people running around, building things right in front of you. It’s very busy.
There are agents, casting is a daily routine, it’s a job out here. Everything happens really fast.
Q: Is it exciting when you show up on set?
A: I feel great! I feel like, finally, all this stuff you’ve gone through, and now you get a small taste of what you can be when you really make it. How great does it feel that you hang out with all these famous stars? Especially when Simon Baker gives you a big hug at the end of production. When you finally end up on set, you understand why it’s such a tough business to get into, you really appreciate it.
Q: Have you met anyone interesting on set?
A: Like I said earlier, who haven’t I met? The whole cast of “The Mentallist”, Christina Applegate, Hugh Jackman, Chevy Chase, Arnold, Dolph Lundgren who by the way, invited me to do some kick boxing when I was working at his place, Raquel Welch, Gabrielle Fitzpatrick who is now a good friend of mine, I’ve trained her, and many other. Last week at the SAG awards, I was hanging out the whole night with Julia Stiles. She’s such a nice girl. I’ve met the guy who plays Dexter, Michael C. Hall, Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, DiCaprio, Natalie Portman, Mark Wahlberg, Steven Spilberg, James Camreon, Copola, Tom Hanks at least 10 times, Jay Leno, Hillary Swank, and many more. When you’re on the lot, you meet a lot of people. Since also doing promotional shows, catering, award shows, I’ve pretty much ran into everyone.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring actors that you’d like to share?
A: Take acting classes. Learn at least the basics. Don’t make a career out of taking acting classes though. It’s always the same after the basics. Once you have the basics, get out there and work. That’s what gives you the experience and knowlege. You keep learning on set. Get friends to make you headshots. They’re expensive.
It’s always good to start small and get comfortable in front of the camera. When it comes to the professional world, have a demo reel ready. No one wants to hear you talk, show them something. Get involved in as many independent films as you can before you come to L.A. Get involved with student films. Some of them end up in festivals. Get on screen, get an agent. Get an agent that works for you. Call them, they won’t call you. Get to know people. Network. It’s who you know.
Be persistent. Stay the course. Crystalize that thgout of achievement. Never give up. Never lose faith. That will just bring you negative energy. Draw this path that you want to take. Even detours are expected on your path, but you always come back on the path. None of the things I’ve been through equal to what actually happen, but I always stuck to the path. Some people aren’t made for this path. Some people lose focus. Many times it’s survival. It’s something you have to do.
You don’t have time to go out, hang out with friends, drink, socialize. Your job is to go to auditions, network, sleep, work, pay your bills, hit the gym, acting classes, otherwise you’re in the wrong business. I stuck with the same thing since the age of 11. I have dedication. I’m sticking to the path.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to ad?
A: Stay humble, yet proud, and don’t hang out with the wrong crowd. It’s very easy to get lost. Only when you go through it you know what it’s like. No one can tell you what it’s like. It feels good to talk about it. It feels good to know why I’m doing this.
That’s a lot of good advice. Thanks Tamas for your time. It’s definitely a different look on making it out there. We’re looking forward to see more of you on the big screen soon.