To Tweet or Not to Tweet, That Is the Question ... for David H. Lawrence XVII of 'Heroes'
His name may not be as recognizable as those of Johnny Depp or Britney Spears, but odds are good that you're familiar with the voice, and now the face, of actor, voice-over talent, radio host, entrepreneur, podcaster, teacher and author David H. Lawrence XVII.
After a three-decade-plus career in radio, talking about pop culture and tech, and voice work (including the customer-service lines of America Online), interspersed with acting gigs, Lawrence recently decided to dedicate himself to developing his acting business.
Luckily for Lawrence, he quickly landed the role of "Puppet Master" Eric Doyle on the NBC science-fiction series "Heroes," which made him part of the show's multiplatform storytelling, which includes elements on TV, on the Internet and in comic books.
At the same time, he started to become a presence on the messaging service Twitter.
I ran into Lawrence at the recent Twitter-centric 140 Characters Conference in Los Angeles -- discussed previously in this blog post -- and was eager to grab some time to talk.
Along with my smartphone-shot of Lawrence (right), here are some excerpts from our chat:
Lawrence on leaving full-time radio for acting: "At the end of 2007, I walked away from a fairly successful radio career of 30 years and decided to devote myself to acting full-time. To keep myself in cupcakes and milk, I'd do voice work and demos and stuff like that, but to concentrate on the acting. A lot of people in radio, and a lot of people in acting, looked askance at that and said, 'Really? You're going to give up a six-figure job for doing this?'
"In this particular career, it's consuming if you do it well, and if you do well the business side of it. I've been an independent contractor all my life, so I just treated my acting career the same way. I did the best I could in learning the craft and learning the basics of marketing, and also learning the political structure of Los Angeles in terms of acting.
"Then it was the right time for me to say, 'I'm going to do this.'"
On getting "Heroes" right out of the blocks: "I was very, very excited about the fact that the very first job I ever got was on 'Heroes.' It was awesome. It was supposed to be just one episode. I was supposed to be killed in the episode in which I was introduced, and after the first half-day of shooting, they rewrote the character."
Lawrence doesn't attribute this only to his acting prowess: "(Also) being fun to work with, being dedicated, really concentrating on being a team player. I happen to know of a number of people who've gone on that show and other shows and have become consumers of their own press releases and have summarily been asked to leave.
"Sometimes people will sit there and watch television, watch a movie and say, 'How the hell did that guy get that job?' I'll tell you now he got that job -- because he's awesome to work with. He's not the best actor in the world, but people like being around him."
"Heroes" also helped to raise Lawrence's online profile: "On Twitter, at that moment, I was able to start to tell that story. So that's why Twitter started for me. Then a couple months later, I met my girlfriend on Twitter, so I'm really happy with Ev and Biz (Twitter founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone) , and anything I can do for them, I'm more than happy."
Lawrence has tweeted from the set of the TNT legal drama "Raising the Bar," which didn't mind the extra PR push. Then he used Twitter to trumpet his casting (warning, the language in the link is a bit colorful) on the upcoming season of ABC's hit castaway drama "Lost," which resulted, he says, in some concern and the delivery of a non-disclosure agreement for him to sign.
So, here are Lawrence's top tips for what NOT to do if you're an actor on Twitter (but one supposes it applies to any other social media, such as Facebook, MySpace, etc.): "Don't reveal plot points. If you don't want to get left on the cutting-room floor, don't tweet from the set, 'OMG, so-and-so just died!' That's not a good thing to do on Twitter.
"Another thing not to do on Twitter is to drink your own Kool-Aid. Don't become full of yourself. Be your normal, natural, friendly self. Don't be afraid to be yourself, and to let people know that you're going to be yourself."
As a former rock 'n' roll disc jockey, Lawrence is happy to see the success of some of his former compatriots: "The best talk-show hosts -- Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck -- they're all former rock jocks."
Regarding the controversy over the so-called "Fairness Doctrine" and the "fair and balanced" slogan of Beck's current employer, Fox News Channel, Lawrence says: "A friend of mine is the head of Mass Communications at Middle Tennessee State University, and he's a former rock jock. His name is Bob Pondillo.
"They talk about being fair and balanced. He and I are of the same mind -- I think every media outlet should be completely unfair and unbalanced. Let there be a a million different opportunities for people to be influenced."