Imagine being a young man on a small stage in a round little church. Never acting before and before you can blink you're on the set of your first movie alongside greats like Meryl Streep. That's how it went for actor Kevin Craig West, currently starring as Ludie Watts in Capital Rep's production of The Trip to Bountiful.
After being in his first production, West went on to usher at the New York State Theatre Institute at Russell Sage College. Not long after that, he joined the internship program, performing in the entire season, which included their original musical - A Tale of Cinderella. West went on to be on the original cast recording for that show, another leap in a quickly growing career.
"It was cool. It was quite I amazing. I had just decided to make this my life," West said, "Everyone around me in my life that knew me thought I was crazy. I had this technical background. I was in the marine core, went to school for math to become an engineer, and there I was now trying to become an actor."
It was Kevin, however, who had the last laugh. "All of the success that I had after that came to squelch all the naysayers," he recalls.
Not long after that Kevin found his way to his current home, a place he's performed many times, Capital Rep. West received his equity card from that production, Harper Lee's famous tale, To Kill A Mocking Bird.
Kevin put his nose to the ground and kept working. "After that I moved to New York and got my first job, working at Lincoln Center. At the time I didn't know that, that was a big deal," he admits. He quickly continued with "I didn't know that any of it was a big deal actually - getting your union card and everything. To me I was just following my path. You know, to me, I was playing catch up and then found out I was having great success."
Like many actors new to the city that never sleeps, West got an agent and immediately began auditioning for television and movie roles. He soon started working in the different mediums.
West first on-camera project included cast mates such as Jimmy Fallon and Dion Flynn, of Late Night fame. Following that Kevin got his first movie. Little did he know the rules of Hollywood.
West was cast as an extra in the film, Before and After. The movie starred Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson.
"It was my first time on a movie set. I didn't know the protocol for what extras are entitled to," he says with a slight laugh. After a little chuckle he adds, "It's a good thing I didn't know. It proved to be a benefit for me. I was thirsty for knowledge about the industry, so I hung around with the director - Barbet Schroeder. I sat with him a few times, and some of the cinematographers, and Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson and it was just beautiful. It was a wonderful experience."
It was after this experience that West learned the "rules of Hollywood." He admits, "I later learned that extras are the minions on the set. They aren't really granted those privileges on set, but it was so cool. It was a wonderful experience."
Even little star struck, Kevin kept it together. "Even before the film, Meryl had been one of my favorite actresses. I loved her work. To have my first film be with someone I admired, it was amazing," he confesses.
Without ever bragging he added the sentiment we can all imagine - "I got to speak to her but more importantly, I got to watch her process. That was quite beneficial to me."
Not long after that Kevin began to learn what it was like to work with the camera and his career opened doors the naysayers could have never imagined. "The Internet revolution began rising, as did those forums about camera equipment and what not. Being a geek that I am, I joined a lot of forums on these topics and my career continued flourishing," he proudly tells.
With a humble laugh he continues his tale, "then someone flattered the mess out of me by paying me to shoot a video for them. It was shocking to me. I felt like I didn't know a lot about this but was really curious."
West's attempts to try, try, and try again paid off, "I learned how to do so many things just through trial and error. Then I had a baby and decided to move back upstate. It was perfect timing because the digital film forum was just beginning."
Around that time he began working with Upstate Independent Film. His work on film projects continued from there.
While working hard on camera and behind the scenes, Kevin never forgot about his first love in acting - the stage. Throughout the years West has returned with triumphant performances on the Cap Rep stage including in two recent hits, Take Me Out and Race.
Kevin's recent projects brought him out to Los Angeles for work and it was at that time that he decided it was time to make the leap back and enjoy the sun, sand, and all the L.A. hand to offer a talented creator.
West is currently producing several projects in L.A. However it was a dream role of Ludie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful that brought him back home.
"I loved the movie and when the show was revived a few years ago and came to California with Blaire Underwood in the role of Ludie, I knew I could do it," he said proudly.
If you want to see his skills at work, you better get to Capital Rep before The Trip to Bountiful departs on May 15. After that West heads back to L.A. to continue his work and you'll have then you'll have to wait for his hard work to be seen on screen.
Within the blink of an eye a young man from the Capital Region became a professional actor and the joys have never ended. Unlike West's joys of acting, Cap Rep's season ends soon. So don't blink or the opportunity will fly by faster than West's ever-growing career has done for sometime.
With a laugh and charming voice, West wrapped up our call to get ready for the day and another performance. All in a days work for this actor-extraordinaire!