Only the serious need apply

Bill Howey takes a no-nonsense approach in his acting classes at his studio in Burbank. His classes are for serious students, he said, and he personalizes the experience, challenges them and gives them honest feedback.

It must be the secret to his success because his son, Steve Howey, his daughter-in-law Sarah Shahi and Steve’s best friend Kevin Christy are all his students and all working actors.

Steve Howey worked from 2001 to 2007 as Van on the sitcom “Reba,” and now he’s on Showtime’s “Shameless.”

Shahi is the lead actor in the USA show “Fairly Legal.”

Christy has done more than 50 commercials promoting everything from cars to lawn mowers, and he’s also in production for the pilot “Soda Jerks” for TV Land.

“I’ve been taking classes from Bill for three or four years,” said Christy, who graduated from Crescenta Valley High School. “What I get from Bill’s class is efficiency. It’s a results-based class. It keeps me sharp.”

Bill Howey started his career as a resident actor at the Cleveland Playhouse in Ohio. He has appeared on television, in films and onstage. He has written and directed three independent movies and has been an acting/dialogue coach for several TV series.

He and his wife Carla have been teaching acting for 30 years — she runs the business side. They had an acting workshop in Beverly Hills and later in Burbank more than 10 years ago. Then they moved to Denver for several years before returning to California and renting studio space in North Hollywood.

They found their present Burbank space two years ago on North Hollywood Way and live in an apartment just down the street.

Their students range from those with limited experience — one or two TV commercials — to professional actors.

“Some people get tired of acting classes where they aren’t learning anything,” said Carla Howey. “People hear about Bill’s critiques and they want to get into the workshop.”

There is a lot of structure to the classes, Bill Howey said. The students sign in on a white board in the lobby. They are given a scene to do, and they do it twice an evening with the acting coach’s critiques in between. They work on the same scene for three weeks.

“There are different levels in acting,” Carla Howey said. “The more levels you get to, the better actor you become.”

While in Denver, Bill Howey wrote a book in 2005 titled “The Actor’s Menu — A Character Preparation Handbook.” In it, he outlines his philosophy on acting. The most important thing is versatility. In scene-study workshops, actors develop a personal menu by working on character stories. An actor’s menu is made up of the elements — or ingredients — they use to reinvent a character.

“You should be able to do more than one thing,” Bill Howey said. “Wherever you go, you have to reinvent yourself. You have to work and dedicate yourself to acting.”

Proof that it’s good advice is a note in the beginning of the book from George Clooney.

“Bill, I’m in your debt.”



What: Bill Howey Acting Studio

Where: 855 N. Hollywood Way, Burbank

Contact: (818) 433-7445 or visit

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