Chicago native Jonathan Sadowski recently attended the premiere for his first movie, "She's the Man," and his reactions are pretty much what yours would be if you were a young actor who came to L.A. with nothing but $300 in your pocket and a dream.
"It's insane when you realize groups of people know who you are," he says. "They're not friends of yours or acquaintances, but everyone knows your name and knows who you are. Signing T-shirts and autographs, it was completely surreal."
In the film, a modern take on Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," Sadowski, 26, appears as Paul, the best friend of cross-dressing heroine Viola (Amanda Bynes).
Sadowski, a former athlete at Mt. Carmel High School and graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's theater department, spent three years in L.A. before landing his first TV role, a minor part on "Navy: NCIS." In the meantime, he worked as a waiter, bartender and even a chauffeur for teenage models.
"I was so broke, I didn't even have car insurance at the time," he says. "My mom was forging my car insurance so I could get this job. I was like, 'I am so going to jail.' You do what you gotta do."
It didn't take long for Sadowski to see just how many people in Hollywood are trying to make it as actors. "It would be like saying, 'How many businessmen are in Chicago?' Multiply it by two, and then picture them all going for the same role you want," he says.
"It's 'no' after 'no' after 'no' after 'no,' and you come so close again, and it's between you and another guy and it's 'no', and it's being knocked down and picking yourself back up and staying in the game. The biggest joy comes from that one time the casting director says 'yes.'"
Even then, Sadowski says, you still have to work jobs on the side to make ends meet.
"When I was on 'American Dreams,' I was still bartending," he says. "Every Sunday night it came on, I was bartending in downtown L.A., and my manager and agent would come in and watch the TV. You'd get these drunk guys that are like: 'Oh, let me guess; you're gonna be an actor, huh? Good luck, buddy!' They want to knock you down so badly, and I'm like, 'Idiot, look to your left; I'm on the screen!'"
Today, he's sold a screenplay (titled "This Bill Smith") and looking to make the most of his exposure in "She's the Man." And he encourages other aspiring thespians to evaluate their goals and take a chance.
"If you do anything on a whim, chances are it's not what you're supposed to do. I would never just walk into a hospital and say I wanted to be a doctor. But if it's what you want to do, go in 100 percent and don't look back."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times